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News > Pan-Armenian News (Language and Literature) > Each and every year should be considered 'The year of the Armenian language'

Nishan BasmajianBy Nishan Basmajian
Azad-Hye special
I refer to Catholicos Aram I's declaration of the year 2007 as "The year of the Armenian Language" and my subsequent comment*. 
Recently I was reading an article in Aztag daily newspaper (1st October 2007 issue) with the following title: "Vdankevadz lezounerou tej vayrer" (Location list of endangered languages), where Ms L.Guloyan-Srabian quotes and comments on the research about languages in danger. The research is done by two linguists, D. Harrison and L. Campbell.
As per Prof. Harrison, in most of the cases it is the children who decide to abandon a mother tongue. Children living in environments where two languages are spoken tend to use the higher evaluated language and they abandon the one which is given less importance (makes sense!).
Harrison points out that social pressure plays a crucial role in the endurance of a language. He also emphasizes on the fact that the biggest danger facing a language is when a society decides that its mother tongue is a burden. The professors agree that the only way to assure the survival of a language is to make a six year old child feel that his/her mother tongue is IMPORTANT.
Harrison gives a very interesting example from his experience in Australia where a woman in her 80's (one of three people in the world who spoke the Yauru language), taught Yauru to a classroom full of students, who have decided to learn that language. When Harrison asked them why they were learning it, they replied: "Because the language is dying…". Harrison says he was inspired seeing this.
Honestly, it inspired me too. Wow! What a teacher is that octogenarian woman! This made me think of sharing few thoughts with my readers.
1. Is there anyone who likes to see the Armenian language in danger of dying? No! But isn't it a fact that it is in danger in United Arab Emirates? Yes! Do our children give the deserved value to this beautiful language? No! Unfortunately.
I have heard from the lips of many Armenians, some of them parents, saying: "Hayerene por ge letsne?" (Does Armenian fill stomach?). It may not "fill your stomach" Sir or Madame, but is teaching and speaking Armenian a burden for you or for our community? Are we under social pressure to abandon our mother tongue?
2. The 80 year old Australian woman is a born, devoted teacher, not a teacher by profession. She has CONVINCED the children to learn that language and parents HAVE WILLINGLY SENT their children to her classes (otherwise how could be possible to gather 20-25 children to teach them a subject?).
We, in the UAE, have those DEVOTED teachers, those wonderful group of volunteers, we have devoted leaders and supportive parents, yet our children are speaking English at home, in the Armenian weekly schools and with their fellow playmates. Some parents - many of them graduates from respectable Armenian high schools - speak with their children in English. Why, for Heaven's sake, why?
3. The Executive Councils in the UAE are doing their best to preserve the Armenian weekly schools in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. A lot of effort is being made to organize these schools, to implement discipline, to make them enjoyable places for the growing generation. The same effort, or may be more effort should be made to open a daily school (the work has already started in that respect by the Executive Council of the Northern Emirates). But the effort alone is not enough: The community should encourage and support this initiative.
"Action is required to avoid the new April 24's of the modern peaceful times", says Nishan Basmajian.
4. The concept "hay lezvi bahbanoum" (preservation of the Armenian language) as one of the essential elements of "hayabahbanoum" (preservation of the Armenian identity), should be properly and globally "marketed". In this respect - and without being critical - I expect a lot more from our local media services like Azad-Hye and hopefully one day, Shepor** (I remind the readers that in one of the interviews with Azad-Hye, a member of the Legislative Council had said that he had the publication of Shepor as well as the opening of a daily school on his agenda) [See interview here]. We find in Azad-Hye all sort of news about Armenia and  Armenians, political analysis, views, open forum and so on, but ... either in English or in Arabic. Unfortunately very few in Armenian***...
Marketing is not easy but it is not difficult too. Thanks God we have two generations living in the UAE who know our mother tongue pretty well. They will "market" this to their children. Responsible leaders should look into this matter seriously if they are worried about the loss of the Armenian identity of the burgeoning generations. To find a solution for this problem is as important, not to say more important than the organization of social gatherings and commemoration of "April 24". Action is required to avoid the new April 24's of the modern peaceful times.
5. Few months ago The Executive Council of the Northern Emirates took the initiative, with great enthusiasm, to teach Armenian to adults (a parallel can be drawn to the initiative taken by the 80 year old Australian woman). The Council gave up after two or three months. Why the 80 year old woman didn't give up? Perseverance is the answer. It is never too late, those classes can restart. That classroom should  be utilized as a pulpit to "market" the concept of the Armenian language, although in retreat, is one of the most important elements for the preservation of our identity and for the continuity of our nation.
6. Catholicos Aram I declared 2007 as "The year of the Armenian Language". We all should feel grateful to His Holiness, but, I feel, that each and every year should be considered YEAR OF ARMENIAN LANGUAGE by each and every Armenian individual, whether in Armenia or in Diaspora, because once a person loses his / her language, then that is the end of the Armenian identity.

* See report in Azad-Hye here, followed by Nishan Basmajian’s comment.
** Shepor, the official joint publication of the Sharjah (Northern Emirates) and Abu Dhabi Armenian Councils, lasted only two years (2000-2002).
*** Azad-Hye has the expertise and linguistic know-how to produce pages in Armenian language, but lacks the financial means to do so. Hope someone will read this and contact us.

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2007 (8423 reads), comments: 1
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Posted by Nihan Basmajian on Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dear Azad-Hye,
More than 50 people have read my article published in Azad Hye. It would have been great pleasure if I get some comments about the article.
Actually you were the first who commented: I quote:  "Azad-Hye has the expertise and linguistic know-how to produce pages in Armenian language, but lacks the financial means to do so. Hope someone will read this and contact us." (see the last note at the end of my article).
I’ll be the second to comment. I totally agree with you. You are doing the job of an institution. I am sure you are spending from dire financial resources to maintain this very important site, not counting the long hours spent for its survival and its development.
You hoped someone would contact you after reading your comment. Did anyone contact you? I am curious to know. If no one did, let me be the first person to do so. Hence, I request you to let your readers know the annual budget forecasted for this activity (income, if any, versus expenses). May be with a joint effort your valuable readers can raise some funds for this purpose. I volunteer for the fund raising campaign.
Starting Azad-Hye in Armenian could be the best New Year gift to your readers and, probably, the last appreciation of 2007 to His Holiness Aram 1st for his excellent initiative of declaring 2007 as year of the Armenian language.
Let’s act !
Nishan Basmajian
4 December 2007

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