By: Erik Khzmalyan
Armenian language: a language that has a history of couple thousand of years. Armenian language: a language that survived and became even richer and more unique. We all have the right to be proud that we speak a language that is recognized as one of the oldest languages known to humanity. Armenian is the language that gave the world such a luxurious and rich literature. George Byron, one of the leading English poets was so fascinated with Armenian, that he began studying our language at the Mkhitarist monastery on the island of San Lazzaro. Once Byron stated, “Armenian is the language to speak with God.”
Yet, many Armenian scholars are concerned that Armenian language is under the danger. It is one of the most discussed topics among scholars, professors, and linguists. What are we doing to our beautiful language? Unfortunately, we ALL are subjects for blame. Most of the Armenian youth living abroad, refuse to speak Armenian among each other. Armenians living in Armenia use at least couple of Russian words in one sentence. I sometimes, catch myself doing the same. It is really shameful. People preserved this beautiful language, made great sacrifices in order to guarantee its existence, yet we dare to violate the basic rules of the Armenian language. I strongly believe that every Armenian should be fluent in Armenian or at least try to.
French people can be great example for us. Have you ever noticed how sensitive they are when it comes to French? Recently my brother was in Paris to take part in international conference. While he was in café, he was made by the receptionist to learn how to order coffee in French. People had to wait in the line for 15 minutes. This may seem too radical, but this is a simple example how French appreciate their language. I have friends who are not Armenian, but speak fluent Armenian, as they fell in love with it while being in Armenia. Yet we Armenians, who inherited this beautiful, rich, and complex language, fail to use the advantage of speaking ARMENIAN, our NATIVE language. I have several tips for my fellow Armenians who have difficulties of speaking Armenian. Many of them are simply embarrassed by the fact that their Armenian is not very fluent and may sound funny for the native speaker. My advice to you: DON’T be ashamed. Go ahead and speak Armenian as much as it’s possible. Watch Armenian classic movies in your spare time. READ our beautiful literature. Speak Armenian as much as it’s possible and ask people to correct your mistakes. Believe me it’s doable. Nowadays the major thing that unites most Armenians is the language we speak: Armenian. It defines our identity, heritage, and culture. Let’s speak Armenian, it’s beautiful.
By: Janet Shamilian
Are we Armenians a divided people? We identify ourselves with the familial atmosphere that is established when two Armenians meet. We take pride in William Saroyan’s quote, “For when two of them [Armenians] meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” I wonder, have we lost our sense of unity in contemporary society? It seems that not only are we not creating a New Armenia, but instead we are separating and dividing all that is left.
In the eyes of others and much worse in the eyes of our own people, this division may eventually become our defining feature. Is this a fair representation of who we are? Is this a correct assessment of what we want? Do we really follow the «Բարցրացիր, Բարցրացրուր» (“Bartsratsir Bartsratsour”) mentality? This competition amongst us does not allow us to appreciate the infinite delight this world has to offer. Instead, it makes us turn against each other. We should be helping one another. Feelings of superiority and inferiority should not be tolerated within our culture. We should be working towards not only bettering ourselves, but bettering our people. Competition among us creates animosity and hostility. When one Armenian succeeds and is recognized, we feel a sense of pride. We should feel a sense of pride. That Armenian has an obligation – to elevate his or her people. The Armenian needs to reflect his or her recognition on the Armenian people. It does not stop with what you are able to obtain independently. We should be accountable to our roots, heritage, and our ancestors. This unity should be carried out collectively – as one. We need to hold hands and climb our mountain and appreciate the view from the top…together. We need to hold hands and work towards raising ourselves to such peaks. We need to hold hands and unite.
Painful and heart wrenching is the realization that we Armenians are now divided into subgroups based on our dialects. These subdivisions serve as the predominant hindrance in our progression towards unification. In a previous blog post, I alluded to the fact that defining ourselves by these subgroups deteriorates and dissects the Armenian language. However, a more serious issue is not just dividing our language, but subgrouping our people. Each of these subgroups are associated with certain stereotypes. Members of other cultures or ethnic backgrounds have not established the stereotypes associated with respective dialects of the Armenian language. We have created these stereotypes. We have divided and categorized the meaning of being an Armenian. Classifying ourselves as different “kinds” of Armenians serves as the catalyst towards our disconnect.
In addition, we have become so divided a people that violence among Armenians is now common. This situation should be unimaginable…unthinkable. It is absolutely baffling that this is one of our present day problems. Violence is never justifiable. Yet, violence over nonsense between Armenians takes place at various events. We need to step back and understand that nothing should resort to any form of violence. By engaging in such monstrous activity, we do not only engrain a negative and irreversible image in the eyes of non-Armenians, but we also destroy our sanctuary, we tarnish the meaning of being an Armenian, and we affiliate ourselves with hypocrisy. For instance, just last month in June 2012, 100 Armenians were involved in a brawl during a wedding in Glendale, California. We need to realize that we are fighting our brothers and sisters. Our fists should not be aimed at one another but rather at the fight for justice. Our clenched fists need to be directed towards the fight for our cause.
