Instead of using Frederick Greenspahn’s conventional Introduction to Aramaic textbook, which I have worked through twice before, we spent the first three weeks or so listening to the recordings in Niek Arentsen and Jordash Kiffiak’s Living Christian Aramaic (Syriac), and the next four completing the exercises and readings in Thomas Lambdin & John Huehnergard’s free online Introduction to the Aramaic of Targum Onqelos.
Living Christian Aramaic appears to use the same pictures as the Biblical Language Center's other picture lessons products, and it is equally effective. I'll admit that I found the recordings--authentic as they may be--a little grating, but I can still hear in my head.
If you have worked with Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, you know what to expect from Lambdin & Huehnergard's Aramaic primer: bare-bones grammar notes, paradigms, and exercises in classic grammar-translation style. About a dozen chapters in the pace seems to pick up. The second half of the book introduces a dizzying array of new paradigms too fast to assimilate. Although I don't like the approach, I found the written exercises--even adding vowel pointing--to be effective and well-designed. The book ends with the text of Targum Onqelos on Genesis 12-16. If you have done the exercises, you can read the Targum.
Despite major differences between these two language streams, beginning with oral Syriac helped me secure some of the vocabulary and basic syntactical patterns of Targumic Aramaic, and Targumic Aramaic is, in turn, quite close to the Biblical Aramaic of Daniel. As a bonus, I felt comfortable making my way through Targum Onqelos and confident that I could do the same with other Aramaic Targumim--at least when I finished the book. Once I relearn the Estrangelo Syriac script, I should be able to at least dabble in the Syriac Peshitta versions of both Old and New Testaments. Learning a completely foreign script also helped me appreciate what it must be like for my students to learn the Hebrew alphabet!
I will probably agree to supervise another Aramaic independent study in the future, should the opportunity arise, because I confess I am not doing the one thing needed to retain Aramaic, which is to use it. If I may be allowed an excuse, Aramaic has been crowded out by Hebrew. More on that, perhaps, in another post.