www.dorasakayan.com > selected reviews > Yerevan State University (2007)
Eastern Armenian for the English-speaking World: A Contrative Approach
For Armenologists in and outside Armenia, Dora Sakayan does not need introduction. She is the author of several Armenological studies, and the present textbook, Eastern Armenian for the English-speaking World, is the sister edition of an earlier textbook of hers, Modern Western Armenian for the English-speaking World. Published in Montreal, Canada, in 2000, this manual was very well received all over the world.
The present textbook aims at teaching Eastern Armenian, the official language of the Republic of Armenia, to adult beginners. Though the manual is not written specifically with students of Armenian descent in mind, its importance for the younger generations of Diaspora Armenians cannot be stressed enough. It allows them to improve their own linguistic skills and discover the language of their faraway homeland, especially if their parents and family friends spoke West Armenian. Since Armenian outside Armenia could rightly be considered an endangered language, Sakayan’s twin textbooks not only fill a vast gap, but also contribute to the preservation outside its tiny political borders of a language so important for Indo-European research and patristic studies.
Each line of this textbook reveals both the skilled educator and the learned scholar, but it is not just a matter of having an in-depth knowledge of the language, extensive classroom experience and thorough training in modern teaching methods. Sakayan also displays a rare and much-coveted talent for knowing how to properly organize her teaching material, how to select the best-suited approach for a given topic and, last but not least, where to find the texts that provide each chapter with a culturally-enriching supplement. Sakayan has found the most productive way of promoting communication skills for both oral and written performances. She has succeeded in incorporating a vast amount of linguistic material into a single textbook by distributing that material methodically among the 12 proportionally structured units. Each of these units deals with a special topic and usually consists of 12 sections of its own in which linguistic phenomena of various levels are discussed in a consistent order. All units start with a dialogue that is followed by an easy-to-comprehend narrative text. After the dialogue come sections of a thematically organized vocabulary, pertinent grammatical explanations, pronunciation, calligraphy, orthography, and word formation. Though each unit includes a specific section on Armenian-English contrasts, the similarities and differences between the two languages are continuously pointed out and, whenever possible, principles of contrastive linguistics are invoked to provide explanations. The units end with the listing of a few topic-related proverbs, which present ethnographic snapshots of the Armenian nation.
As the dialogues expand and the linguistic material becomes richer and more versatile, learners, before they realize it, have acquired an appreciable degree of communicative competence. Reading skills are also progressively developed through a special Romanization method that makes the Armenian script easy to master. At first, texts are read and understood with the help of the section “New Words and Expressions” provided after each text, but this becomes less and less necessary as learners expand their lexicons. The teaching of reading skills gets in addition a cultural overtone through the selection of texts that give a glimpse at Armenian history, folklore, and civilization.
Another positive feature of this textbook — a ground-breaking one to my knowledge for foreign language textbooks published in Armenia — is the accompanying CD, produced by the author for self-study. Since the texts are read by native speakers of East Armenian, this CD will prove indispensable for mastering East Armenian pronunciation.
The appendix is rich in reference material. The first chapter contains a host of pragmatically organized conversational expressions, and the second chapter features useful grammar tables. The final items of the appendix are the two glossaries, Armenian-English and English-Armenian. The most remarkable part of the appendix, however, is the central part, which consists of an anthology of carefully collected samples of East Armenian prose narratives and poetry. Students have the opportunity not only to familiarize themselves with masterpieces of Armenian literature, but also to read them in the original language. A selected number of poems are provided with an English translation, either reproduced from existing publications or penned by Sakayan. In addition to the literary texts, newspaper articles, medieval fables, and fairy tales have been introduced to give an idea of the gamut of styles in which the Armenian language can appear.
Time now to bring these “Few Words” to a close and express to Professor Sakayan my envious admiration for her vigor and unflagging energy, wish her textbook a successful journey, and hope to have the opportunity of welcoming from her more such high quality publications in the near future.
Professor Sergey Galstyan
Doctor of Philology
Department of Armenian Language
Yerevan State University