Beginner's Armenian
Andonian (Hagop)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. A guide to Armenian alphabet and pronunciation
  2. 15 chapters explaining the essentials of the modem Western Armenian Grammar, together with exercises exemplifying the rules
  3. Conversations with expressions in common usage
  4. An Armenian-English and an English- Armenian glossary each with 1,500 words
  5. Prose for reading and conversation

Author’s Foreword
  1. There is no royal road to learning a language. Mostly a matter of memory, it requires concentration, repetition and constant practice. This handbook is not a grammar, properly speaking, but it gives the essentials of the modern Western Armenian grammar, together with exercises exemplifying the rules, some conversations with expressions in common usage for practice, and a few pages in prose for reading and translation. It is intended to be a concise presentation of fundamentals which, when mastered, should enable the student to understand the current language fairly well and to express himself clearly in short sentences in an ordinary conversation.
  2. The first step is to learn the alphabet thoroughly, to know the sounds of the letters and the way in which they are pronounced in conjunction with others in words.
  3. Then comes the necessity of forming a satisfactory vocabulary. It is said that about six hundred words suffice to cover the needs of daily speech, and that about one thousand words would enable one to read newspapers and speak adequately. The vocabularies (Armenian-English and English-Armenian) given at the end of this book contain approximately twelve to fifteen hundred words each. Nouns — names of objects and abstractions — form the basic structure of speech; hence, their predominance. Then come the operational words: verbs, pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, which enable us to form complete sentences with logical, co-ordinated and colorful meaning.
  4. Special effort has been made to avoid going into too many grammatic details and exceptions, and to keep mainly to the basic rules without, however, omitting forms which the student is bound to meet in reading and conversation, and with which, therefore, he should not be altogether unfamiliar.
  5. In order to keep the length of this book within bounds, the examples and exercises given are in Armenian with their English translations; no alternate exercises have been offered in English for translations into Armenian. Instead, it is suggested that the student, at the end of each exercise, translate the English back into Armenian and compare his translation with the text. This has proved to be a practical and helpful method.
  6. Transliteration has not been used because its effectiveness as an aid to pronunciation is limited. A jumble of English letters would be required to indicate some Armenian sounds, and this could easily prove more confusing than helpful. We have therefore relied on the alphabet itself and the examples of English words accompanying it. With rare exceptions, the sounds of the Armenian letters will be exactly the same wherever they appear.
  7. This book, prepared at the suggestion and under the auspices of the Publications Committee of the Armenian General Benevolent Union of America, is principally intended for those of Armenian descent in this country, who have an elementary knowledge of English grammar, and who would like to learn their ancestral language in order to acquire the best direct means of getting acquainted with their rich, cultural heritage. It can, of course, be also used by any English- speaking person who would like to learn modern western Armenian.

  1. Armenians call themselves HAI (pronounced: “High”) and their language HAYEREN.
  2. Armenian belongs to the Indo-European group of languages, like Sanskrit, Latin, Persian, Greek, German, English, French. It is written from left to right.
  3. The written language has had three phases:
    1. Ancient Armenian (Grabar) which was in use up to the 19th century beginning with the 5th, when the alphabet was invented by St. Mesrop. This period is rich in religious works, at the head of which is the translation of the Bible, called the “Queen of Translations’ because of the beauty and perfection of its language and its fidelity to the text. Ancient Armenian is now used exclusively in the church.
    2. Middle Armenian, the “Vulgar” or the language of the common people, in which many works have been written from the 12th to the 18th century.
    3. Modern Armenian (Ashkharabar) which began with the 19th century and has two branches:
      1. the Western, based on the Armenian dialect of Constantinople and which is now used by the Armenians in the west.
      2. the Eastern, based on the dialect of Yerevan, which is used in Armenia, Persia and India.
      The two branches have slight differences in grammar and pronunciation but use essentially the same vocabulary. They are therefore easily understood by both sides.
  4. This book deals with the western modern Armenian.

  1. If I ever get round to studying this language it’ll be because of the encouragement of my friend Hago (Jack) Chakmakjian. As such, the Western version of the diaspora is the relevant dialect. However, if I were to learn it for any other reason, the Eastern – or Ancient – dialects would be more appropriate.
  2. This book is slightly unfortunate because of the age of the plates from which it’s printed. While my copy is perfectly as printed, the print is small and the Armenian script crabbed, occasionally blobby, unappealing and difficult to make out.
  3. Also – for the sensible reasons given above – the book does not provide transliterations, so is impenetrable without first learning the script.
  4. As I’ve not yet surmounted that hurdle, I’ve not read any of the book.

Book Comment

Hippocrene Beginner's Series. Hippocrene Books Inc.,U.S.; New edition (1 May 1999); 2005 printing

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2024
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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