Բարև! Araxie here, and after three years I am finally able to have conversations with people in Armenian. I still have a long way to go, but part of the reason it has taken so long is because it was so hard to find resources in the beginning. In order to help ease that frustration, I’m putting my best tips for learning and all the resources that I know of so that you can find a way that works for you.
Learning Armenian has been an amazing experience for me, and the friendships it has allowed to me to make is what keeps me doing homework, going to as many classes as possible, and making a fool of myself in conversation. This is for everyone who’s been told a million times that they should speak Armenian but never how, and for everyone else interested in learning this beautiful ancient language. We got this!
There are two ways you can go about learning Armenian, either taking a class or through self-study. I would highly, highly recommend taking a class because it’s easier to keep yourself motivated and have other people to talk to and as questions to. However, I know classes aren’t accessible to everyone, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m also going to go through a self-study method. Even if you’re in a class, you’re going to have to do some extra work if you want to get conversational, so I’d recommend taking a look at both parts of this page.
Before you start, let me say that the best way to practice is by going to Armenia, especially for some length of time. I spent 2.5 months there this summer, and being forced to do everything from talk to bus drivers to interview people in Armenian has helped me improve way more than I could have done at home. There are a variety of ways to do so, including programs through Armenian Volunteer Corps, Birthright Armenia, Peace Corps, and American Councils.
In Person: Definitely the best option in my opinion, but we also have online classes listed below.
AGBU Armenian School: We go to the AGBU Saturday School in Chicago and we love it! They have classes for all ages, from preschool to adults, and teachers who can work with whatever level you are at. This class has been invaluable to me as it allows me to study material that is at my level, while also having a group of other classmates to talk to, and a teacher who will answer all my million questions. Would highly recommend seeing if there is an AGBU offering classes in your area.
University Classes: These can be hard to find but very helpful if you do. I go to the University of Chicago, which has a fantastic Armenian program, that also allows us to connect with students from other schools including OSU. Columbia, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, other UC schools, are among those that offer Armenian language classes.
Local Armenian Churches: Many Armenian churches have language classes, so searching up the churches in your area may help you find a class.
AGBU Armenian Virtual College: The Armenian General Benevolent Union has language learning and much more. Highly recommended by a friend whose Armenian is much better than ours! Explore their courses here. https://www.avc-agbu.org/en/academics/departments/1.html
LearnArmenianOnline: This website offers Eastern and Western Armenian lessons with excellent teachers via Skype. The textbook, which my teacher sent me a link to download, is excellent. The lessons are reasonably priced, the first one is also an evaluation and it's free, and you schedule at your convenience. Fast, fun and economical! http://www.learnarmenianonline.com
Learn the Alphabet. This is how I started. I used this Memrise Armenian Alphabet course https://www.memrise.com/course/69687/armenian-alphabet-ipa/, and it took me about a month of practicing 2x a day on my train commute to and from school.This is a great first step because you’ll be able to sound out street signs and feel really proud of it and then wonder if you’re five years old again. Also for people whose phones don’t have Armenian keyboards built in, you can download it as an app.
Learn some basic vocab/phrases. I actually used vocab from the Peace Corps class, https://www.memrise.com/course/425395/peace-corps-intro-to-armenian/ (can you tell I like Memrise?). Two years later I learned that they have a video course and textbook materials, which would have been so useful to me in the beginning (you really need to hear people speaking). https://www.livelingua.com/course/peace-corps/Armenian_Language_Video_Course
In addition, I got vocab from a whole variety of other sources once I had finished the Peace Corps class:
Memrise: This website is great for language courses of all kinds, and if you search for "Armenian" in the Courses section, there are quite a few to choose from. I learned the Armenian alphabet by using their course here every day on the train to school for about a month, and I've also used their Peace Corps Course here to learn some basic phrases and vocabulary.
Learn 101: Learn 101's Armenian page here has a ton of useful resources, including vocabulary lists, flashcards, sections on pronunciation, and newspapers and radios for once you get more proficient in the language.
Loecsen: Loecsen's Armenian course http://www.loecsen.com/en/learn-armenian/93-2-95-time-tracking is another good way to learn vocabulary, and they have an audio pronunciation for each word.
Birthright Armenia: Birthright Armenia has a course to learn Armenian http://www.birthrightarmenia.org/depihayk/login.php?content=login. Includes lots of useful vocab broken up into different lessons.
Learn Grammar: You’ll want to learn the present tense, and other basic sentence concepts (ie. the definite article) first, and then start working on cases (Genitive, accusative, etc.) After that I would get one past tense under your belt. I’d recommend learning the Perfect tense first, and then moving on to the basic future tense and subjunctive. This will give you enough to express yourself basically, and then you can work on the complexities of other past and future tenses and when to use what. Here’s a few textbooks and other resources you can read:
Eastern Armenian for the English Speaking World: This textbook is available for free online here, and it has good vocab lists, as well as dialogues, and lots of sections on the incredible labyrinth that is Armenian grammar.
WikiBooks: Wikibooks has some more resources on Armenian grammar here, as well as some other useful vocabulary lists.
Eastern Armenian Comprehensive Self-Study Language Course by Anahit Avetisyan: This textbook is very useful, however, it is very hard to get in the US, and sources say that you can get it for better prices in Armenia.
Practice! This is perhaps the most essential step because without it, all your hard work goes to waste. The best way to do this is to find other people to speak Armenian to (local Armenians in your area, or if you want to find people to practice with comment below!). In addition, here’s some ideas to keep you speaking, reading, writing, and listening to Armenian.
Social Media. follow some Armenian blogs, people, and groups, and actually force yourself to decipher the letters instead of just registering squiggles (surprisingly difficult). Facebook is your best bet for this since Armenians use facebook for pretty much everything, and groups can also help you find people to talk to (ie. in Chicago we have a Chicago Armenians group through which I’ve met a surprising number of people).
Listen to Music. Seriously, the number of words that I and my family members remember from pop music is embarrassing. Great way to get some subconscious practice in, even while you’re doing other things.
Watch Movies, TV, and Videos. Pretty self-explanatory. One thing I will say, though, is that if you’re addicted to youtube videos like me, Heghine’s channel is awesome. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9HKnougDjjpWOXcqHB0wmw She has a bunch of cooking videos in Armenian, or vlogs of her and her family doing stuff, but in Armenian so it’s great to watch, especially if you don’t have the energy to try and understand a plot and dialogue and things like that.
Keep a journal. You may feel like a first grader at first (or is it just me?) but it’s a great way to practice writing and also describing daily life things that you would actually use in conversation.
Read books. Start at the first grade level, and work your way up. I’d recommend starting with Armenian fairytales, because I always think it’s cool to read fairytales from other cultures.
If you made it to the end of this, let me know! I’d love to start a language learners group if people are interested, so let me know if you are and give me some kind of contact info. Otherwise, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, please let me know!