Monday, November 14, 2011

week 6: Syriac / Aramaic

I live in Sweden's "Little Assyria" or what you might call it. It is because of this I find it hard to motivate me to study this see, my experience of the people speaking this language has not been very positive. In fact, it has been very negative. It is hard to remember that you can't judge a whole people by what some of its members do, not even a person by some of his opinions... might be that these people would be nice if I knew them, but by what I have experienced, I don't want to...


I tried to find the numbers in Syriac... If I have decided to study this language, if not for any other reason, then to understand what the people around me are saying, I need to start somewhere, and alphabet and numbers is what I have decided to start with... It was really hard to find any information about Syriac... I found this. "Welcome to the Assyrian Aramaic language website". The first two levels are about reading the language. Then there's some grammar. And more grammar. Lesson 120 gives you some dialogue... good.

Ashur: May your morning be blessed
Sargon: Blessed and blessed
Ashur:     May God strengthen you
Sargon:  May God protect you
Ashur: Peace to you
Sargon: 'Welcome' In tranquility and in peace
Ashur: I rejoiced a lot by seeing you. How are you?
Sargon: Thank to the Lord, I am healthy and well. Please come and eat with us.
Ashur:  Thanks a lot for your intimacy. I ate before coming to your visit. If you please, give me only a cup of cold water or a cup of juice if possible
Sargon: Enjoy it my friend. Should I fill another cup for you?
Ashur:  No, one cup is enough for me. Thank you, and remain in peace 'farewell'
Sargon: Go in peace and greet your parents
Huh? Do they really speak like that? Really?

After a heavy dose of more grammar comes some reading exercises. Fairytales, legends, proverbs, Bible passages...

The numbers are taught with examples like "one goat, two cows, three sparrows... " I don't know about you, but goats and cows are few in our urban area... Is this even a living language?

In the "Syriac dictionary in four languages", there is no computer, television, trousers, skirt, shirt, coffee, tea, cow, fox, jump, football/soccer... (that's really, really, really important here where I live)

The thing is that a language won't survive unless you speak it and use it and let it live, evolve, change, and adapt to the surroundings. You can't teach Syriac as a viable language by quoting the Bible and talking about goats and olives. There are not that many of either in Sweden today...  just as little as you can teach Sámi as a viable language by speaking about Sameting and reindeers. (There is some 100.000 Syriac speakers in Sweden... more than Sámi speakers... in the world.)

"World's many languages are dying out - can we stop it?"

Native speaker = the carrier of language. The people who learned the language as second language are not carriers of language.

Here's a discussion in a language learners' forum about "most overrated language".
English, definitely. Any language with more than 100 million speakers. (all users included, native and not - which then includes both German, French and Malay)
Most underrated - any language with less than million speakers. All endangered, dying and dead languages.

Makes me think that perhaps I shouldn't be focusing on European languages so much... at least not the thriving ones. There are 108 endangered or extinct languages in Europe... enough material for two years :-D I might be doing this long time.

But then there is the reason I study languages... they don't write fantasy books for kids in Gothic. There are very few blogs in Lombardian, and not much information about things I'm interested in in Illyrian... Sure, I could learn Cuman to chat about weather in the internet, but... I don't chat. I don't do smalltalk. I don't even know what to write in Lang8!

On the other hand... what would I gain if I decided to live a year like Meshcheras and bring their language to the modern day following the Icelanding and Ivrit example? What would be written in that language? What inventions and discoveries died with it? We'll never know... at least not as long as they haven't invented time travel.

So - I will give Syriac a change and try to get over my fear and prejudices... after all, what do I know? Nothing.

P.S. To find more information, you might want to look also at Assyrian and Suryoyo. There's quite a lot at YouTube.

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