Sixteen-year old Singaporean Karmun Khoo has dedicated the last several months to learning Armenian, reports.
Why has she decided to learn Armenian? “I think the real question is: Why would I decide not to learn Armenian?,” Karmun says. “There are so many attractive features inherent to the language, like its illustrious history (Armenia was a monolingual country by 2nd century B.C. and founded the world’s oldest national church). Current events in Armenia also make the language exciting, especially in a world where Armenia is trying to better itself and recover from past wounds. The language is like chess: infinitely complex and yet deceptively simple. The availability of online classes was also a big selling point for me and, well, I just wanted a challenge.”
The hardest thing about Armenian is the words with “r” (Armenian “Ռ”). “I can’t roll my Rs, so any word with Ռ ռ in it is challenging to me. Thanks to my experience with other phonetically confusing languages, like French and Russian, I haven’t found Armenian pronunciation too difficult. Learning to read and write nearly killed me though, because lots of letters look the same! I don’t think I can come up with a “hardest word,” because they’re all pretty hard, but I always stumble over “հեռուստացույց,” which means “TV set.” Hey-roo-stahts-tweets?”
“Քանի լեզու իմանաս, այնքան մարդ ես:” (“The more languages you know, the more of a person you are),” Karmun Khoo says, adding that she would not mind learning Grabar (Old Armenian). “I would definitely consider learning Grabar, except I’d probably be hard-pressed to find someone who’s willing to teach it to me. Apparently, many ancient Persian and Syriac manuscripts have survived only in their Grabar translation, so if I learned how to read it, I might discover something new about the world. That is always a tempting prospect. Still, my main goal right now is to learn Armenian well, and to appreciate its heritage and history.”
The girls says she would like to go to Armenia. “Of course I would go to Armenia! I keep planning trips, but my plans always fall apart. I really like the sound of Vagharshapat, so I would like to go there. Also, the Etchmiadzin Cathedral sits there – and what would a visit to Armenia be without visiting the Apostolic Church’s own “Vatican City”? I would also stop at Lake Sevan, because if its pollution worsens, it might not remain picturesque much longer. The obvious attractions such as the Zvartnots Cathedral, as well as the capital city of Yerevan, would also be must-sees. And my last wish would be to visit a traditional Armenian village, where the scenery is beautiful and the food, authentic.”
Նապաստակ (hare)– is Karmun’s favorite word in Armenian. “I also like that Armenians have a single word for “coat of arms”: զինանշան or zinanshan. Making me choose a favorite word is like choosing a favorite hair on my head! There are some that I like more than others, but Armenian wouldn’t be so special without all its words combined.”