Vartabedian: Is Armenian Language Dying a Slow Death in America?

As an Armenian School instructor over the past 40 years at my church, I’ve come to the sobering realization that our language is beginning to slowly dissipate.

Sad to admit, today’s students don’t appear to gravitate toward the mother tongue. They would prefer to see their class time devoted to more “interesting” subjects like Hai Tahd, current events, genocide education, and the country itself.

It never used to be this way. Back 40 years ago, I had a standardized curriculum that was underscored by Armenian. Students were taught the alphabet, writing, reading, and conversational skills. They followed their text, prepared their assignments diligently, and enjoyed playing games that incorporated the language.

Every once in a while now, I’ll pick up the grammar and attempt to squeeze in a language session. It’s like pulling teeth. One of my better students kept glancing at the clock and asked, “Are we almost done?”

Had this been a lesson on genocide recognition or the most recent climb atop Mount Ararat, they would have been enamored. If I had covered the history of our revolutionaries and assimilation, they would have availed themselves.

A class on prominent Armenians in film and athletics went over big. So did another on rural life in Armenia and Karabagh. But when it comes to the language itself, they appear bored out of their skin.

Perhaps it’s me. No doubt, it’s the teacher who lays out the ground rules and makes a class stimulating. What worked 40 years ago, surely isn’t working today. Kids change. Habits become altered. If parents don’t introduce the language on the home front, it won’t work in church, especially with the minimal class time you have in between religious education, Badarak, and other diversions.

I remember when I was their age. Having a grandmother living with us was like having a built-in educator. Armenian was a household language and we were expected to utilize it. Even when we became “Americanized,” the language remained foremost.

Little Armenian is spoken in our churches. Even our sermons are delivered in English and given a brief translation. When the Der Hayr is approached by the Armenian-speaking of our parish, it’s usually in English.

Like the French I learned in high school. Use it or lose it. I’ve lost it because I didn’t perpetuate it. The same could be said for our native tongue.

History reminds us that Poland, Hungary, and Romania once held thriving Armenian communities. But once the language dissolved, so did the heritage.

Will the same dilemma face America?

Had you been aboard the ACAA Hertage Cruise, you would have seen the language getting a workout. True, most of the fluent ones were immigrants. Armenian is their primary language and their children attend ethnic schools in all probability. They are totally immersed in the culture.

One or two even remained indignant when English was overused.

I wouldn’t say a non-Armenian speaking passenger was totally out of luck on this cruise. But let’s say they were left nebulous. The lectures were delivered in both languages. Same thing with the announcements. Armenian language classes were being offered on board with few takers.

Of the 1,250 Armenians on the cruise ship, I would say at least half were American born. But how long can they sustain the language?

Much as I had the urge to speak English when I visited Armenia with other Americans, I found myself better off thinking otherwise.

My traveling companion insisted we speak Armenian when we were outdoors—and we kept to that regimen. When we visited an Armenian home, there was no question.

For several years now, I’ve tried introducing Armenian language classes to our community college. No takers. I’ve advertised the program, got my church to publicize it, passed the word throughout the community, and still no success.
It went over twice in the 1990’s. The first time, I had a class of 10 and all but 3 were odars. The second session was about the same ratio. It tells me that odars are more interested in learning our language than Armenians.

That’s unfortunate.

It does my heart good to see a child speaking Armenian. I know at least three families who’ve exercised the native language in their homes for years—and continue to do so today. Their children are fluent and passed the skills onto their offspring.

Even more impressive is to see an American-born scholar so proficient in Armenian that they can deliver a flawless lecture without hesitation.

I’d like some input from readers. How would you handle this situation? Pass along some solutions on how we might save our language from extinction in this country.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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  1. To all my fellow Armenian readers. Take a moment and be inspired. Log on to Peter Musurlian’s new video and see the work that’s being done at the Manoogian-Demirdjian AGBU School in turning our young students into promising Armenian-American citizens. I’m inspired by it!!! 

  2. Excellent video! But the musical instrument (ood) and the tune was a bit “osmanian”. You should have chosen a much nicer song or music… Sorry to disappoint you.

  3. Tom, My friend and I tried to find an adult education class that taught conversational Armenian. Alas there were none. However, one of the Armenian churches where we live was offering  (for the firt time) “after hours” Armenian language classes. A noble effort, however, none were profesional teachers or even good amature teachers and as expected it was really a great disappointment. We were trying to spool up our “Armenian” for an upcoming trip to Armenia. We were really committed in learning. The language is dying because there are few Armenian communities offering credible courses in conversational or more rigerous structural courses for adults taught by skilled “teachers”.

  4. Unfortunately, the Armenian programs taught to our youngsters are outdated, and usually stops at 5th grade.  I have two teenagers that would love to learn the language now, but there is nothing available to them.  It’s a shame.  My teenagers can’t be the only Armenians out there who interested in learning.

  5. Thanks Tom…for your kind words.
    And…Ara. My buddy…Ivy Leaguer/Lawyer/Musician…Antanig Kzirian, was nice enough to join me, very early one morning, at a Glendale coffee shop name, Uratu.  It’s a great place.
    I taped him improvising-on-his-oud, for about 30 minutes, with the intention of using the music in a future video. I thought it fit in well here, but, I must admit, my knowledge of the oud and the music played on it, is not in-depth.

  6. Unforunately this is the sad reality. Two major factors include the child’s upbringing and the quality of language instruction. It is painful to state that the Armenian language does not appeal to our youth for the reason that it may not sound romantic or smooth as other European languages. Furthermore Armenians seem quite fascinated with learning other languages. I am in the customer service business when clients see my lastname they associate me with the Middle East.. i.e. you must know Arabic or Turkish or even Russian. History and geography dictate the fate of our people. Oh how the great Armenian poet Silva Kaputikian’s message echo’s through my mind. I don’t remember many poems however I remember these words…  “And look my son, no matter where you are .. Where ever you may go and live under the moon.. Even if you forget your mother… DON’T EVER FORGET YOUR MATERNAL LANGUAGE”…..

    Finally to include the survival of the language relies soley upon one major factor, Armenians marrying Armenians and not odars. Look forward to the debate and further comments on this forum.

