It’s an important language for the study of late ancient Christianity and early Islam. It’s the language of some of the earliest Judeo-Christian writings. Its vocabulary can be found throughout the Quran. Yet the classical language Ge’ez is little known beyond the Horn of Africa and taught at just two universities in the Western world. Make that three — the University of Washington offered Ge’ez 101 for the first time this spring.
Hamza Zafer, assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, expected a handful of students to sign up when he offered this obscure classical language. Instead the class filled to capacity, with 30 students enrolled within days and more on the waiting list. Four graduate students with a scholarly interest in Ge’ez signed up, but the rest had more personal reasons for enrolling. “Most of the students are children of immigrants from the Horn of Africa — Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea,” says Zafer. “Many of them grew up in Seattle exposed to Ge’ez in their communities, since Ge’ez is a living liturgical language in the Ethiopian and Eritrean orthodox churches, much like Latin was the liturgical language in Roman Catholic churches.”
Those students include bioengineering major Jerusalem Kifelew, who grew up hearing Ge’ez in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and business pre-major Fethawit Musye, who heard it in the Eritrean Orthodox Church. “When my friends and I heard Ge’ez was being offered as a class at UW, we were really excited because we actually had a chance to learn more about the language we grew up hearing,” says Musye.
Read more at washington.edu