Friday, June 17, 2016

Chicago residents seek to save Syriac language

Chicago (AINA) - Markets, bakeries and hair salons echo with memories of Iraq, and names like Baghdad and Sumeria dot the cityscape of one of Chicago's most vibrant neighbourhoods, where amid the South Asian and Orthodox Jewish shops that line the area sits the city's largest Iraqi neighbourhood - Devon. A closer look reveals that the flag hanging in most windows is the vibrant red, white, and blue tricolour of the Assyrians, and inside most shops it is Syriac - a distant relative of Aramaic, the language of Jesus - that is spoken, with Arabic mixed in to fill in the gaps.

Chicago is home to one of the world's largest concentrations of Assyrians, a mostly Christian community that hails from northern Iraq and neighbouring areas in Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Around 80,000 Assyrians are thought to call the city home, while another 100,000 live in nearby Detroit. There are thought to be only around 1.2 million Assyrians worldwide (though some estimate the number as high as 3-4 million), meaning that the American Midwest is home to one of the most important concentrations."

Yet the community's vibrancy masks the fact that the Syriac language is slowly dying out. Assyrians in the United States are increasingly switching to English, trying their hardest to get ahead while adopting a wait-and-see attitude toward their homelands.

While the community's dispersion has created challenges, it has also opened up opportunities. A Chicago-based group named Rinyo - Syriac for "thought" or "idea" - is hoping to spark a global revolution in the way the language is learned, and they have already managed to bring major changes into this conservative community's approach to preserving their language...
Complete article here.

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