By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA
Armenians in Lebanon Waving Goodbye to Half Our Language
I’ve been reminded of a sad situation twice in recent weeks. We may soon preside over the death of Western Armenian, handing Talaat and Ataturk yet another murderous victory.
Some three years ago, a friend mentioned seeing Western Armenian on a U.N. list of endangered languages. More recently, another friend e-mailed the link to a site that showed decreasing use of Western Armenian.
Then, I had a conversation with one of the best versed “young” people (40-something) in the language. This friend remarked that facility with Western Armenian was becoming more significantly decreased through disuse. This was not solely a reference to others, but to the situation on that person’s own life.
But the clincher, the one that really hurt, was a comment from a good friend of my parents … this is my go-to source of new (to me) words. It was really bone chilling: “Don’t waste your time trying to save Western Armenian, it’s over”. Given the source, this was really shocking.
No doubt some will take great pleasure in observing the irony of addressing this issue in English. But that’s part of our problem, the overwhelming presence of the Diaspora’s host countries’ languages. It leads to disuse of our own language. Given that the segment of our nation that was subjected to Genocide and now lives in dispersion was/is the Western Armenian speaking one, it is that half of our language and all its innate wealth that will succumb.
I a twist of positive irony, a glimmer of hope may be coming from those Armenians who have lived underground within Turkey’s borders for the last three generations. If their process of rediscovering the fullness of their Armenian roots really takes hold, they will become the new and long-term speakers of Western Armenian
Regardless, I’m a bit too stubborn to accept this looming defeat and invite you to join me in maintaining and even building on what we have. Let’s speak it, write it, and most importantly, teach it to all our Western Armenian compatriots.
“There is risk and truth to yourselves and the world before you. ”