Two Year Anniversary: Learning Armenian

That’s right, another language post. If you don’t like it you can just GET OUT. One of the things I’ve learned about myself in these 2 years is that I find language learning just fascinating. I like to think about it, discuss it, and write about it.

So, it’s been nearly two years since I began this long funny journey of learning a really random language. Not quite two years, but close enough for me. Especially when we consider that to be honest my learning will die off now that I’m done going to lessons and just took my final test.

I just read the one year post about learning Armenian. I have to say it’s nice to be able to read that snapshot because it contains many things I’ve forgotten about. That’s the idea behind this post – to take another picture so I can enjoy the view later.

What’s it like now? I’ve been here for two years. I’ve marinated in the language for 24 months. My dictionary pages are turning brown from thousands of references. I have two notebooks filled with tattered yellow pages of Armenian words and phrases. I even have an Armenian movie that I have watched far more than any other movie in my life in attempts to understand. Where does all that put me?

I remember half of these words at best

I am quite functional in Armenian now. I can explain most things. I speak too often in simple, comfortable tenses. Abstract speech comes with a lot of pain and thought. I can understand quite a bit in person, but not everything. Listening to the radio still leaves my head spinning. My comprehension of the trusty old movie is creeping up into the 70% range. Third party comprehension is gaining a bit of momentum but often still leaves me scratching my head. Written work is quite understandable. I can read at a much faster rate now. Finally the letters are just letters instead of strange markings. The Vardenis barbar is still really hard for me at times. Pronunciation is decent, but could always be better. Most people understand me. But I still can’t usually decipher between the similar sounds when Armenians speak. My vocabulary is the weakest link in my toolkit.

That’s the snapshot. But what’s the analysis? Peace Corps gave me an Advanced High with a slight minus. Note that the slight minus is not part of the rating system. Apparently the language coordinator threw that in there to either be cute or to sweetly let me know that I just snuck in under the bare minimum requirements of the level. I was pleasantly surprised with that score. It equates to B2 or C1 if we look at the European scale for learning languages. I would say I’m much more B2 than C1.

But that’s just PC’s subjective rating system. There are other volunteers who I feel speak better than me that might receive lower scores. The real analysis is my own self reflection. I sit here today as not quite the same person who left home 2 years ago. It’s hard for me to remember sometimes how I felt before I came here. But if I think back to 2 years ago Kevin, would he be satisfied with what I’ve achieved? Yes. He wanted to learn a foreign language. I can say that indeed, I have done that. It’s not perfect, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but this American can have conversations with Armenian people. With that, I have accomplished one of my main goals when I set out for PC service.

For sure I could have reached a higher level. I started teaching myself Polish in August, to the detriment of my Armenian. Since that time I haven’t studied Armenian at home. There was no motivation. Sometimes I wonder what my vocabulary could have been like if I had really dedicated myself for the 2nd year of studying. I still went to lessons, which helped my skills improve, but to be honest I was going through the motions a bit. Still, I have absolutely no regrets about how I approached learning the language. I chose to gain some basic skills in a new language knowing that I will need it next year as opposed to polishing a language that I already know and will be using for a limited time. Over the two years I studied a LOT, stayed dedicated, and tasted the fruits of this labor. What a rewarding experience. And the most beautiful thing I realized today: I actually think I’ll be able to use this language in my future.

I’ve learned so many lessons about life and myself while learning Armenian. I never would have imagined the impact language learning has had on my life. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that studying a foreign language is a long journey without an end. You can continue up the mountain as far as you’d like. There is always something to learn, something to perfect. That beautiful and frustrating adventure is whatever you want it to be.

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4 Responses to “Two Year Anniversary: Learning Armenian”

  1. Wayne Burt Says:

    Congratulations Kevin on that score. Isn’t advanced high the highest you can get? Sometime after I came back I was contacted by some translator service agency to see if I wanted to serve as a translator. They sent me their self assessment and after completing it honestly, they said thanks for your interest, but we don’t need you. I wish I could remember the name of the organization. You would be great for something like that. I just think back to those times early on during the site visit when you looked at me to interpret what was being said. I’m sure I just made up something that sounded intelligent. Once you came to site, you started interpreting for me.

  2. icenugget Says:

    Thanks Wayne. Superior is the ultimate score. I remember last year Patrick got Superior after his third year. I’m sure there has been someone who got it after 2 years. Nick (A-17) comes to mind. Your story about the translator service is really interesting. I wonder how they found you? Did you put your resume out on any big career websites or anything? Something like that could be a great side thing. Seeing you in action during the site visit inspired me more than you realize…

  3. Peter Says:

    I agree about resorting to using simple sentences. We must have learned like 10 tenses in Spanish and Italian but I pretty much always came back to the present tense. Push came to shove.

  4. icenugget Says:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-can-get-by-in-his-own-language,18564/

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