Speaking Armenian: An Armenian American Student Perspective

The recent edition of AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School’s DHS Digest has a cover article by student reporter Angela Taslakian, who asks the prickly question, “Why is the new gen­eration of Armenians not speaking Armenian regularly?”

We’ve included the article (in its entirely) below.

Everyone’s Talking About Talking

Why is the new gen­eration of Armenians not speaking Armenian regularly? Why is the Armenian youth losing their Armenian spirit? Why don’t today’s Armenian children care about Armenians or Armenia? Nobody knows the answers to these questions for sure, but there are some things that can be learned about Armenians that have maybe been ignored over the past years.

The question asking why the new generation of Armenians are not speaking Armenian regularly is mostly heard in the Los Angeles area where there has been an immense increase of Armenians in the past few years.

Armenian grandpar­ents are heartbroken when they hear that their grandchil­dren are not speaking Armenian on a regular basis, even though they are being sent to Armenian schools. Some Armenian schools stress the importance of being Armenian more than others, but the kids are all the same, speaking English any time they can with each other.

It may be that the Armenian youth that go to Armenian schools in L.A. are very friendly with each other. They have been with Armenians of the same age from other Armenian schools for so long that they feel no need to keep the Armenian spirit alive. This is so because they have been growing up with each other for years.

“The life we live in America is so English based,” says Narineh Melkonian, a teenage Armenian student going to an Armenian private school in L.A.

Basically, the new generation of Armenians in L.A. are so use to being with other Armenians that they think the whole world has this many Armenians every­where. But this is not true. Some counties have very lit­tle Armenians living in them, and they try very hard to keep all the Armenians close together so that the Armenian spirit and culture will not fade.

For example, Egypt is one of those countries with only about 7,000 Armenians living there. The Armenian youth do speak Armenian with each other even though they live in a place where the main language is Arabic. The grandparents of these Armenians do not complain about their grandchildren not speaking Armenian.

Armenian youth speaking Armenian with each other does not only have to do with the place you live in or how many Armenians are living in that place, but also about which generation you are from.

For example, the Armenian youth in Argentina is mostly third generation while the Armenian youth in L.A. is mostly first genera­tion. The new generation of Armenians living there speak even less Armenian with each other than we do, even though they also go to Armenian schools. Over there, they speak Spanish with each other, just like over here, the Armenian youth speak mainly English. The difference is that in Argentina, the Armenian youth’s parents hardly speak Armenian themselves, mak­ing it hard to try and keep up the Armenian spirit there; there is hardly any motivation coming from the parents.

This shows us that the more generations there are living in a new country, the less motivation regarding Armenian spirit is being stressed onto the youth.

“I think the Armenian youth should speak Armenian because being Armenian does not mean only knowing the traditions and participating in church services, that is only half of it. Culture has a lot to do in an Armenians identity, but language is as important as culture,” says Dr. Elli Andreassian, vice principle of AGBU MDS.

“I think, since the language of instruction of the school is English, all day long they are just hearing English, and only forty-five minutes is dedicated to Armenian class,” responds Dr. Andreassian when asked why she thinks the Armenian youth in L.A. is not speaking Armenian regularly.

No one knows what will happen to the new gener­ations of Armenians in the future. What we do know, is that we are very spread out in the world, and every country is different. This gives us a large variety of Armenians living in the world.

Only time will tell the outcome of so much dis­parity. Being “different” in this country is hard, and it is very natural to change and adapt over time.

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