Foreign Words Used in Armenian Language

During a two day visit to Beirut Lebanon Prime Minster of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan had a question/answer meeting with the Armenian community members. He answered  multitude of questions in a straight forward manner with some humor that was well received by the audience.

One of the question was, what he will do to eliminate the use of the foreign words incorporated in Armenian language in Armenia and used specially by journalists, government officers, intellectuals etc?.

His answer was, it is up to the experts, intellectuals, linguists etc. to study the issue, have public discussions about it and come up with proposals that the government could study and if need be pass appropriate laws. He stressed the point that his government’s policy is always based on two principals. First, the changes will not be harmful to the general public, and second, the changes must be a necessity and beneficial for the public at large.

There are many, maybe too many, English words that I can relate to. I assume this English words are “imported” and incorporated after the independence of Republic of Armenia in 1991. (I do not think this could have happened during the soviet times when the Russian language was dominant in Armenia).

There are also many other foreign words that I cannot relate to and assume they are mostly Russian words. This could be understandable within the context that, Armenia lived under soviet hegemony for almost eighty years where the dominant language was the Russian language. But it is hard to reconcile with incorporated and usage of the English words.

Needless to say this is happening in much larger scale in English speaking countries like Canada, USA, England, Australia etc. where large numbers of Armenians live. It is mostly during conversations and less in written form, and not much could be done about it either. It is the “norm” if I may say so. But in free and independent Republic of Armenia!?.

Here are few samples. (All taken from recent online news outlets from Armenia. Some are even by Prime Minster Nikol Pashinyan himself. The Armenian equivalent in parentheses in Western Armenian is my interpretation according to my limited knowledge of the Armenian Language).

իմպլեմենտացված են. are “implemented”:  Implement (գործադրել)

ռացիոնալ մոտեցում: “rational” approach:   (իրաւացի) մոտեցում.

մանր թրեյդերներ: small “trades”:  մանր (առեւտուր)  

սիմվոլիկ համարեց։ considered it “symbolic”:  (խորհրդանշական) համարեց

հարկավոր է ադապտացնել: it is necessary to get it “adapted“:  հարկավոր է (յարմարցնել) 

էներգետիկայով լի մարդիք:  men full of “energy”:  (ներուժով) լի մարդիք

բարիկադներ պէտք է քանդել: “barricades” must be demolished:  (պատնէշներ) պէտք է քանդել. etc.

It seems it looks simple but it is anything but simple. I have no expertise to further delve in it. Prime Minster is right, this is up to the experts, be it, intellectuals, linguist, language teachers, cultural associations, etc. to rise to the challenge and make it such a public issue that the government will be forced to study and act upon the recommendation presented to them.

While writing about the Armenian language it is hard to resist the temptation to write also few words about the English to Armenian translation that sounds very odd.

A glaring sample is the name Aurora translated as (Ավրորա). (My guess is that the letter U is translated to letter V in Armenian alphabet and thus, Ավրորա, without any consideration to phonetics).

Maybe it might make sense if the translator never heard the word. But Aurora Prize is a million dollar award which is presented in Yerevan every year for the best human right defender in the word. It is a high profile elaborate ceremony in English language and widely televised. Needless to say, it was shocking to see ԱՎՐՈՐԱ next to AURORA with large letters right on the background of the stage.

Another sample is the word email written as ե նամակ instead ի նամակ. (If there was one English word that did not need to be converted to Armenian probably that word would be the word email).

Another glaring sample is the word ERIVAN that was “plastered” all over the city of Yerevan during the week long La Francophonie summit from October 7-12. (This spelling of EREVAN most probably is a translation from Armenian to French language!).

The event itself was a huge success that was attended by more than 3500 representatives from 83 foreign countries. The participants were full of the praise of the EREVAN ԷՐԻՎԱՆ city and enjoyed the friendly hospitality of the Armenian people in the city of  EREVAN (ԻՐԻՎԱՆ). Needless to say there are many other words but no need to dwell on it any longer.

It is worth repeating, yes, it is a big challenge for experts and intellectuals to help keep the authenticity of the Armenian language and Armenian culture in Armenia. It cannot be done any where else. Only, in free and independent Republic of Armenia where the official language is Armenian. It is long overdue.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian

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