  7. It is the responsibility of the parents to introduce it in the house. It needs to start somewhere, have we become so Americanized that we put our cultural responsibilities onto other people? This is not like us and it is, quite frankly, dissappointing. I have a friend here in Glendale that is 26 years old, his 3 year old son speaks Armenian, he does not know English yet. I asked why he did that and he said that we bear the attributes, if it walks and quacks like a duck, it cannot be a cow. At home I speak Armenian with my parents and they speak English with me so that we can correct each other, to keep alive our past while flourishing in to the future. My parents came from Tehran and have enrolled both my sister and myself in Armenian classes as supplemental education to our normal American education. They felt it was their responsibility to keep it alive, as do I. As should everyone else.

  8. Եթէ լաւ նայինք, այս յօդուածը ինքն իր հարցումին կը պատասխանէ:  Այսօրուայ երիտասարդութիւնը միայն խօսելով չէ որ իրար հետ կը հաղորդակցի:  Իսկ թուղթի վրայ գրելը, որեւէ լեզուով, շատոնց իր վերջը տեսաւ:
    Ես կը կարծեմ որ կարելի է Հայերէն լեզուն պահպանել սփիւրքի մէջ սակայն լուրջ գործ կայ ըլլալիք:  Պետք է ջանանք այս դարուն բառապաշարի Հայերէն բաժանորդը լայնօրէն տարածել:  Ունինք բառեր ինչպէս համացանց, համակարգիչ, կայքէջ, ե-նամակ կամ ելփոստ:
    Պետք է ուղղագրութեան սրբաքրիչ մը ունենանք, որ արդէն մի քանի տարի գոյութիւն ունի՝
    Պէտք է պարտադրենք որ մեր միութենական հաղորդակցութիւնը – ե-նամակներ եւ շրջաբերականներ – նեռարեն քոնէ Հայերէն թարքմանութիւն մը եթէ կարելի չէ միայն Հայերէնով ղրկել:  Ծանր գործ է եւ կը կամացցնէ աշխատանքը սակայն եթէ չընենք, արդէն որոշած ենք որ կարեւորութիւն չունի լեզուն:
    Հեռաձայնի ընկերութիւններէն պէտք է խնդրուի որ կարելիութիւնը ստեղծեն Հայերէն տարերով փաթեթներ ղրկել եւ կարդալ:  Research in Motion-ը նոր մէջտեղ բերաւ այս կարելիութիւնը 2010-ին:
    Վերջապէս, Հայերէն լեզուով համակարգիչի խաղեր պէտք է պատրաստուին եւ սփրուին: Պատանիներ պէտք է փոքր տարիքէն ի վեր արդէն վարժուին իրենց թուային հաղորդակցութիւնը Հայերէնով կատարել, լաւ սորված Հայերէն տարերու տեղերը եւ ինչպէս կը փոխեն Հայերէնի եւ Անգլերէնի միջեւ:  Եունիքոտ տարատեսակներու օգտագործումը անհրաժեշտ կ’ըլլայ այս կետին համար:
    Ընելը կարելի է, միայն մեզի կը մնայ որ ընենք:

  9. Slow death? The Armenian language in America went into cardiac arrest and died a long time ago. The garbage we sometimes hear Amerikahais speak, crap like – “yes girlfriendis het movie gertamgor as weekendin” – is an absurdity!
    Տխուր նօրութիւն ունեմ ձեզ համար – Հայերէնը Ամերիկայում վաղուց է մերել… Խմենք նրա հոգու համար…

  10. Յարգելիներ,
    Այս մի քանի տարուայ ընթացքում բաւականի  յառաջդիմութիւն եղաւ Հայերէն լեզուի կիրառման միջոցների արդիականացման ուղղութեամբ։ Նախ արդէն երկու տարի է որ Հայսպել հայերէն լեզուի ուղղագրիչը թողարկուեց (որոնել HySpell եւ կ՚գնէք)։ Այս ծրագրաշարի նոր տարբերակում պարունակուելու է հայերէն-անգլերէն բառարան։ Իսկ կայքը արդէն թողարկել է Անգլերէն-հայերէն 96,000 բառնոց առգիծ (online) բառարան։
    Իմ բազմաթիւ տարիների ուսումնասիրութեամբ արդէն այս հարցի պատասխանը մի քանի անգամ հրապարակաւ յայտարարել եմ։ Դա արդէն մասամբ Յարութը այս կայքէջում գրառեց (տես Յարութի գրառումը)։
    Լեզուն իբրեւ լեզուի դասընթացք ոչ թէ միայն ձանձրոյթի առարկայ է փոքրիկների համար, այլ դա ընդհանրապէս բոլորի համար է այդպէս։ Անհրաժեշտ է այլ աւելի հետաքրքրական միջոցներ օգտագործել Մայրենին տարածելու համար, եւ ընդհանրապէս խուսափել լեզուի դասարան հասկացութիւնից։ Լեզուն կարելի է հեշտութեամբ եւ հաճոյքով տարածել երգերով, բայց այս դարու ամենազդեցիկ միջոցը հէնց հայեցի ֆիլմեր ստեղծելն է։
    Նաեւ հեղինակը կարծես տարբերում է նիւթը լեզուից, սա ինձ բաւականի ապշեցուցիչ է։ Իսկ այս ձեր լեզուի դասընթացքում, ոչ մի նախադասութիւն կամ պատմութիւն չի՞ ներկայացւում։ Օրինակ՝ հեղինակը յայտնում է որ երեխեքին աւելի է հետաքրքրում հետեւեալը – «more “interesting” subjects like Hai Tahd, current events, genocide education, and the country itself»։
    Բայց արդեօք այս նոյն նիւթերը հայերէն լեզուով ներկայացնելը չի՞ կարելի։ Ահա այսպիսի սխալներ ենք մենք գործում եւ սպասում որ մի հրաշք կատարուի։ Եղբայր, Հայ Դատի մասին ներկայացրէք ՀԱՅԵՐԷՆՈՎ, կամ Արարատի բանակումի մասին գրէք եւ ներկայացրէք ՀԱՅԵՐԷՆՈՎ։
    Եթէ ամեն հայ ուսուցիչ կամ համայնքի գործիչ հայերէնով եւ հայեցի ձեւով ներկայացնի իր խօսքը շրջակայքին, ապա ոչ թէ մենք կ՚մտահոգուենք Մայրենու կորուստի մասին, այլ արդէն կանցնենք յարձակման փուլին։ Այո, շատ դժուար չէ յայտնաբերել որ այսօրուայ համաշխարհային կռիւը հէնց լեզուի սահմանների կռիւն է։