On June 29th, 2012, military doctor Vahe Avetyan died from the brutal beating he underwent on behalf of oligarch Ruben Hayrapetian’s body guards. We condemn the Turks for essentially the same thing, but yet here we are, mourning the loss of one of our fallen soldiers. Fallen because of a fellow Armenian – one of our own. This should not be a topic subject to protest because this issue should be nonexistent – Armenian or not. Hayrapetian’s inhuman act does not define our people. Hayrapetian does NOT deserve to be called an Armenian. Being a former member of Armenia’s Parliament, being President of the Football Federation of Armenia, and residing in our homeland does not make one an Armenian. Being an Armenian is inexplicable, it is who you are, it lives within you, it is your country, your language, but moreover it is the people who give definition to the Armenian population. Hayrapetian does not define my people.
These separations and issues are deteriorating our “New Armenia.” To what purpose does this serve? As people, we Armenians are scrutinized, doubted, and are often overlooked. If we do not begin realizing the strength in our numbers, we will eventually have to accept this treatment. If we cannot fight for ourselves because we are too busy fighting each other, then we cannot reserve the right to act united when we so choose. Unity is a connection, an intangible concept. We need to feel the sense of belonging, acceptance, and warmth when being in the presence of another Armenian.
Join hands. Unite. The time is now. We need to meet and create a “New Armenia.”
By: Janet Shamilian
The legacy of the Armenian language is consisted of 36 letters that together form the beautiful identity of the Armenian culture. The process of studying and ultimately mastering the Armenian language accurately reflects the Armenian people: a great deal of patience is required in learning the words. Similarly, patience is a fundamental characteristic of my people. After all, we have been waiting over 97 years for justice… As with any other language, these letters form words, which arrange sentences, later transforming into powerful thoughts, which create ideas, and ultimately metamorphose into actions. This sequential build up echoes the struggles my people have gone through – picking the pieces after tragedies in order to recreate the bigger picture for future generations. The Armenian language is deep, personal, and oh so beautiful…
American society has often been described as a melting pot. While this promotes diversity, it also creates competition between assimilation and identification. These two are in fact almost antithetic. The first and most powerful element necessary for assimilation is the rapid riddance of language. Let us just continue speaking English and consequently forget our native tongue. Would anyone want to lose our cultural makeup? Surely not. However, inevitably, without any realization, we are undermining our native tongue and dissolving the core identifier of our culture. To demonstrate this, just think of the many times we have heard our grandparents disappointedly affirm, «Հայերեն խոսացեք»։ (Hayeren khosek). Almost immediately, we speak Armenian so as to avoid further criticism, uttering a few words in the language… The most worrisome component of this process is that we do not even realize that after a few brief seconds (after our grandparents are out of earshot) we are back in our comfort zone – speaking English. We have difficulties speaking a sentence of Armenian without using an English word to substitute a word we cannot translate. If we continue regressing in such an expeditious manner, speaking Armenian in the future will be anomalous.
Furthermore, the distinction between dialects in our culture creates a great divide among us. Why are we defined by our different dialects rather than our մշակույթ (culture)? Why do we need to be classified as a hayastanci, beirutsi, or parskahye? By identifying with a dialect rather than our culture, we breach what is most sacred to us – we create a void that no language can fill. We should not allow different pronunciations to dictate what ‘kind’ of an Armenian we are. We are just that – Armenian. Nothing western or eastern in that.
Luckily, there seems to be a remedy to the aforementioned problems. Let us challenge ourselves and start somewhere – by reading Armenian children’s books to familiarize ourselves with the 36 letters, by speaking in Armenian, by thinking in Armenian, by examining our written masterpieces, by viewing our beautiful art, and by learning our history. These explorations will keep us mindful of the fact that our Armenian language is and should be irreplaceable . Lastly, to truly embrace our culture, the next time someone tries to isolate you by asking what dialect of Armenian you speak, remember that your dialect does not define you. ԱԲԳ defines you.
In my last blog I mentioned that I have not had a day off since 4th of July, I guess my boss was tired of hearing my complaints and gave me last Sunday off as a surprise. Since I have to fulfill my average hours at my branch, I was not expecting an extra day off. Much needed! So in honor of my Sunday off, I decided to make the best of my Saturday night and have a night out on the town with my partner in crime whom I have known since 7th grade.
While sitting next to a group of people I heard them speaking Spanish, another group speaking Hebrew and we were speaking Armenian. I consider myself 85% fluent in Spanish, and understood the conversation that was occurring next to us. My friend on the other hand speaks Armenian and English. We started talking about languages and how I wish my parents taught me Farsi because they speak it fluently. To my surprise my friend was against learning languages other than Armenian and English. Her thought behind that was that if it is not part of her culture, it is not needed.
Now I don’t know if that is being patriotic or nationalistic, or how exactly that would be classified. Since I love languages, to me it is important to learn as many as possible. There are many benefits to speaking different languages and the most general one is that you can relate and communicate with different people. On top of Armenian, English, Spanish and partial Portuguese, I wish I spoke Farsi, French, Japanese, German and Arabic. Now that is pretty ambitious I know, and I don’t think I will get a chance or even attempt to learn all of those languages, but if I did, I can just imagine how many different countries I could go to and not get ripped off! That would be the best – amazing!