The live mother tongue through live teaching

Mariet Simonyan

The mother tongue needs special care in the public education system. Not only because it is one of the key factors in the education system, but also as one of the most frequently used means of self-expression and self-affirmation in our culture.

When they say mother tongue, I do not know for what reason, first of all, they understand literary Armenian, and only Eastern Armenian. It seems that the other branch of modern literary Armenian, Western Armenian, does not exist, has not existed, there is no such a thing. It seems that in our reality, Western Armenian is not the written and spoken language of a large number of us. The most important components of our mother tongue are Grabar  Old Armenian and dialects. That means that our complete mother tongue includes Old Armenian, dialects, modern literary Armenian with its two branches - Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian.

I do not want to talk about how the mother tongue with these components is expressed in the public education programs today. I want to talk about teaching the mother tongue according to our alternative, author programs. I talked about teaching Western Armenian in my previous article.

Now I am going to talk about Grabar (Old Armenian). We give importance to the teaching of Grabar in public education. First of all, learning Old Armenian contributes to the development of language skills. Many linguistic templates, with various content modifications, have come down to us from Grabar, and they create an opportunity to compare language phenomena, allow language studies, research and comparisons of language structures. Grabar has its proper place in the curricula of the Armenian language and literature for the simple reason that high-quality literature was created in Old Armenian, and excerpts from that literature are fully accessible and understandable to learners.

It is important that Grabar be introduced to the learner in such a way that he perceives Old Armenian as a mother tongue and does not approach it as a foreign language. The study of the first Armenian explanatory dictionary "Manual Dictionary of the Armenian language" and the word-comparative work with our contemporary language will greatly contribute to understanding of the Old Armenian Language. The students should be encouraged to read and try to understand small sentences and passages in old Armenian. They should see that Grabar - Old Armenian is our native language, and many things can be understood without creating great difficulties.

As usual, the students do not have any difficulty. All the words and also grammatical structures are understandable for them.  Some explanations of grammatical forms and the passage can be accurately transformed into Eastern Armenian. Nor does classical orthography cause any problem for reading ancient. The rules of classical orthography are not insurmountable either. After all, shouldn't the classical orthography be overcome, become something perceptible, not foreign, and accessible?

We are convinced that the literature created in Old Armenian, when transformed into our contemporary language, loses its literary value. So, the best parts of the best Grabarian literature can be read in the original. Another strong argument for including Grabar in general education programs is the perception of spiritual literature, spiritual music with its psalms and church ceremonies.  

If we take into account that today all our church ceremonials are performed in Old Armenian, then its teaching becomes a priority. Education cannot be cut off from life. The Grabarian word will be constantly heard in the ear of the learner, during various religious rituals, as a psalm, wedding ritual words, baptism, burial ...

In our alternative program, Grabar is taught in parallel with the teaching of psalms. The Friday service at St. Trinity Church gives our students an opportunity to put into practice the Old Armenian they have learned. The language of psalms becomes a teaching material in the native language lessons.

Western Armenian and Armenian dialects are also components of the mother tongue. First of all, Western Armenian is not only the language of the Western Armenian literature. It is also the language for a person living in Armenia. It is becoming more and more a language of communication, as many of our compatriots from the Diaspora return to their homeland more and more often for various reasons.

General education cannot and should not bypass that fact. And if at the same time we accept that the Western Armenian literature is an inseparable part of the Armenian literature, as valuable and as high art as the Eastern Armenian literature, we will see how up-to-date and important the teaching of the Western Armenian in general education is.

The role of dialects in the teaching of the mother tongue cannot be ignored either. First of all, a large part of the native language, a large part of the folklore, is dialectal. How can an epic be read without knowing the dialect? The language of our rituals and dance-songs is also dialectal. And if the rituals in our alternative program are also educational, it is clear that without knowing the dialectal language, it is impossible to perform them.

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