Language Coordinator: Charry Karamanoukian
The Armenian language program is designed to introduce students to the Armenian world and culture as we know it today, by bringing together both Western and Eastern standard forms of the language. The vision that inspires the program reflects the demographic and cultural changes the Armenian people have undergone since the attainment of Armenia’s political independence in 1991. Significant movements of migration to and from the Republic, increased activity by foreign companies and non-governmental organizations, the establishment of programs of study and exchange, have all contributed to changing the landscape of the Armenian world.
In a globalized, intensely interconnected world, the program aims to bring together what have until recently been two isolated entities, namely the diasporic community of Western Armenians and the Eastern Armenian citizens of the former Soviet Republic. This approach reflects an increasingly changing reality that calls for fostering mutual enrichment and productive exchange between these two linguistic and cultural communities, all to the benefit of the student.
The Armenian language program offers four levels of instruction:
- Elementary Armenian I (MDES 1301) and Elementary Armenian II (MDES 1302)
- Intermediate Armenian I (MDES 2301) and Intermediate Armenian II (MDES 2302)
- Advanced Armenian I and Advanced Armenian II
- Readings in Armenian Texts (MDES W4314).
For heritage speakers, or students with skills in Armenian, the program offers a level that combines the elementary and intermediate courses: Armenian for Heritage Speakers.
Description of Courses
In Elementary Armenian I and II, students acquire skills to communicate about topics relating to themselves and their immediate surroundings. They read authentic materials such as signs, advertisements, timetables, and texts in the form of tales, fables, and songs in unaltered original language.
In Intermediate Armenian I and II, students acquire skills to communicate about a wide range of topics relating to the world beyond their immediate surroundings. Topics include biography, geography, travel, holidays, education, health, arts, etc. At this level, students deepen their knowledge of grammar and begin to read full-length authentic short stories, excerpts from plays, newspaper headlines, and selected passages in newspaper articles in unaltered original language.
In Advanced Armenian I and II, students develop competence to communicate with regard to topics relating to social, historical, political, and cultural issues of Armenian society and Armenian Diaspora. They perfect their knowledge of grammar and write short essays using complex forms of the language. They read longer literary works with the use of a dictionary.
In Readings in Armenia Texts, students are introduced to texts literary and historical texts. Emphasis is on analyzing context, syntax and grammatical structures as clues towards comprehension. In addition to grammar and vocabulary analysis, students produce translations, brief summaries and commentaries on the texts they read, both orally and in written form. The content of the course changes each term, allowing students to take the course more than once.
Teaching Approach and Method
While the courses are designed to allow students full proficiency in Western Armenian, and acquire at a minimum passive knowledge of the Eastern standard, it is very much conceivable to gain equal proficiency in both languages. Although the main language of instruction is Western Armenian, all materials are presented in both languages consistently (grammar lessons, listening, reading materials, etc.). Students’ proficiency in Eastern Armenian will vary depending on their interest in developing their speaking skills in that form.
Differences Between Eastern and Western Armenian
Western Armenian is the language spoken in the Armenian diaspora by multilingual communities living in various cities around the world. It is spoken in Armenian homes, in community centers and community schools, and used in written form in community publications, as well as in some literary and poetic works by a number of diaspora artists. As a diasporic language, it does not enjoy an official or national status anywhere. Eastern Armenian, on the other hand, is the official language of the Republic of Armenia, of Nagorno Karabakh, and is spoken by Armenian communities of Georgia, Iran, and Russia.
Although Western and Eastern Armenian are mutually intelligible, there exist marked differences in rhythm, pronunciation, orthography, grammar, and usage of words:
- Western Armenian is spoken at a slower pace in comparison to the quick rhythm of Eastern Armenian;
- Traditional orthography in Armenia was changed to a phonetic system in the 1920s, whereas Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian communities in Iran and Georgia retained the rules of the classical orthography;
- Eastern Armenian has distinct sounds for all the letters of the alphabet, whereas in Western Armenian, the sounds of some letters have shifted and have no distinction in pronunciation;
- Grammatical differences in conjugation and case endings, as well as differences in usage of vocabulary.
Funding, Grants, Fellowships, Scholarships
Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship
Open to undergraduate and graduate students of Columbia University and Barnard College. Students can apply for study at the beginning, intermediate or advanced level of language. The AY FLAS grant amounts are:
- Graduate students tuition grant is $18,000 and the stipend is $15,000.
- Undergraduate students tuition grant is $10,000 and the stipend is $5,000.
Ph.D. fellowship in Armenian studies MESAAS (contact director of graduate studies)
Adrina Kayaian Scholarship for Studies in Nutrition and Food-related studies.
Placement, Testing, Proficiency Exams
The sequence of courses of the Armenian Language Program is designed for students with little or no knowledge of the language. Heritage students or students with basic knowledge of Armenian need to be evaluated for proper placement. Students with a background in Armenian who would like to take a proficiency exam to fulfill a language requirement can write to arrange for an evaluation: Charry Karamanoukian