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Aramaic Online Project. Dr Naures Atto

Within the framework of the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership Programme, the Aramaic Online Project (2014-2017) has developed the first online course in Surayt Aramaic (also known as Turoyo); a Neo-Aramaic language traditionally spoken by Assyrians/Syriacs in the Middle East and more specifically in Tur Abdin, south east Turkey. Today about 250,000 of its speakers live in Europe. Surayt has been classified as 'severely endangered' by UNESCO.

This project has addressed the main challenges of Surayt and focused on the standardization of writing Surayt (both in Syriac and Latin characters) and developed an orthography which has impacted the standardized use of the language both through the production of new literature and through the stimulating its speakers to communicate in writing in this language.

  • The project has developed an online course at A1 and A2 levels, consisting of 16 learning units. Each unit consists of texts, dialogues, exercises, grammar boxed, cultural notes, verb conjugations and a glossary with approximately 2000 entries.

  • The course is provided in seven languages: English, German, Swedish, Dutch, French, Arabic and Turkish.

  • The project has also developed language learning materials: 
    • a textbook version of the online course 
    • a reader in Surayt: ‘10 authors, 100 essays in Surayt’.
  • The project has developed a new orthography document with the aim of standardizing the writing of this language.

  • A curriculum document for teaching Surayt at universities has also been developed with the aim of developing an independent joint online course degree.

  • Two additional learner tools have been developed: 
    • A converter software from/to Syriac characters to Latin characters
    • A digital keyboard both in Syriac and Latin characters.
  • The project organized: 
    • the first international conference on Surayt in Cambridge (August 2015)
    • two training workshops for mother tongue teachers in Germany (August 2016) and in Sweden (October 2016)
    • two summer schools in Germany (September 2015) and in the Netherlands (August 2017)
    • a series of 12 virtual classes (April-July 2017) and dissemination activities (e.g. seminars, meetings) in more than 20 cities in seven countries and consequently reached out to more than 5000 people.

The Consortium of this project consists of four universities (University of Bergen, Freie Universität Berlin, University of Cambridge and Leipzig University) and the St Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Monastery in the Netherlands. Through dissemination activities, the project has also established long-term relations with many community organizations, local authorities, and with the scientific community.

The project has had a remarkable impact on the revitalisation of Surayt as an endangered language. A follow up project has been developed to build on what already has been developed.