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University of California courses aim to advance Western Armenian

University of California courses aim to advance Western Armenian

PanARMENIAN.Net - After becaming the Meghrouni Family Presidential Chair in Armenian Studies at UCI, Houri Berberian has now created a language series in Western Armenian, the University of California Irvine revealed on its website.

In 2010, UNESCO declared Western Armenian an endangered language, largely because almost all of those speaking it are found in the diaspora, either refugees or descendants of survivors of the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government. In the Republic of Armenia, Eastern Armenian is now the primary language – and the only one taught in schools.

Held in a conference room in Krieger Hall, the class meets twice a week and covers the basics of the Western Armenian language.

Circled around a large table, students are either reading alone or partnered up around a book.

“It was very important for me and for the donors to teach Western Armenian – not because it’s better than Eastern Armenian or anything ridiculous like that, but because it’s dying,” Berberian says. “This is the language that, in a sense, the genocide tried to eliminate by eliminating its speakers. So it’s crucial historically for the descendants of Western Armenian speakers to be able to pass down the language.”

With the success of the Western Armenian language series under her belt, Berberian is looking to the future. She hopes to build an Armenian studies center focused on the diaspora and to have an endowed chair for Armenian women and gender studies – the first of its kind.

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