  11. Marrying Armenian is a huge factor…… even so I know many “full” Armenian families who do not speak Armenian. Some even choose to not teach their children. I was raised in a family that only spoke Armenian when referring to food or using slang and in both cases all the while mixed with Turkish words. My parents rarely spoke Armenian and even my grandmother spoke perfect english with no accent. I was determined that I would never let this happen to my children.  Step 1.  Marry Armenian   Step 2. Speak Armenian.  Step 3. Send kids to Armenian private school. Step 4. Participate in Armenian language studies with your children.  Of course not everyone has access to Armenian private schools, but to keep the language alive in America, Armenian schools are the best weapon to fight the death of our mother tongue. Also, speak the language you know best. I spoke english to my kids and my wife spoke Armenian. Now they speak both languages. A little work and commitment make all the difference. Choose to perpetuate the language not to kill it!

  12. Western Armenian started down the road to death with the eviction and exile of Armenians from their native lands. Here in the U.S. what passes for Armenian has liitle relation to the language as once spoken. It can neither be compared to the cosmopolitan vernacular of Istanbul or the regional dialects of wetsern Armenian provinces.

    No language can survive, much less develop and transform itelf, when it exists in a societal vacuum. This is the case of Armenian in America and now sadly all over the so-called diaspora. Even in the “ghettos” of Glendale and Bourj-Hamoud, the Armenian spoken is trunacated, bastardized and merely a vehicle for casual conversation – NOT MORE.

    Where is Armenian used in the sciences, literature, philosophical debate…in the Republic of Armenia, and even there it is under constant threat. Russian linguistic modalities, not just words and expressions, have polluted the language and bent it out of shape.

    If Armenian is under threat in the RA, what chance does it have outside?

  13. It has been a difficult journey for me as I thaught Armenian in a Saturday school and I know my language very well; but my husband doesn’t speak or know the language.  We speak English at home but my child went to Saturday school yet speaks only English with us.  I have thaught her more in the summertimes though she spoke with her grandmother only in Armenian, but doesn’t speak it with me.  Of course I am continuously encouraging it.  Summertime is my time to instill it more vigorously.

  14. I agree with Kevo…

    I am afraid for myself and my children because we came here when we were young and we did not have the opportunity to learn the langauge, the mother tongue 100%… We did not learn English 100%.. Basically some of us are people who know languages but none to the point of perfection..

    I just hope that by the time I have kids, we would still have schools and educators offering ARmenian languages classes because I for one will send my kids to learn our mother tongue.. 100%…


  15. First and foremost making it imperative to speak the language at home is probably THE most effective way of keeping the language alive. The fact that 2 parents who speak perfect Armenian would choose to speak English to their children is devastating. Why not speak Armenian even if for the sake that at that age a childs brain is like a sponge and he/she will learn so easily? In the USA, English will be learned inevitably and could even be incorporated into household lessons before pre-school if parents are concerned. I don’t feel that the children are the problem, I feel that the lack of discipline and passion by parents is a major factor contribution to the dying language. For instance – modern day parenting has shifted from parent led to child-centered. As long as this remains the case, and a classroom of childrens attitudes is dictating the curriculum or discouraging the teacher – there will be no progress. Perhaps Mr Vartabedian you could start at the beginning – inspire these children into understanding why it is that their language is such a priceless thing to learn. All the things they find exciting – the politics in Armenia (exciting indeed), or needless to say the school trips these youths often eventually go on to visit the homeland – I cannot tell you how many wish they spoke the language and it is often much harder because they leave it so late. SO – Armenian language lessons in school must be imperative, manadatory and not optional but most importantly, these kids need to be inspired and educated about the why and how.

  16. I saw the marvelous exhibit called BESA at the U.N. two years ago and since then I have had new respect and love for the Armenian people. I hope you can encourage the next generation that what they have is precious and they must safeguard it and the culture. America has been voracious in gobbling up foreign cultures and making their people feel “less then” when in fact they have alot to teach us.

  17. Time to adopt Eastern Armenian as the official language of ALL Armenians. We have two of too many things. Two nations, Armenia and Artsakh… Two peoples, Eastern Armenians and Western Armenians… Two Katoghikoses…Two languages… We need to consolidate and unify. Languages play a fundamental role in unifying a people. Although Armenians do not realize this, the fact is that our two distinct dialects cause psychological/cultural divisions within our people. Even when we don’t think of it consciously, inside, its always them and us. We need to end this self-destructive status quo. The new generation of Armenians growing up in the diaspora needs to learn the language of their homeland in the Caucasus and not the language of Turkish-Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Face it, Western Armenia won’t be resettled by diaspopran Armenians. If Western Armenia is ever liberated, it will be liberated by Armenians from Armenia. As sad as it is, Western Armenian needs to be let go – for the sake of national unity.
    PS: the Armenian language in Armenia is flourishing and developing. I am hopeful that the Mesrobian grammar will be reinstated soon as well. The Armenian language in Armenia has one enemy – the corrosive language of globalization, English.

  18. Really the ONLY EFFECTIVE way of keeping the mother tongue is to speak it in the home.  No class or other technique will hone the skills of the language better than if it is spoken at home.  I urge all Armenians to marry Armenian and speak Armenian with your children.  All it takes is one generation of non-Armenian speakers to destroy the perpetuation of the Armenian language in a family.

  19. My parents spoke to us in Armenian at home.  When I was very young, my parents would ignore me unless I answered them in Armenian.  Some may call that child abuse today…  They pretended like they didn’t know English and I’m sure it drove me crazy when they didn’t respond.  But it forced me to talk to them in Armenian and it worked.  Today, I probably speak better Armenian than 95% of people my age (late 20s).  I blame the parents (those that know Armenian) who are too lazy to force their children to learn.  Those Armenians who know very little Armenian should send their kids to Armenian schools or go online for readily available educational resources.

  20. Judging from the posts here it seems like a good idea for someone to post links/resources for learning the language, especially for adults who would like to learn and also teach their children.
    Editor:  Could the Weekly print some?  Who is producing good quality, user friendly programs?

