Coptic Language Summer School

I am presently developing plans to organise a 4 or 5 day intensive Coptic Language Summer School in London towards the end of August.

The course would be led by a university lecturer who has taught Coptic formally at Birkbeck and Kings College, London, and who is an academic Egyptologist. Her PhD was based on a Coptic Martyrdom text.

I am particularly interested in studying Coptic formally so as to be able to read and translate ancient Coptic texts. Of course even an intensive Summer School will only be a beginning. But the Summer School would be structured around reaching a degree of competency in reading simple texts, and being confident to continue reading and studying Coptic.

I suppose that the target audience is independent students such as myself, members of the academic community who wish to gain some grasp of Coptic texts, Coptic Orthodox who wish to develop or extend their knowledge of ancient written Coptic texts, and perhaps even non-Orthodox and non-Christians who are interested in the history and ancient culture of Egypt.

My university lecturer considers that a group of 8-10 students would be optimal.

I am locating central London facilities for the event, hopefully at a minimal cost. The cost of the Summer School would cover the duplication of materials, and the expenses of our teacher, who I would wish to be well rewarded, and encouraged to support further such courses. I am guessing that a 5 day Summer School might cost £50-£60.

I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who might be interested in being part of a Summer School. If you know anyone who might be interested then please let them know about the planned Summer School. If you have any ideas or advice about such a Summer School then also please respond.

Father Peter


  • The first question that comes into my mind is what type of Coptic. Ancient texts are predominately Sahidic Coptic. Most university PhD teachers prefer Sahidic and most do not know any Bohairic (not that it's much different). The point is if you or any other student is expecting an intensive course for the sake of translating ancient text, then Sahidic Coptic is the right way to go. However, if the intention is to be competent in Coptic to understand liturgical praise, then Sahidic Coptic means nothing. So this needs clarification.

    The second question to contemplate is "Will 4-5 days be enough for a basic understanding of Coptic?" If it is an intensive course with 8 hours of lectures a day, then maybe. If it is not, then you will need more time. I took 2 semesters of Bohairic and 2 semesters of Sahidic and 1 semester of ancient texts. And I still don't think it was enough.

    Having said that, I don't want to be the pessimist. I think an intensive course is a wonderful idea for the independent student. If you find 8-10 other people, then it would be wonderful. I wish I could attend. Maybe you should ask the lecturer for permission to video tape. Then offer the video footage for an additional cost. I would like to at least buy a video version of the summer school.

  • Good post George.

    I definitely want to learn Sahidic, as will most academics and other independent students.

    I know that 5 days of 8 hours will not be enough but I am thinking of either continuing with further intensive Saturday lectures, and I have also been invited to perhaps join the course in Coptic that this lecturer is running later in the year hopefully at one of the London universities, so other students could also join that perhaps on an ongoing basis.
  • Sounds great, Father, and I would go if I were within a reasonable distance of it (darn you...ocean).

    If you would like to study Sahidic, I have a PDF of Layton's "Coptic in 20 Lessons" pedagogical grammar that focuses on this dialect. I could send it to you (or anyone else who wants it and has 6.76 MB of free space in their inbox). It's pretty interesting and meant for students, not linguists/academics.
  • Thanks for the offer, dzheremi, but I need to find out what texts our prospective lecturer will be using.

    I do have a variety of Coptic language text books myself, but I think I would benefit from an intensive period of study. I hope that some others will feel the same.

    Father Peter
  • Indeed. I hope it is a great success.

    The offer stands for anyone else here who might be interested in studying Sahidic. Layton's book is far from the only resource out there, but it's probably one of the more accessible that I've seen.
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    DEAr dzheremi,
    I am interested to get my hands on that book via email please, my email is: [email protected] thanks a lot in advance...
  • I have to say that I am a bit surprised that with all the vigour with which it is often insisted that people should learn Coptic I have not had a single enquiry from any of the Copts within the London area in regard to the opportunity to study Coptic.

    I know this is not the only place to make contact with Copts, and I shall email the various priests in the area, but I had expected one or two indications of general interest.

    Perhaps I shall have to concentrate on academics and other independent scholars and see if there is a greater interest in studying Coptic among those groups.

    Father Peter
  • You might want to try that, Father. There are a few English associate members of St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society listed on their website, though it hasn't been updated in a while. Also, isn't the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) based in London? I would imagine there might be some interest among the faculty or higher-level students there, too. I know there has been some research on Coptic there (generally its influence on Arabic), though I don't know if they teach it in classes.
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    Dear FR. Peter,
    That's the problem with Egyptians I think. NO one gives Coptic any importance, why should they? IS it used in the Coptic church? ONly minutely. Do they want to understand it? Why should they when the majority of the liturgy is in other more understandable languages? Is there any point in preserving the language of the forefathers? No that is not faith... only faith is important.
    Living in the UK for the last 7 years should me how the British are very, actually extremely proud of the English language, and call it their own. I guess you're starting to ask yourself those questions for this very reason, but do Copts compare to the British in such a principle? I'm afraid not. By the way, I'm not exonerating myself either...
  • One of the reason people are not interested in learning Coptic because there i no national pride. We, as Copts, did not maintain our ethnic identity for political reasons.

    Another reason is the lack of usage within the Church and the way seminaries have marginalized the language. Sadly, there are many priests, in Egypt, who could barely read Coptic let alone understand it.

    The Church ignored the language and thus people ignored it.
  • if there was a one day thing at the weekend, i would be interested.
    august is usually an unstable, unpredictable, busy time for me, and it's usually crazy busy at work.
    maybe several days spread out would be easier for people, so some would do beginners days only, others would do the advanced days only and the really keen could do all of them.
  • There is actually a class this summer in the Coptic Seminary in New Jersey named "Elementary Bohairic I"

    here is the application for anyone who wants more info:

    the class will be open to college students as well as 11th and 12th graders
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