When I finished my manuscript for The Prince of This World, one thing that occurred to me is that literally ever since my colleagues at Shimer have known me, I have been “working on” that project. Around the same time I started, I also made some initial efforts toward another project: learning biblical Hebrew. I bought a textbook, lexicon, and Hebrew Bible, and I set about learning the alphabet… which I almost achieved before the realities of starting a new, teaching-intensive job intervened.
At that time, learning Hebrew seemed like the next logical step. Not only would it be useful to have access to the original biblical text, but I was also becoming increasingly interested in Judaism. That was another area of inquiry that became derailed, as the demands of teaching a diverse curriculum restricted my reading time. And then last year I got a further curve-ball when I was called upon to teach Islam, which resulted in a survey class on Islamic thought and a subsequent class focusing on the Qur’an. I’ve continued to read up on Islam since then — in fact, right now I’m working my way through a survey of Islamic law, as my “fun” reading.
So here’s my question: assuming I have some time to devote to further language acquisition, should I prioritize Hebrew or Arabic? Would doing Hebrew first prove at all helpful for Arabic (or the reverse, I suppose — learning French before Latin seemed to work fine)?
It should be clear that in both cases I’m more interested in reading classic texts than in, you know, talking to people. And with that in mind, what are some standard resources for learning classical Arabic?