  21. Avetis,
    Consolidation and unification in all spheres, included the linguistic, is a must, I agree. Few reservations, though. The language of Western Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire is the original, genuine Armenian, not the one (Ashkharabar) created by the Russian influence agent Khachatour Abovian as an added effort to drive a wedge into the unity of the Armenian nation.
    It is dubious to suggest whether Armenians growing up in the diaspora need to learn the language of their homeland in the South Caucasus, or the other way round. Our homeland in the South Caucasus is 3 mln-strong, whereas 7 mln reside in the Diaspora. So, with the same token, it may be said that Eastern Armenian needs to be let go for the sake of national unity.
    It is also highly hypothetical to suggest that Western Armenia won’t be resettled by diasporan Armenians. I know many people who’d move and I don’t doubt their sincerity to continue living on the lands of their grandparents. Where did you get your statistics?
    P.S. If English, as “the corrosive language of globalization” is now considered by you as enemy to the Armenian language in Armenia, please recall that not so long ago Russian was such an enemy to the Armenian language both in Tsarist Russian and Soviet Armenia.
    Radicalization of natural developmental processes is unnecessary. Objectivity must prevail over Westernophobia and Russophilia.

  22. Seerelee Haro,

    Tegooz shad barz guh tvee arachargt cordzatrel, khorkeen mech, aytbess cheh, aha teh eenchoo.

    Zanazan “hedkrkragan” niuteruh haghirteloo hamar, tzhpakhdapar unthanrabess anclerenee guh teemvee vorovhedev lsogh yerekha/yereedasartneruh ARTEN EESG HAYEREN KHOSEEL CHEN KEEDER.  Hedevapar arachargt cordzatreluh guh hastzneh anor, vor voch lezoon, voch al ayt mius niuteruh guh haghortveen.

    Dear Haro,

    While it seems a  simple matter to impliment your proposal, in reality, it is not.  Here’s why.

    To teach the “interesting” topics, English is used because the students do not know Armenian.  Thus the implimentation of your proposal would result in neither those topics nor the language being received by the targeted youth.

  23. I am not even Armenian, I am from the u.k.,but visited 10 years ago, and usually average two weeks a year ther. I decided to study the language four years ago, and the next summer changed from poor Russian to equally poor Armenian. Now I can get by in most situations, speak to taxi drivers in 3-4 treks across mountains, often denying that I know any Russian so that we speak Armenian. It was ell worth the effort and my Armenian has improved. The welcome I get for making this effort has been worth all the hours study I did on the train to work!

  24. To Richard Kazanjian. If I were you, living in Sacramento, and looking to learn Armenian, I would search my area to see if any colleges are teaching the language. Next, I would purchase some Armenian grammars (they’re available at many major bookstores) and become self-taught. I would hang around Armenian-speaking people, attend church regularly, maybe there’s a church-oriented program there for adults, and sign up post haste. Like any language, it takes practice, determination and inspiration. How far you take it is entirely up to you. And don’t discard the possibility of visiting Armenia and becoming immersed in the language and culture. Hang around those who are fluent and some of the luster will rub off on you. Hope this helps a little.  

  25. When I immigrated to the Eastern United States at age 9 (in 1946), I spoke Armenian but did not read or write it well, though I wanted to. I was most fluent in French, as the first four years of my education were in a French public school in Enghien-Les-Bains. I knew virtually no English when I entered American public school. My father said, “Որքան լեզու գիտես, այնքան մարդ ես: Գիտցած լեզուներդ պիտի մշակես եւ կատարելագործես:” I took these words very seriously. Every day, after school, I continued to read my French books (Bibliotheque Rose classics). When my father would come home from his office, we would go to the public library. The first book we borrowed was “Tales of Many Lands”, which served as my ESL textbook. We read one story a night, looking words up in an English-French dictionary, building vocabulary, writing, etc. But, at the dinner table, when our family sat together, միայն Հայերէն պիտի խօսուի: Մեր ընդրիքի ժամերը հայ ընտանիքի, մշակոյթի, պատմութեան եւ գրականութեան ընդգծումն էին: I went to Armenian school, after “regular school” on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays (Arlington, Cambridge, Dorchester, respectively). My mother was the Armenian school teacher, and if I didn’t go, the other kids wouldn’t either. May parents convinced me that I would appreciate this rigor when I grew up. I studied Classical Armenian through my involvement in Sunday School, church choir, ACYOA. When I entered college, the Armenian Chair at Harvard had been established, but there were no students. I continued independent studies, with the late Avedis Sanjian, and worked as a student assistant at the Widener Library, recataloging Armenian language books (1957-1959). My professional career took me along the road to librarianship, but the rich legacy of my millennial Armenian heritage and the invaluable lessons of my childhood have been passed on to our sons, all three of whom are fluent in Armenian, and our grandchild, who at age 3, is a master of code-switching from Eastern to Western Armenian, as well as English, and a smattering of other languages with which he comes in contact. If we fear our language will be lost, we are contribute to its demise. I, for one, and many like me, refuse to let that happen.

  26. Յարգելի Կարէն,
    Ամէն ինչ սկիզբ ունի, եւ սա ենթադրութիւնս էր։ Նաեւ, ամէն ինչի սկիզբը, տուեալ խնդրի ամենադժուար մասն է։ Իսկ եթէ հէնց սկիզբում արդէն յուսահատուած ենք, ոչինչ էլ չի սկսուի, եւ ոչ մի բան էլ չիրագործուի։
    Իսկ ֆիլմերի հետ կապուած, ֆիլմեր կամ տեսանիւթեր պէտք է հայերէնով լինեն, իսկ տարածման մատչելի լինելու համար կարելի է օտար լեզու օգտագործել ենթախորագրերով (subtitles)։ Այսպիսով, ստիպում ես դիտողին հայերէն սովորել իր կիրառման պահանջքին զուգահեռ։ Ի միջի այլոց մարդը լեզու սովորում է այսպիսի եղանակով։ Երեխան քերականութեամբ չի իւրացնում լեզուն այլ դիտելով ծնողներին կապկելով սովորում է։
    Այն ընտանիքում որտեղ ծնողները ազդեցիկ են պահում հայերէն լեզուն, երեխան իր հերթին պահպանում եւ սիրում է Մայրենին, իսկ այն ընտանիքում որտեղ հայերէն լեզուն չի հնչում, ահա այդտեղ պէտք է հնչեն հետաքրքրական հայեցի, հայերէնով եւ բարձրորակ ֆիլմեր։ Օրինակ եթէ Matrix ֆիլմը հայեցի եւ մաքուր հայերէնով դերակատարուէր, վստահ եմ ձեր երեխեքը ձե՛զ կ՚ստիպէին հայերէնով խօսել եւ ոչ թէ հակառակը։

