BY MICHAEL G. SARAFA
This is a tough question. Today, younger people that can speak the Chaldean language learned to do so primarily because they had to communicate with their parents or grandparents. Today, the Chaldean language is mostly a spoken language. Except for priests and other learned people, very few can actually read or write the language. It is a language without a country in a world where you can pretty much get by with English.
On the other hand, it is possibly the single best vestige of our heritage other than the Chaldean Church, which has been offering both English and Arabic Masses for more than 20 years. Offering Mass in different languages is, of course, the right thing to do. But the Chaldean liturgy is one of the primary uses of the Chaldean language today. Our Church is doing its part to help keep the language alive and still reads the Gospel and other parts of the Mass in Sourath, even for English Masses. Other than Chaldean social clubs, the only other center for use of our language is the home.
In homes where the parents speak good English and the grandparents are not a presence, teaching the language to our children would have to be a deliberate effort. In other words, it would have to be treated as Chaldean as a second language. There have been fits and starts at Chaldean language lessons through our churches and other organizations, but nothing that has lasted for long or attracted very many people.
Enter Mango Languages Aramaic series. (See cover story). The language software company Mango Languages has come out with a program for Aramaic. As I understand it (but I wouldn’t know), it is produced in the Chaldean dialect as opposed to proper Aramaic which almost no one speaks. Because our language is mostly a spoken language, the dialect tends to vary greatly by country and by village.
But now here it is—a modern way to learn and teach yourself or your children the Chaldean language.
Where do you stand on having your kids learn Sourath?