The Programme of Armenian Studies’ Summer Intensive Course in Western Armenian received its highest show of interest in 2018 since the inception of the course five years ago. The course took place in Budapest for the first time since the Programme of Armenian Studies signed a cooperation agreement with the Pázmány Péter Catholic University, which helped to facilitate the organisation of the courses last year. Budapest’s location in the centre of Europe and its affordability as a city attracted a higher number of students than ever before. 2018 saw 41 applications to the Summer Intensive Courses, out of which 24 individuals eventually participated. As usual, the courses were designed and taught by Dr Krikor Moskofian, Founder and Director of the Programme of Armenian Studies.
The Programme rented a classroom at the Jesuits’ building and secured accommodation for some students next door. The University also assisted with other administrative issues over the two-month summer period.
The course was split into two classes: Elementary and Intermediate. The Elementary class was taught over July and the Intermediate class in August. 15 students attended the Elementary class, of whom six were local to Hungary, four were from Turkey, two from America, and one each from Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland. Nine students signed up to the Intermediate class: five from Turkey, two from France, and one each from Argentina and America. Nine of the students on both courses were of Armenian origin. This was also the first time that the course received students from Historic Armenia, as two students, who joined the Elementary class, came from the Armenian community in Dikranagerd (Diyarbekir). Moreover, one of the students from America completed both the Elementary and Intermediate classes. Finally, four of our students were invited to the courses as guests to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Programme and of the courses, and they were exempt from tuition fees.
Classes took place every day for five and a half hours from Monday to Friday (an extra fifteen minutes was added to allow for the larger size of the classes). The Elementary class was taught the Armenian alphabet, Western Armenian orthography, the basic tenses, verb conjugation and noun declension. The Intermediate class covered a number of other tenses and more nuanced characteristics of the Western Armenian language. Dr Moskofian used a variety of interactive methods to help the students learn the language through cultural products. For instance, both classes listened to Western Armenian folk and popular songs, and they watched a number of short comedy videos through which they learnt expressions and words that they otherwise would not have been exposed to. In addition, the Intermediate class watched three Western Armenian films, one each Wednesday, as well as the comedy videos, to get a flavour of Western Armenian humour, as well as a short story to read each week along with a sheet of useful expressions: all these resources were compiled into a folder which was distributed to the students every week.
Intermediate-level students were also given the chance to practise and enhance their acquired language skills at the Society of Western Armenian Speakers, which was organised every Sunday, where they would discuss various topics in the language at a designated café. Further questions and language-related issues were raised, discussed and explained on WhatsApp groups for the Intermediate class.
Dr Vahé Tachjian, who is currently the Project Director of the Berlin-based Houshamadyan Project, was on a trip to Budapest at the time of the courses. Taking advantage of this opportunity, he was able to give a lecture about Ottoman Armenian history. In addition to this lecture, Lorand Poosz gave a presentation on the history and presence of Armenians in Hungary and Transylvania. Both seminars were arranged for the Intermediate class.
Throughout the courses, a number of tours were organised to make the most of the cultural surroundings. Tours for both classes were arranged for the first Saturday to the Genocide memorial, located on the shores of the Danube, as well as a river tour of the Danube. On the second Saturday, the students visited the Armenian Church and Armenian Museum of Budapest. The third Saturday involved an exciting one-day trip to Vienna where students visited the Mkhitarist Monastery and its adjoined museum, church and library, where they became familiar with the Armenian heritage. A number of the Intermediate-level students were writing their PhD theses at the time and made use of the library by gaining access to sources for their academic work. Students also visited Schiller Park, which holds the memorial to Franz Werfel, the Austrian writer who authored the famous novel “Forty Days of Musa Dagh”. The day trip ended in a traditional Viennese café where students had a taste of the local confectionary and sweet delicacies.
The final day of each course ended with presentations in Western Armenian by each student on topics that they felt passionate about. A farewell dinner was organised for each class before they parted ways.
The courses this year will again take place in Budapest. Its geographic location made it convenient for students to come from both Western and Eastern Europe, as well as from Turkey, where interest in the courses is growing year by year. The times of the lessons, however, will change slightly. The summer in Budapest was felt to be too hot for lessons in the middle of the afternoon. Thus, this year, lessons will take place in two parts: earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, in order to avoid the hottest hours.
We also extends our gratitude to Pázmány Péter Catholic University for helping to facilitate the courses in Budapest. Special thanks go to Dr Bálint Kovács, Dr Nora Degi, Kinga Fegyó, Zsuzsanna Angyal and Dr Sam Mohamad who all supported the programme.
We would also like to express our utmost appreciation for the uninterrupted support that the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has given over the past four years to make this work possible.