  27. Yes – “Որքան լեզու գիտես, այնքան մարդ ես” – I’ve heard this a few times, Sylva. To me it inspires to learn more, knowing my efforts are appreciated.
    The best book for Easter Armenian is A.V. Gevorkian, Eastern Armenian Course. There is also a CD. It’s hard to get hold of outside Yerevan. In the UK I can get Armenia, Shant, Hay Mek, Yerkir plus the Russian-Armenian channel. Also, the music helps, the “karaoke” style cd’s available allow you to piece together the lyrics – with a dictionary if necessary, to give you more understanding. Շատ դժվար լեզու ե  բայց ես սիրում եմ խոսել հայերեն!

  28. As an English as a second language teacher, I have become increasingly frustrated that I am not fluent in my own mother tongue.  I can definitely get by if I’m in Armenia or around Armenians and I understand a lot more than I can verbalize.  As a child, I attended Armenian school once per week, which was useless, because the teachers were not trained professionals and we never learned “whole language” – just random useless words like “nabastag”.  My grandparents were fluent in Armenian but for some reason they always put an emphasis on English.  Whenever we spoke, it would be a mixture of English and Armenian like Spanglish.
    As an adult, I have tried to improve my skills by attending various classes and having a friend tutor me.  The one-on-one tutoring has helped the most because my tutor is skilled and because he addresses my specific language needs.  I also try to use Armenian as much as possible whenever I am with my Armenian-speaking friends and I don’t worry about making mistakes.  I know my friends will always correct me. :)
    I also recommend the following resources for those who do not have access to a private tutor:
    This computer software is helpful because the learner listens to words and phrases while viewing pictures that go with the words (a main reason why Rosetta Stone is so successful).  It is organized thematically (i.e. weather, going to a restaurant, family, etc.)
    2.) If anyone is looking for a great class in the Boston area, check out NAASR’s Western Armenian conversation classes.  I don’t see the classes on their website but if you call the office, they can give you further info.  I know that classes are currently in session and they always welcome new students. They have two levels and the teacher used to teach Armenian at Watertown High School.  It makes such a difference when the Armenian teacher is a skilled professional and understands language acquisition.  She is also very flexible and will work on reading and writing if you are interested.
    The Prelacy has a western Armenian online course.  It is very grammar heavy and follows Tom Samuelian’s text.
    Hope these suggestions are useful!

  29. This issue is of capital importance and one that should be continued in further discussions and forums. Archaic solutions like inter-Armenian marriage and simply carrying on speaking amongst members of the community are not long-term, or even feasible, solutions. My mother, who started an Armenian program here in Canada, and now teaches the wives of Armenians who have married non-Armenians is a veritable saint when it comes to perpetuating the language. But efforts by a few are not enough. The main reason, in my opinion, that the language is dying is that it has not left its comfort zone, which was around the 17th and 18th centuries when Armenian intellectuals, particularly in Western Armenia, had thriving literature and presses that churned out good works that many could read, enjoy, and learn from. Who today sits down and reads an Armenian book. I can tell you that among the youth and even first-generation emigres, that number falls close to 0%!! That is because the language has not adapted to the times and is still stuck in the stifling wordiness of old Armenian. Although, that Armenian is rich and full of history, it, like many modern languages, must shake off some of the old and get hip with the new. I recently found a few books that I could relate to where the language was light and the themes were modern. Here are the authors as a recommendation for those of you who struggle to read and/or relate to Armenian literature: Vahe Berberian has two novels that were very interesting and accessible, namagner zataren, anoun hor yev vortvo, and there is a more recent release by Souren Chekijian titled Amarnayin Antsrev (coincidentally with the front cover illustrated by Berberian). Remember, literature, especially fiction, is the window to the culture’s most verdant intellectual stirrings and the best link to its soul.

  30. For those of you looking to learn Armenian, there is at least one good book out there for Western Armenian: Modern Western Armenian, by Dora Sakayan

  31. Please feel free to share your suggestions for literature and resources. We would all benefit from this. And thanks to all the contributors for the fine discussion. Finally, a site where we can converse intelligently about pertinent topics.

  32. To echo “Worried’s” remarks, Armenian-speaking parents have a duty to consistently speak Armenian in the home, period. There’s no use shifting blame to summer camps and other organizations for not speed-teaching our children the language if we don’t reinforce it ourselves at home. That’s where it all starts. Our institutions/communities have a duty too: To divert funds where they are needed most and GENEROUSLY PAY top-notch educators to carry out what they have been trained to do, and so they can make A LIVING at it. Relying on unskilled, unqualified volunteers to teach language (and there are more of them than I’d care to count) is not only a Stone-Age mentality, it also serves to mis-educate our children, particularly in the one-day-a-week schools. Thank you, Laura, for providing some resources. Another superb resource is: “Learn to Speak & Understand Western Armenian” by Pimsleur, available on Few people know that the voices on these learning CDs belong to the outstanding Armenian language instructors Annie & Berj Chekijian, who also provide all levels of Armenian language instruction for adults and children at St. James in Watertown, MA.

  33. Tom, it looks like you struck a nerve with this topic.  Personally, I believe that we all benefit from speaking languages other than our native tongue. But I also happen to feel that the benefit resides with the individual.  In other words, I’m not too certain what payoff there is to the Armenian Diaspora if “Hagopig” learns Armenian or not.

    To my mind what we should be striving for is developing “practicing” Armenians from our second and third generation American born.  I fear we have as a Diaspora, allowed a marvelous resource to slip through our collective fingers when we failed to find a way to get them engaged into the mainstream Armenian community.  And maybe the cause was that in too many instances, the American born, broken Armenian speaker, was traditionally looked down upon by the self annointed Armenian speaker. 

