The Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation organized a week-long workshop in Western Armenian language acquisition. The workshop advanced the department’s strategic priority of revitalizing Western Armenian by defining tangible outputs and creating working groups tasked with materializing those outputs.
This initiative emerged out of the “Innovation in Education: Challenges of Teaching Western Armenian in the 21st Century” conference, which was co-organized with the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris in fall 2015.
The Armenian Communities Department is committed to collaborating with specialists and practitioners in the field to assist with the development and implementation of its programs. As such, the department invited 41 participants, most from the field of Western Armenian language teaching, including some 15 individuals who took part in the Paris conference. These individuals brought unique perspectives and are willing to collaborate to develop new and innovative ways to transform language learning.
The transmission of the Western Armenian language to the next generation currently faces major challenges. The Western Armenian speaking community throughout the diaspora needs, in addition to existing schools and teachers, innovative and informal language acquisition methods, contemporary publications, and translations of literature for children and adolescents. The community also needs new educational tools and upgraded school curricula, including curricula that integrates art, music, and theatre into language teaching. Finally, a digital portal is needed that will enable stakeholders around the diaspora to connect with one another and share best practices.
Workshop participants began developing such outputs. Emphasis was be placed on non-traditional methods that have proven to work in the Western Armenian Diasporan setting. The workshop did not aim to replace teacher training programs, but to develop complementary tools and methods. It went beyond analyzing problems and offers tangible solutions that can be implemented for the revitalization of Western Armenian.
The workshop also was an opportunity for attendees to establish strong channels of communication, based on which they can partner with others in their respective communities and to continue the work begun during the workshop.
The workshop took place from July 9-17 in Portugal.
The department aimed to ensure a well-balanced distribution of the major communities of the diaspora and to maintain diversity across the board: 74 percent of the participants are women, reflecting the gender ratio in the field of education; 26 percent are below 30 years of age, 41 percent are between 30 and 40, and 33 percent are above 40. Many of the participants wear more than one hat: 12 percent are affiliated with universities (INALCO, Paris; Haigazian University, Beirut; UCLA, Los Angeles); 67 percent are directly affiliated with formal/informal educational settings; 38 percent are in leadership positions; and 36 percent are specialists in writing, art, music, theater, special needs education, and technology.
The participants were Hasmig Chahinian, Anaid Donabedian, Meline Gazarian, Jirair Jolakian, Chouchane Kerovpyan, Maral Kerovpyan, Sose Manakian, Anouche Mekhsian, Dzovinar Mikirditsian, and Anahid Sarkissian (France); Janet Avanesian, Shogher Margosian (Belgium); Maral Kurkjian (Greece); Vahan Kerovpyan (Portugal); Anke al-Bataineh, Shant Demirjian, Nelly Komolian, Taline Ordoghlian, Hagop Yacoubian (Lebanon); Natali Bagdat, Sevan Degirmenciyan, Kayane Gavrilof, Maral Hergel, Arusyak Koc, Narod Kurugoglu, Maral Satar (Turkey); Chris Bedian, Vahe Berberian, Hagop Gulludjian, Amy Hughes, Shoushan Karapetian, Silva Mesrobian, Serouj Ourishian, Sanan Shirinian (United States); Lory Abrakian, Hasmig Injejikian, Sonia Kiledjian (Canada); Christian Batikian, Nairi Khatchadourian, Gevorg Palanjyan, Sevana Tchakerian (Armenia).
The workshop was organized by Ani Garmiryan, with support from Ani Koulian.