Aramaic scriptFirst, a confession. I did not think that anyone still spoke Aramaic, the language scholars say was spoken by Jesus. Sure, I’d heard that the controversial movie The Passion of the Christ was mostly in Aramaic, but it never connected in my brain that anyone would still actually speak it.

This article, however, proved me wrong. The world’s oldest living tongue, Aramaic is listed by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as an endangered language and as such efforts are being made to preserve and promote it.

With similarities to both Arabic and Hebrew, Aramaic is spoken mostly in the Middle East, principally in a few villages north of Damascus, Syria, in the form of Western Neo-Aramaic. The Syrian government has set up the Aramaic Language Academy in one of the villages to assist in the continuation of the language.

Linguistic experts say that Syria is doing well in fostering this part of its heritage. “Aramaic is actually pretty healthy in Maaloula,” said Professor Geoffrey Kahn, who teaches semitic philology at Cambridge University. “It’s the eastern Aramaic dialects in Turkey, Iraq and Iran that are really endangered.”

Listen to the Lord’s Prayer being spoken in Aramaic here. And for more articles on Aramaic, see here.