    Lastly I would dearly love to see Mr Musserlian or anyone else  for that matter conduct a longitudinal study do ascertain what if any long term benefit the community receives for providing a wonderful private education to these children.  How engaged are they in their communities after graduation and how many even marry Armenian.  Ps I loved the Oud music, reminded me of my moms house and thats a good thing.  Let’s quit being so up tight.

  34. Speaking Armenian in the home is the surest way to ensure that the language will persist from generation to generation.

  35. I have to agree with Aveits’ observation where we have duality in languages, churches, and nations and even even how we do things depending whether or not if you are on the Western or Eastern side of the world.

    We have a country, independant country ARmenia where people speak Eastern Armenian.. and that is what needs to be taught and incorporated in current schools and in general… I agree this may be a far fetched wish but if there is a will there is a way…

    Of course I am not dismissing anyone who speaks the Western dialogue but our children need to learn the official language of our current country …. Keeping the language alive and keeping our culture alive is absolutely imperative for our survival… too many say you discriminate if you don’t want to even think about marrying a non-Armenian.. I say, it is a personal choice and nothing against Non-ARmenians, but you can’t force a Non-ARmenian to accept your language or culture… that is tough..their history, lifestyle, mentality, thought process is different than ours…nothing against those who married a non-Armenians as I know many took upon themselves to learn our language and culture and accepted ARmenianness as their own… but it is tough when your better half is not Armenian especially when the wife is not an ARmenian. Now a child learns a language from the mother in my opinion because it is the mother who stays home most of the time and raises the child.. if the mother does not speak the language or speaks very little of it then how do you expect a child to learn it…

    It is a very tough thing for us Armenians.. majority of us are in Diaspora because of the Genocide survivors were spread all over the world and their children brought up children in countries outside of our own…. there are alot of them who fled our country and now their children are assimilating….We have a long and hard journey but we have to do it..

    Astvats mez het…


  36. Really, this discussion is at the heart of our identity crisis. Anthropologists confirm that language is the key component of culture. Once language is lost, the culture will die. A language that does not evolve with time will also die. If our children want to feel proud to be Armenians, then they must understand that the only way they can relate to the culture of their ancestors is through speaking the language. It is our responsibility as parents to make them aware of this fact.

    To Avetis who suggests we forget arevmdahayeren: that would mean that we kill half of our cultural heritage, including the legacy of all the ones that gave their lives on April 24, 1915. Amot.

  37. Յարգելիներս,
    Շատ հետաքրքիր խօսքեր գրեցիք եւ խրատներ փոխանցեցիք։ Սակայն այս բոլորը ոչ հող է կերտում եւ ոչ էլ խնդիր է լուծում, մանաւանդ երբ հայերէն լեզուի իւրացման եւ կիրառման մասին է խօսքը։ Սփիւռքում կան բազմաթիւ հայորդիներ որոնք Մայրենուն շատ լաւ տիրապետում էին (կամ են), բայց այսօր նրանք հայերէն լեզուի հետ չշփուելով դանդաղօրէն ուծացւում են։ Լեզուն որ չի օգտագործւում կրողի կողմից՝ սպաննւում է։ Ոմանք ասին որ հայերէն լեզուն կորցրել է իր այժմէութիւնը, սա ճիշտ չէ։ Իրականում ընդհակառակը այս մարդիկն են որ կորցրել են լեզուի կիրառման մակարդակը եւ այսպիսով գրքից դուրս ոչինչ չեն կարող արտայայտել (հայերէնով)։
    Հայերէն լեզուն շատ հարուստ է, այնքան հարուստ որ երբ այսօր փորձում ենք գիտութեան մէջ գործածել, նա աւելի հզօր է դուրս գալիս քան Անգլերէնը, լատիներէնը կամ Յունարէնը։
    Կան ոմանք որ ցանկանում են Մայրենին սովորել, նրանք փրկուածներն են։ Բայց կայ աւելի մեծ մաս Սփիւռքահայերից որոնք հայերէն չգիտեն եւ չեն ցանկանում սովորել։ Նրանք էլ փրկուածներ են, քանի որ համոզուել են իրավիճակի հետ, ձուլուելու օտարութեան մէջ (եւ չշարունակել այս անյոյս մարտ)։ Բայց մեր մէջ կան նաեւ նրանք որոնք հայերէն գիտեն, բայց արդէն զգում են որ այս լեզուի կռիւում լքուել են ժողովուրդից եւ հայ ազգի մեծերից։ Ահա այս մասն է որ նախ եւ առաջ պէտք է հզօրացուի, ապա կ՚հետեւեն բոլոր միւս պարագաները։
    Լեզուն միայն սովորելով չէ ապրում, այլ օգտագործելով։ Հայերէնը պէտք է կիրառել ամէն բնագաւառում, հայերէնով պէտք է պարզապէս ապրել։
    Մայրենու տարածման հարցը թէ՛ անհատական է եւ թէ՛ համայնքային։ Երբ Նայիրի կայքի հեղինակը դիմել է համայնքի հովանաւորողներին, նրանցից ոչ մէկը չի սատարել (ի բացառեայ Համազգայինից)։ Ես կարծում եմ այստեղ համայնքը մեղաւոր է (մանաւանդ վերջերս իմացանք որ Լինս կազմակերպութիւնը 200 միլիոն դոլար գումար է նուիրել UCLA-ին)։ Այսինքն՝ մի ղրուշ չեն տալիս հայերէն լեզուի համակարգչի մակարդակով արդիականացման աշխատանքին, եւ 200 միլիոն դոլար նուիրել մի օտար դպրոցի (որը այդքան հարուստ է եւ դրա կարիքն էլ չունի)։
    Ի՞նչ է պէտք կատարել։ Արդէն այս կայքէջում կարծիքներ յայտնուեցին։ Կ՚խնդրէի իւրաքանչիւրից այս գրառումները նորից կատարել, բայց այս անգամ հայերէնով։ Սա երեւի հրաշք կ՚լինի…

  38. The western/eastern language issue is a red herring that leads nowhere. The Constitution of the RA defines the official language as “Armenian”, it does not descend into linguistic detail as to which version is acceptable – They all are!!!!

