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Summer Intensive Courses in Western Armenian 2019

Elementary class in front of Genocide Memorial in Budapest

Elementary class in front of Genocide Memorial in Budapest

This was the sixth year of the Programme of Armenian Studies’ Summer Intensive Courses in Western Armenian. We ran courses at Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced levels, and this was the second year to see an advanced course, the first being 2017. The courses ran from 3 June to 23 August, starting with the Advanced course in June, followed by the Elementary course in July, and finishing with the Intermediate course in August. Of the twenty-two students (later twenty-one due to a drop-out) fourteen were of Armenian origin.

Classes took place every day for five and a half hours from Monday to Friday. The Elementary class was taught the Armenian alphabet, Western Armenian orthography, the basic tenses, verb conjugation and noun declension. There were thirteen students, from Canada; Mexico; Greece; the Netherlands; Hungary; the USA; Russia (a first for the Elementary course); two from Poland; and three from Turkey. Unfortunately, in a repeat of last year, the Budapest-based student (not the same as last year’s) dropped out in the middle of the course.

Elementary class in cafe in Vienna

Elementary class in a cafe in Vienna

The Intermediate class covered the past 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, all classes listened to Western Armenian folk and popular songs, and in the case of Intermediate and Advanced classes, they also 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 watched one Western Armenian film per week, and received a short story to read each week along with a package of useful expressions: all these resources were compiled into a folder which was distributed to the students every week. There were seven Intermediate students, from Mexico; the USA; Turkey; and Poland. Three of the Intermediate students also took the Elementary course (one student took the latter half of the Elementary course rather than the entire course, since he already had some knowledge of Western Armenian).

The Advanced class, which ran for the second time, comprised three students, of whom two had taken our Summer Intensive Courses in previous years. Given the levels and previous experiences of the students, it was decided, rather than using a textbook, to create a new meticulously-prepared programme, consisting of revision of intermediate knowledge; new topics, such as the different types of past tense; reading articles from the Armenian press on diverse Armenian topics (culture, politics, society, etc.) and authors such as Taniel Varouzhan and Misak Medzarents; and extensive use of online audio-visual Western Armenian material. They also watched three Western Armenian films, and in the last week of the course, the students also read Western Armenian literature in the original language. There were three students, from the UK, France, and Switzerland.

2019 saw a few changes to the structure of the course. In the last week of the courses Mrs Sosi Soussanian joined the courses as an additional teacher. For half an hour to forty-five minutes per day, the students were able to practice their oral Western Armenian skills with Mrs Soussanian, and hear the language as spoken by a voice other than the class teacher’s. In addition, an extra fifteen minutes of teaching time was added onto each day of class, and, while in previous years the last week of class was only four days long, this year it was extended to five days, so the courses finished on the a Friday.

Elementary class giving presentation

Elementary class giving presentations

The students also benefitted from trips to sites of Armenian cultural significance, namely the Genocide Memorial and the Armenian Museum and church in Budapest, and a day-trip to Vienna to visit the Mekhitarist Monastery, the library, museum and church, in order for them to experience the Armenian culture of Central Europe. The students were also given the opportunity to meet the teacher on Sunday afternoons for additional support with their studies and for speaking practice.

For the second time, students from Dikranagerd (Diyarbakır) were invited to attend the courses. The cooperation of the Programme of Armenian Studies with the Gomidas Institute and the local Armenian community in Dikranagerd made these invitations possible, and it was a great pleasure to welcome these three students into the world of Armenian Studies. We look forward to further fruitful collaborations like this in the future.

Advanced class in Mekhitarian Museum in Vienna

Advanced class in the Mekhitarian Museum in Vienna

Unfortunately, after two years of running the courses in Budapest, the Programme regrets that due to the unsatisfactory conditions it faced and the unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles resulting from below-average competence of our host, we had no choice but to take our courses to Athens, where we look forward to more constructive working relationships.

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