Best Western Armenian Language Learning Resources

In my previous post, I explained that finding good learning resources for Western Armenian is one of the most frustrating challenges that newcomers to the language face. This is because few learning resources for this endangered branch of the Armenian language have been developed in recent years, so learners are typically left to fend for themselves, or to rely primarily on children’s learning materials. To help any other adults who may be interested in learning Western Armenian from scratch as a beginner, or who may simply want to develop their language skills further, I have compiled a list of the best language learning resources for Western Armenian that I have come across so far.

1. AGBU’s Armenian Virtual College

I feel extremely lucky to have stumbled across AGBU’s Armenian Virtual College early in my language learning journey. AVC provides excellent instruction in both Eastern and Western Armenian for all levels of language learners, ranging from complete beginners through to advanced learners who may wish to brush up on their grammar. Once you have signed up for a course, you receive online learning materials on a weekly basis (i.e., vocabulary lists, recorded dialogues, and grammar explanations), and can have regular Skype calls with an online instructor. All of the AVC instructors are friendly and experienced, and tailor their calls to meet an individual student’s goals with the language. I can’t recommend AVC highly enough; they are unquestionably the most valuable learning resource on this list.

2. Atlas by AGBU

Atlas is a repository of Armenian language resources – games and apps, YouTube videos, and books – that can be used by adults and children alike to develop language skills. For example, if you are a complete beginner who is learning the alphabet and basic vocabulary, you might find some children’s apps like Gus on the Go, Haybuben, or Փթիթ helpful. Just make sure you use the versions intended for Western Armenian learners, indicated by Արմ (short for «Արեւմտահայերեն») in the “language” section of each resource. If you are a little further along in your language learning journey, this is also great resource for finding new reading material. 

3. Children’s Books

Once you have mastered the alphabet and have some vocabulary and grammar under your belt, you can start to read. I recommend getting yourself some books that are suitable for your level as soon as you can. The more you read, the more you will be able to expand your vocabulary as you recognise words in new contexts. If you can, finding books with accompanying audio is ideal so that you can develop listening and reading skills simultaneously, but I acknowledge this can be difficult in Western Armenian. Here are some suggestions (depending on your level) that you should be able to find sold online:

4. NAASR’s Graded West Armenian Reader

Once you have graduated from simple children’s books, NAASR’s Graded West Armenian Reader is an excellent next step on your reading journey. Published in 1963, the book is out of print but is still being sold on NAASR’s website. You can also find an electronic copy on Hathi Trust. This graded reader contains simplified versions of classic Armenian stories that increase with difficulty as the book progresses. In addition to the stories, the book also includes vocabulary lists for tricker words (so you won’t have to spend your time looking up words in a separate dictionary), short biographies of the story authors, and reading comprehension questions. Intended for adult learners, I recommend this resource as a good intermediate step between children’s books and literature intended for adults.

5. Textbooks

Good textbooks for self-instruction are difficult to find in Western Armenian and can be quite expensive. If you decide to go down this path and are not learning the language in a formal classroom setting, I would encourage you to look into your options carefully and make sure the book you select supports self-instruction. One old (but free) option you may wish to consider is Kevork Gulian’s Elementary Modern Armenian Grammar, first published in 1902, which can be accessed on Archive. Alternatively, you may be able to find a copy of Dora Sakayan’s Western Armenian for the English Speaking World, Haroutiun Kurkjian’s Practical Textbook of Western Armenian, or Kevork Bardakjian and Robert Thomson’s A Textbook of Modern Western Armenian

6. Social Media

In addition to traditional resources, following language accounts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be helpful. One account that I’ve come to appreciate in recent weeks is the Instagram account for USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies, which runs a “word of the day” series where Dr. Shushan Karapetian provides etymological explanations of Eastern and Western Armenian words. Fun!

7. Music

There are plenty of Armenian singers and songwriters out there, but it is very difficult to find modern artists who produce new songs in Western Armenian. However, to increase your exposure to the sound of the language, there are some artists who sing with a Western accent. Some of my favourites include the Beirut-based group, Garabala, and Jerusalem-based singer-songwriter, Apo Sahagian. Just keep in mind that although the singers’ accents may be Western, the grammar and vocabulary of the songs may not be, so try to enjoy listening without translating everything you’re hearing. 

What NOT to use

Although this is a list of the best language learning resources, I would like to provide a warning about one resource that new learners should only use with caution: Pimsleur’s Western Armenian course. I tried this out in the early days of my learning to increase my exposure to the spoken language, but eventually realised that some of what they were teaching was inconsistent with the instruction I was receiving from more reliable sources (i.e., my AVC instructor). Once I made this realisation, I stopped using Pimsleur and doubled down on the other resources in this list.