    Learn one to any degree and the other is just as easy to master. 

    Walk into any store in Yereavan and speak western Armenian. Are you saying the clerk will not understand you? Give me a break…

    Go to Gyumri and the linguitic problem is even less. The local dialect is based on western Armenian to a large degree.

    It is not the language persay that divides people but their cultural norms, mentality and worldview.

    These are the barriers that must be overcome for true dialogue between west and east, diaspora and Armenia.

    The language in the diaspora, even if miraculously restored to a mer conversatinal level, cannot develop further in such a social vacuum.

  39. The AGBU Armenian Virtual College offers both Eastern and Western Armenian language instruction on-line:
    Birthright Armenia also offers an on-line tutorial in Eastern Armenian:
    Realistically, if you did not learn a language at a young age, complete immersion is the best way to learn. So go to Armenia! Good project for the Minister of the Diaspora.

  40. Sourp Hagop here in Montreal does a great job, not to mention two other Armenian day schools! The community as a whole must be determined to send their children to Armenian schools and those schools MUST be the BEST facilities.
    That’s when and how Armenians will send their children to institutions that will help them learn and assimilate the Armenian language!
    Try jampar here in the summer (summer day camp). The Armenian of your children will improve GREATLY!

  41. The issue of dualities in our culture is a legitimate item of discussion.  We used to have 7 or 8 catholici, partially due to our inability to hold on to a piece of land, as the need to keep establishing and re-establishing holy seas as our people kept moving around to safer grounds, and partially due to the fact that the Armenian church leaders were no different than Armenian lay leaders and lay people.

    We have consolidated to 2 seas now thankfully. Unfortunately, now everything boils down to money. The situation in the US (and Canada as of late) is even more pitiful, where were in a state of heresy, as per church canons.  The people who remember Tourian’s  assassination, are mostly dead.  So, those memories have mostly faded away and cannot be seriously considered as a detrimental factor towards unification in the US.  However, $$$$ is a major issue, as both seas get significant funding from the US, and I doubt they feel like sharing or reducing this crucial source of income. I guess one way to force their hands would be to stop giving to all churches in the US, til the unification process in USA is initiated. I think that a US unification will be a much needed catalyst for the better across the Armenian Apostolic world. Election of HH Garegin as the catholicos of all Armenians was a good start but was abruptly stopped by his untimely death.
    Regarding the language, we have two beautiful dialects that are only a source of enrichment for us.  There is no need to sacrifice one for the other. Ashkharhabar was created by the need to modernize the spoken Armenian and was not a Russian ploy, as suggested by someone earlier, who incorrectly viewed Khacahtour Abovian as a Russian agent.  Again, given our inability to hold on to our country, teaching of our language also became a domain of the church, which acted as our church, school, registry and community focal point, all daunting tasks thrusted upon an entity that did not have the mission nor the training/manpower to do so. The evolution and progress of Western Armenian  is under serious assault, as it is spoken predominantly in the diaspora.  Eatsern Armenian (askharhabar) is fairing a bit better, but it is facing its own issues.  While it is the official language of Armenia (albeit with non-Mesrobian orthography), little reall progress is made in the language, as evidenced by significant reduction on generation and purchase of new Armenian books.  what Armenians in Armenia speak is a bastardized eastern Armenian, just as what we speak in the diaspora be it eastern or western (diaspora is in much worse state).  Armenians in Armenia are educated in different arts and sciences in    Armenian, which is a significant step.
    Real steps must be made to nourish eastern and western Armenian under the auspices of the republic of armenia and in collaboration with diasporan institutions/entities. It is a harder task to make people read in any language, given the world wide reduction in level of book reading.  However, better steps can be taken to address this issue.
    In the US, many older Armenians who made it here wanted to start a new life for the kids and did not teach therm Armenian.  While a completely understandable step, it was one of the most detrimental steps against the transfer of language to the new generation.  Had it not been for the waves of immigration from the middle east, spoken Armenian would have long ceased to exist in the USA.  Coupled with outdated educational sources and structures and failure to properly get the buy in of the newer generation as to why they should learn ad speak Armenian, except for “I said so” and “this is your language”…, the newer generations have not been given a real opportunity to understand what it means to be Armenian (besides genocide and food and music to some degree) and why the language matters. A genocide centric approach to  our recent identity has curtained off millenia of Armenian history, literature and culture from newer generation Armenians and skewed their identity.
    Provisions for teaching and enrichment of western Armenian at college level at Armenian universities must be further developed and paired with more Armenian literature chairs at US and European universities. Large scale summer programs for immersion language and culture course for Diasporans of varying ages, especially the younger generation, will also be a useful step.  Establishment of substantial and meaningful awards (real jury with the appropriate credentials) in Armenian literature (diaspora and homeland)  will also be a catalyst to appreciate those involved and encourage the rest.  Just as we can get behind Eurovision and similar programs on TV, we can come up with similar programs to highlight the written word.  FREE and accessible language programing through Armenian satellite (something that must be undertaken by the Armenian government or another large entity) will also be a useful step to reach out to all Armenians  worldwide, including crypto-Armenians.
    In summary, the Armenian language in the Diaspora, if not dead, is on life support. Armenia is fairing better, but things are not so rosy there either. Real progress can be made but will require real action from Armenia and lot of $, a visionary program and the right team to implement it.

  42. I join thinkers who suggests that it is time to take care of the Armenian language. Everyone agrees that it is as a major source of supporting the Armenian identity. Yes, we have to choose Eastern Armenian to be the language of all Armenians. Simple reason for that is that Armenia in a consistent way and through years of open and/or underground fight against communist ideology and practices of total russification has managed to preserve and develop the Armenian language. God bless Armenia.
    In my opinion, the main obstacle on choosing the Eastern Armenian to be the language for all Armenians is that most of the Western Armenians use the language to distant themselves from Eastern Armenians, whom they consider less elevated and such …
    They don’t even suspect that many common Eastern Armenians understand Western Armenian simply because they were taught in the school Varujan and Siamanto, Petros Durian and Kamsarakan. Any teacher of Armenian graduating from Pedagogical University also have some training in Grabar.
    I am sure that you can find an Eastern Armenian in your community who is an old, retired teacher. May be he/she is babysitting to your child? May be he is working in the grocery store or cafe in your neighborhood? Help him to help you to learn language.

