University to Offer Hebrew and Syriac Courses in Mardin

The Department of Living Languages in Mardin Artuklu University is set to launch two courses to teach Hebrew and Syriac. Assistant Prof. Mehmet Sait Toprak said their aim was to train researchers who could conduct scientific studies in their own languages.

Nilay VARDAR Mardin – BIA News Center31 August 2012, Friday

The Department of the Institute of Living Languages in Mardin Artuklu University is set to launch two new courses to teach Hebrew and Syriac. A Hebrew Language and Culture Department is also in the works.

The courses will last for three months, and they will be offered both on the weekends and weekdays. Aspiring students are required to apply until Sept. 7 to attend the classes, each of which has a maximum capacity of 40 pupils. The university will provide passing students with a certificate, and higher level courses will also be available on the second semester as well.

“We limited the number of applicants because we lack enough instructors. We are only three people. Our aim is first to teach both languages at the highest level and then to train researchers who could conduct scientific studies on Hebrew and Syriac languages and cultures in their own tongues,” Assistant Prof. Mehmet Sait Toprak said.

“[We might] also establish Syriac and Jewish Research Centers to form more scientific institutions in the future. We are also going to appeal to the YÖK (Higher Board of Education) within a month or two to open a Hebrew Language and Culture Deparment,” he added.

An endangered language
“It is extremely important to conduct studies on Semitic languages. [The southeastern province of] Mardin is a laboratory that contains [a multitude of] cultures and languages. Since people have not been speaking their native tongues for many years, however, we cannot even [assess] how many people speak, or are able to speak, these languages. Certain clerics in monasteries are making a personal effort to [provide instructions on these languages,] but this is hardly adequate,” Assistant prof. Toprak said.

Noting that Syriac is a language facing the threat of extinction, Assistant Prof. Toprak said another 20 day long course had also been opened at Mardin Artuklu University last year. “The ‘Sabro’ journal that became the first Syriac publication recently came out as well,” he said.

Students of philosophy, archeology and literature from graduate schools from across Turkey generally tend to show interest in the courses.

There are some 25,000 Syriac Christians in Turkey, most of whom live in Istanbul, and about 5,000 of which reside in the southeastern provinces of Mardin, ??rnak and Batman. Very few Syriacs actually speak their native tongue, however.

Asides from being Israel’s official language, Hebrew is also spoken by about 7 million Jews in the diaspora.

The Jewish community in Turkey numbers around 25,000 people. Most of them are of Sephardic Jews who arrived from Spain in the late 15th century and thus speak Ladino, another language facing extinction.

Both the Syriac and Hebrew alphabets consist of 22 letters each.

Turkey’s sole living languages institute
The Institute of Living Languages in Mardin Artuklu University is located in the historical Zinciriye Madrassah and is the first and only such institute of its kind in Turkey.

Established three years ago, the institute also offers studies in Kurdish and Arab languages and cultures. (NV)