News-based English language activities from the global newspaper

May 2009

Level ≥ Lower intermediate Style ≥ Lesson plan
Welcome to the Guardian Weekly’s special news-based materials to support learners and teachers of English. Each month, the Guardian Weekly newspaper selects topical news articles that can be used to practise English language skills. The materials are graded for two levels: advanced and lower intermediate. These worksheets can be downloaded free from guardianweekly.co.uk/learningenglish/. You can also find more advice for teachers and learners on the site.

Language of Jesus finds new voice in Syria
Materials prepared by Janet Hardy-Gould

Instructions
Lesson focus: Materials sheet: Time:

reading, finding synonyms, group discussion copies of the article 55 minutes e [ ] Reasons why the government wants to promote Aramaic. f [ ] When Ilyana began her Aramaic course. g [ ] Number of teachers and pupils at the academy. h [ ] Languages that Ilyana’s parents speak. Answers a 4 b 1 c 8 d 5 e 7 f 2 g 6 h 3 5 Tell students you are going to look at synonyms. Give some examples of synonyms such as: frightened/afraid, attempt/try. Put students in pairs to find synonyms in the article for the words below. Paragraph numbers are in brackets. The first pair to find them all wins. 8 mins a TV programme (1) b began (2) c inhabitants (2) d very old (3) e quickly (4) f area (4) g young people (4) h especially (6) i disappearing (8) Answers: a TV show b started c residents d ancient e rapidly f region g youngsters h particularly i vanishing 6 Ask students: Do you think Aramaic will survive? Look back at the article and brainstorm arguments for and against on the board. Then put students into small groups to discuss the issue and decide if they think the answer is “yes” or “no”. One student from each group explains their answers. 12 mins

1 Tell students they are going to read an article about the world’s oldest living language – Aramaic. Write these questions on the board. Pre-teach endangered, minority. a What different languages are there in your country? b Which language do you think is the oldest? c Are any of the languages endangered? Why? d Do you speak or know any expressions from minority languages in your country? Students discuss questions in pairs. Class feedback. 10 mins 2 As a class brainstorm a small number of simple questions that students would like to ask about Aramaic. For example: Where do people speak Aramaic? How old is Aramaic? How many people speak Aramaic? Write the questions on the board. 7 mins 3 Give out the article. Students read and find the answers to their questions. Class feedback. Were there any questions they didn’t find the answers to? 8 mins 4 Students read the article again and write down the paragraph number where they can find the following information. 10 mins a [ ] Reasons why Aramaic has declined. b [ ] Ilyana’s hobbies and interests. c [ ] Plans for future Aramaic books. d [ ] Number of Aramaic speakers.

News-based English language activities from the global newspaper

May 2009

Materials sheet
Student tasks
Before reading the article discuss these questions a What different languages are there in your country? b Which language do you think is the oldest? c Are any of the languages endangered? Why? d Do you speak or know any expressions from minority languages in your country? . After reading the article add the number of the paragraph in which you can find the following information a [ ] Reasons why Aramaic has declined. b [ ] Ilyana’s hobbies and interests. c [ ] Plans for future Aramaic books. d [ ] Number of Aramaic speakers. e [ ] Reasons why the government wants to promote Aramaic. f [ ] When Ilyana began her Aramaic course. g [ ] Number of teachers and pupils at the academy. h [ ] Languages that Ilyana’s parents speak. With a partner find synonyms in the article for the words below (paragraph numbers are in brackets) a TV programme (1) b began (2) c inhabitants (2) d very old (3) e quickly (4) f area (4) g young people (4) h especially (6) i disappearing (8)

Article: Language of Jesus finds new voice in Syria
1 Ilyana Barqil lives in the mountains north of Damascus. She likes TV quiz shows, American films and going swimming. But this modern Syrian teenager is also learning Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. 2 Ilyana, 15, is part of a big effort to preserve the world’s oldest living tongue. Last November she started classes at the new Aramaic Language Academy in the picturesque village of Maaloula, where the residents speak more or less the same language as the Galileans did 2,000 years ago. 3 “My father speaks Aramaic but my mother doesn’t as she’s from Lebanon,” Ilyana said. “I want to be fluent. I don’t know too much about the Aramaic language but I do know it’s ancient.” 4 Aramaic is related to Hebrew and Arabic and was once the language of parts of modern-day Syria and Israel. But it declined rapidly in the 1920s as the region opened up to the outside world. More recently, television, the internet and youngsters leaving to work elsewhere have reduced the number of speakers. 5 Aramaic is recognised by Unesco as a “definitely endangered” language and it is now spoken by just 7,000 people in Maaloula, and about 8,000 more in two other nearby villages. 6 But things are looking up, particularly since the University of Damascus opened the new language academy, with government help. It has a teaching staff of six and 85 students. 7 “In Syria there are a lot of minority groups – so it’s a big decision to allow the teaching of other languages in government schools,” said Imad Reihan, a teacher at the Aramaic academy. “But the government is interested in promoting the Aramaic language because it goes back so deep into Syria’s history.” 8 Reihan and his colleagues are now hoping for money to allow them to put the vanishing Aramaic words into dictionaries. Original article by Ian Black, rewritten by Janet Hardy-Gould

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