  43. It’s disappointing and sad to hear that the American-Armenian community is losing their “mother tongue”. We try to encourage and support as many Armenians all over the world to keep on learning the language, about our history and our culture. AGBU has launched a project -Armenian Virtual College (AVC) that offers online Armenian courses for anyone, anywhere and anytime.
    At the moment there are 6 languages of instruction: English, French, Spanish, Russian and Armenian with its two branches- Eastern and Western.
    if you want more information, please visit the website at

  44. The issue of language is only secondary to the solution of our national problem. To expect children born in a non Armenian-speaking country or environmentto speak Armenian is not only natural for them but also counterproductive. While we can slow down or postpone the process of assimilation, in the long run we will not avoid it. And this will be true for those Armenians living in Middle Eastern countries too.

    The real question we must face should be that if we want to stay as Armenians then we should live in Armenia and our children who would be born in Armenia will naturally speak the language.Did we get close to it? I dont think so. What stops us from doing it? Everybody can answer for him/herself.

    But as we all know deep down inside, the in thing is to migrate westward and western USA is the final destination. So lets not be hypocritical and face the reality. Some of us will be helpful to Hay Tad and Armenia,  but the real work is being done in Armenia. They are the ones who constitute the ARm. Republic, they make the government, they man the Army, and they bear the cross. But us we will eventually fade in the annals of history.

    To answer Tom, we should use what technology offers us, like online learning and virtual college.  But total immersion with the language and the country is a must.

  45. Hye, my observations:
    1 – best:  speak ONLY Armenian in the home… English outdoors
    2 – after attending/graduating from Armenian (Saturday) school my niece, told her university that she was fluent speaking/reading in another language… was  allowed to take the test, accordingly, and passed not having to pay to learn another language course!
    3 – It is the Armenian dialects, eastern, western, Syrian, Iran, Kapan, Dikranahgertzinehren (now nearly obsolete) may come to pass when TV takes over (as in USA when all various dialects the southern/northern/western all became as one dialect
    4 – Are there not tapes/discs which one can purchase to learn??
    5 – Too, at Armenian summer camps Armenian can be offered – awarding prizes to most showing progresses… and  only Armenian spoken every  morning!

  46. Seervart, How can you continuously encourage it if you speak English at home? When my son was born, my husband (an ameriga-hye) and I decided to ONLY speak Armenian at home.  We live in America.  Regardless if I want to or not, my son will learn English.  And guess what?  He did.  He is fluent in English and Armenian.  He does go to private Armenian School, but I am not going to only depend on school just as you shouldn’t depend on Saturday school.  That is not enough time for a child to grasp a language.  Why don’t you try this, speak ONLY in Armenian to your child and have your husband speak ONLY english…then your child gets equal time with both languages.

  47. Hye Michael, fyi, add to the mix that the dialects exist.  There is the Eastern and the Western Armenian spoken, then too the Iranian dialect, the Syrian dialect, and more.  When I went to Haiastan (home we spoke Dikrangerdsi-nehren – almost a lost dialect) I found if I listened well, and then, too, if I dropped the ‘oom’ ending of their words (which is common to Hiastansis) I was able to catch some of the ‘drift of the conversation’.    Although my husband, whose family spoke the Sepastia dialect had not any problem.  Go figure.

  48. But yet, there was a woman, a scientist in the mid 1950s – who in dealings with the many peoples and societies worldwide – had said that of all the languages – if one was to be chosen to be used by all the nations of the world it would be the Armenian’s language. I can’t recall whether the spoken or the written or both (as each Armenian letter has its own unique sound… not needing combos to create sounds).  Her name was with, I think, two MMs ?Marian Mannes??

  49. I have to beg to differ with a few of the folks commenting on this article.  It’s not essential to marry an Armenian in order to pass on the Armenian language.  Every people and/or minority language group has the problem of passing on their language when surrounded by a different majority language.  The key is being dedicated to passing on your language and marrying someone who is equally as dedicated to ensuring their children grow up speaking both languages.

    I am an American who was fortunate to serve in the US Peace Corps in Armenia and have become fluent in Armenian.  I also married an Armenian man and we now have a toddler who is growing up bilingual.  We speak Armenian only at home and half Armenian/half English outside the home when around English speaking family and friends. Ani is even “teaching” her grandparents Armenian as she mostly uses Armenian words so far – so far they know grkel, jur, kayli and kat.

    Even before I became a volunteer or learned Armenian I was committed to the idea of my future children learning a foreign language early on – the earlier a person starts to learn, the easier it is and the better they learn it.  Little did I know that I would have the built in situation of a husband who speaks another language and that my children would speak the second language from BIRTH!

    A big part of the problem (for Armenians in America) is American culture itself that does not encourage its citizens to learn foreign languages so there is not much of an emphasis placed on foreign language learning in many schools (although that may be slowly changing).  Europeans are much more advanced than us in this regard with most people knowing at least two if not more languages.
    Our biggest setback so far is finding Armenian language materials sturdy enough to withstand the amazing forces of an almost 2 year old who sticks everything in her mouth or tries to rip pages apart.  Even going to Armenian book store websites we have not been able to find much for her.  The next time we make a trip to Armenian we’re going to load up on things there as our family there tells us they are starting to manufacture the hard-board books for children that the US already publishes to counteract the chewing/ripping forces of babies/toddlers.
    And by the way, it’s me the odar who continually encourages my Armenian husband to learn the Armenian versions of words that he routinely uses in Russian (and tell me when a word I’m using is Russian) so that our daughter will grow up truly speaking Armenian rather than some Russianized/Anglicized version of it!!!

  50. Have you tried the Armenian church on 32nd and B?  You could also try starting a “Meet Up” group (see

    My sister lives in Tennessee and found a language tutor there and also tries to find Armenians on programs like Instand Messaging, Skype and the like to find people to practice with.

  51. Odarkin, i am so very proud of your dediction to educating and preserving the Armenian language not only in your life but in your daughter’s life as well.. You are ABSOLUTELY right when you said you have to marry someone who EQUALLY shares and willing to keep up the langage alive.. that is so true..

    You are a good example of what one can do if they have love and desire to learn…

    Keep up the good work.. 


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