How do We Teach Coptic in the Modern World?

This is a continuation of this thread,

We've reached the conclusion that we should keep Coptic in some capacity at most churches. However, most churches (especially outside of Egypt) have had some trouble with teaching their congregation Coptic. In my experience, knowing Coptic is seen as a job for the deacons. 
I have 2 main questions to ask this thread:
1-  What does an effective, comprehensive Coptic and Hymns curriculum look like?
This should include how much is learned at what age, how much time should be dedicated to studying it, and what is considered adequate knowledge for different people (servants should know more than the average college student, etc.)
2- There are people with non-trivial concerns about the role of Coptic in our church (see the previous thread for more) and their proposed solution is to transition the church to all-English. On this forum there's a consensus that getting rid of Coptic is wrong- how do we convince them that the above solution is better than the (almost definitely easier) "just go to all English" solution?
Note: it's really hard to talk about how a solution is better if we don't have it.

As always, keep me in your prayers.
Twbh `e`hryi `ejwi


  • do small parts of the liturgy and tasbeha (night praises) in coptic.
    offer hymns classes once every 2-3 weeks for anyone interested.
    from this group, ask each person (we need to get to know people personally) if he/she is interested in learning more, and then give classes if there are. don't force it.

    you could also invite the whole congregation to any hymn classes given to the readers/chanters. make it clear that they are invited just for the hymns, and then they should leave, as the readers/chanters may need some spiritual advice or maybe need to discuss things with the church servants.
    i have 'gatecrashed' hymn classes and sunday school classes where hymns were being taught (and, of course, i have downloaded and listened to hymns on this lovely website).

    also priests and church servants should actively encourage people to sing during the liturgy.
    a little girl who was standing nearby once asked her mum; 'why is that lady singing with the deacons?'
    the smart lady said to the kid; 'you can ask her and she will tell you'.
    she/i told her that the 'deacons' outside the altar lead the responses for the people.
    i am one of the people, so i should sing with them. she can join in too!
    the 'deacons' inside the altar sing the deacons' responses. we shouldn't join in with those.
    she was about 7. she understood. it is easy enough for people to understand this once we explain it to them.

    when people realise it is good to sing (in english, coptic or whatever language you are praying in), then the next step is to learn a little bit of the greek / coptic in 'holy God', 'glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit' and slowly increase from there.
    (ok, i know i just gave 2 greek examples, but it applies to coptic too).

    some people are just shy and need a little encouragement.
    of course, sometimes we need to pray or to meditate on something in the liturgy, i am not saying we should start enforcing strict behaviour rules in the church and asking people why they aren't singing!
    orthodox Christian liturgy is a very personal encounter with God as well as a communal prayer. but we can mention it in our meetings generally and teach people the meaning of the liturgy and the beautiful symbolism.
  • edited December 2020
    1. It depends on a number of different factors:
    A) Who you are teaching.
    B) Basic knowledge of the specific the language/culture.

    I will just use the example of a native English speaker from North America

    A) Native English speaker:
    Using similarities in Coptic and English.
    Ex: H looking letter = I
    P looking letter = R
    Two capital I's connected at the top = P

    Of course there are far more complex explanations of Coptic pronunciation, but this is a basic example of how to teach an English speaker. I taught Coptic children born here in the U.S. by using this strategy.

    I have noticed that many of the hymns are memorized from the Arab/Coptic and a number of people cannot read Coptic by itself.

    Naturally, this style of teaching should be for younger children or laypersons, but may be applied using English/Coptic.

    B) How much do people want to learn? Let's say we teach the basic elements of Liturgical Coptic/Greek.

    You'd have: Agios, Shere ne Maria, Tai Shoria, etc.

    Basically, just the responses. We could leave the doxologies up to the Deacons, and even use the English widely on Feast days for doxologies.

    2) You are not the first diaspora with religious ties to experience this issue regarding language.

    You all know I'm Italian American. The first members of my family came here in 1896. Imagine many of you who came here in the late 90's and subtract it by one-hundred years.

    Nonetheless, my parents were the second generation born in the U.S. The children of the first generation born here. A number of you fit that category/ came here when you were young. My parents would equate to your children. Italian was no taught to my parents. That means your grandchildren (God-willing you will see them) will most likely only speak English speaking and lose the cultural ties with Coptic which is omnipresent within the Coptic culture in Egypt.

    Add the chance of marriage within a different culture and the dispersion of the ethnic enclaves of places like New Jersey and New York, and within two generations the understanding of the cultural importance of the Coptic language will be significantly less than now.

    There are two ways to solve a sociological problem:
    1) Let it happen naturally
    2) Try to influence it to make it happen faster.

    Sometimes you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't. On this issue, keeping a remedial identity with the Liturgy language is important. Clergy should be expected to speak and read, minimally, Liturgical Coptic, including and servant who serves the Altar regularly.

    It takes many years to master all the hymns, and there should always be a foundation in Egypt to support the teaching of the language abroad to clergy.

    The solution is basically up to the church and how prepared and knowledgeable of the transition which will naturally occur due to the diaspora changing the language of millions of members of our church.
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