For thousands of years the language of Aramaic has existed, descended from Sumerian and Akkadian roots. The language is still spoken by the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac people today, and is one of the four recognized languages in the Iraqi constitution under Syriac (Eastern dialect of Aramaic).
The University of Detroit Mercy has recently established an Aramaic course teaching how to speak, read and write Aramaic, as well as studies pertaining to culture and history. The class starts January 17th and is taught by Mahir Awrahem, who is also a professor at Baker College.
The 15-week is an introductory course open to all college and high school students. Prof. Awrahem is excited for the start of the program, “When I lived in Iraq, there was no such thing as learning Aramaic in schools; I am excited to be teaching the language of Christ especially at the University level.
According to Lawrence Mansour, Director of Ishtar Cultural Center, “The establishment of the Aramaic class is only the first step to promoting awareness of the language and history of the indigenous people of Iraq.” Mansour also stated that before the establishment of the course no other opportunities existed for students to learn their own language and receive college credit. “Students before were forced to take other languages for college credit; now they can take Aramaic.”
Back in 2001, Prof. Awrahem traveled back to Iraq where he was astonished to see the development of Syriac teaching schools in the Northern part of Iraq. “The level at which the students were reading was amazing; it motivated me to want to come back and teach the Syriac language to people in America.”
Prof. Awrahem was approached by Mansour to establish the course but found many hardships in the beginning. “To establish a course at a University level is one thing, but to establish the curriculum of a rare language like Aramaic is another,” says Mansour. “We wanted to show that Aramaic is alive, and it even contains words for technology, physics, chemistry - the list is endless.”
Depending on which university the student attends, the credits are transferable up to 6 credits. Recently, other Universities have acknowledged the class to provide for easier transfers of credits between them and UDM. The list range from U of M, MSU, Wayne State University, Oakland University, the list goes on.
The course is taught at the Ishtar Cultural Center which is located on 15 Mile rd just southeast of Dequindre rd. as a convenience to students who might not be able to attend classes at University of Detroit Mercy.
The course consists of two parts: the language portion and history and culture, allowing students to also receive history credit, as well as satisfy general education requirements. The Aramaic language was recently added to the official roster of the University, and has been evaluated by numerous doctorial professors around the country. For more information visit www.Aramaicstudies.com