is the first interactive platform, which teaches the essentials of the Mandaic alphabet and basic vocabulary.
It is not only for kids but also for their parents who want to learn the first steps of the Mandaic language. By means of simple buttons, you can easily navigate and discover this e-learning platform. With the aid of easy handling, it is possible to explore the content through a simulated school day, beginning on the school bus, where everybody greets one another. Arriving at school they open the book and get introduced to the letters with a simplified idea by using their hands to explain to the kids how letters connect to each other. The kids get also the opportunity to exercise the writing of letters by using the school board. Over seventy words are available for learning new vocabulary. The integrated audio function makes it possible to learn the pronunciations of all the mentioned words on this platform.
REVIEWED BY DR. BOGDAN BURTEA FROM THE FREIE UNIVERSITÄT BERLIN:
The Mandaeans attract our interest not simply as a surviving Semitic group of the minor populace but, rather, as to their religion, their Aramaic language, and the rich Mandaic literature.
The name of the language Mandaic is derived from the self-denomination mandaia (pl. mandaiia) which is an adjective from manda, the Mandaic word for ‘knowledge, gnosis’. Accordingly, Mandaia means a knower, one who knows, a gnostic’. Moreover, the term is also used as a denomination of the language. Nowadays mandaia generally designates the laymen in contrast to the priests, tarmidia.
Mandaic, the most Southeastern Aramaic dialect spoken in antiquity in Babylonia (Messene, Characene, Khuzistān), reflects similarities to Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, both belonging to the Eastern Middle Aramaic branch. Although most scholars located the origin of the baptizing community in the East Jordan regions (Mark Lidzbarski, Rudolf Macuch, Kurt Rudolph) the Mandaeans are considered to spend a large part of their still controversial and mysterious history alongside the big rivers (Euphrates, Tigris, Kārūnriver) in the southern borderland between present-day Iraq and Iran.
Both the Mandaic and the Jewish language of the Babylonian Talmud reached their height in the period between the 3rd century and the rise of Islam in the 7th century. Within this specific time-period liturgical songs and prayers emerged representing the oldest, poetical part of Mandaic literature. The elaborated style and the purity of the grammatical features recommend the name Classical Mandaic for this period. Later, in the Islamic era, the prose texts of the priestly documents (called generally diuan) were composed. Despite the strong influence of the classical language on these texts new syntactical features and the increasing amount of loanwords from Persian and Arabic characterize the language of this period as so-called post-Classical.
Although popular expressions were attested by marriage songs and also in the colophons of many manuscripts the vernacular continuation of Mandaic, which still seems to be spoken in South-western Iran, was only discovered in 1953 and, afterward, described in various publications by R. Macuch.
Meanwhile, the situation of the Mandaic community has changed dramatically and deteriorated during the last few decades. The Gulf wars and the ethnic inter-religious conflicts in the region affected the settlements of the Mandaeans seriously. Today, most of the Mandaeans are living in the diaspora. Thus, the small groups of the Mandaeans spread out in the big Western cities are faced with quite some challenges.
One of the most important tasks of the Mandaeans abroad is the preservation of the cultural heritage and the transmission of the traditions, customs, and rites to the next generations. In this context, the first step in taking aware of one’s own culture is to learn the alphabet and the Mandaic script which is the key to understanding the traditions and literature. That said, one should appreciate the efforts of Ardwan Alsabti in making the Mandaic alphabet accessible to most of the Mandaeans in the diaspora, especially to the younger generation which is using the internet for learning purposes and is, thus, acquainted with the modern media tools. However, it has to be noted, that they had unfortunately lost their contact with their own tradition, the language, and the script used for its transmission, as indicated above.
As the son of a Mandaean cleric, his father, the Rbai Rafid al Sabti, the leader of the Mandaean religion in the Netherlands, Ardwan Alsabti was raised within the priestly traditions of the Mandaean religion. Accordingly, he came into contact not only with the performance of rituals, as a priest’s son in the position of an assistant (šganda), at quite early stage of his life, but also with the Mandaic language, which he masters very well.
Furthermore, he got familiar with the modern tools to design and implement an interactive program for learning Mandaic with which he aims to address Mandaean children in the ‘Western Word’. Two of the four subprograms are dealing with the Mandaean alphabet traditionally named abagada. It should be acknowledged that the author took the fact that most of the young Mandaeans are not more familiar with the Arabic script into consideration. Hence he uses both the Arabic and the Latin alphabet for the transliteration of the Mandaic letters. Very suggestive is his graphic solution for the Mandaic letters which can not be bound with a succeeding one on the left side. They are shaped only with one hand by contrast to the others which have two stretched-out hands.
Another interesting feature of the program is the connection between image or script and pronunciation which gives the whole program a kind of ‘vivid touch. To sum it up, it is a very useful instrument for learning Mandaic and one has to appreciate Ardwan Alsabti for his efforts in promoting the distribution via the internet of Mandaic heritage.