Monday, April 21, 2008

Our Teachers!!

>This is Jemma & Vram!!  They are two of our many Armenian Teachers here in Yerevan.  Vram's Maternal Grandma, Knar, and Kalem's Paternal Grandpa, Pete were sister and brother.  Knar was left in Armenia as a baby and raised here when the rest of the family moved out of Hyestan, and eventually to California, Los Angeles and then Papa Pete to Fowler, CA.  (This is a tremendous story that we will try to write for y'all sometime!)  So, Vram and Jemma...they may look sweet and nice with their twinkling eyes and full smiles, but underneath these happy expressions are COLD, HARD, DEMANDING, THREATENING, ARMENIAN LANGUAGE DRILL SERGEANTS!!!  Our first lesson started out so nicely, the table was spread with a typical morning meal of hard boiled eggs, breads, preserves, butter, tarragon, juice...(actually the 1st Armenian meal of the day consists of Armenian Soorj and a cigarette!) we enjoyed these wonderful foods and then, and then...the table was cleared and they were down to business!  Vram produced his "Lesson One" which was a booklet filled, page after page with numbers 1-1000, days of the week, the infinitive form of verbs, 1st & 2nd conjugations, the Present Continuous Tense, the Past Continuous Tense, personal pronouns, and 30 Homework sentences to memorize.  He said that we needed to know all the information in the Lesson BEFORE our next class which was supposed to be TWO DAYS LATER!!!  Needless to say this was a tad too much for me...Kalem, on the other hand had "STUDIED" with these teachers before and was used to their methods.  The second lesson we went over previous material and for some reason Kalem wanted to go over letter sounds...oh, how I wish their was a Letter Factory Video in Eastern Armenian...I think I will market this and make millions...wait, nobody do's my idea! Armenian, as in English, there are some letters that sound very similar when you say can only recall a phone conversation with a credit card company or a phone order where you had to spell your name or address and the like.  It is not uncommon to say, "Bill, B-as in boy, I, L-as in lion...and so on.  The difference I have noticed in Hyestan, is when you are asking for a letter people respond with the sound instead, ex. CAR, If I asked how to spell this I would want C-A-R, but I get Kh, AAH, RRRR....The problem is there are about 6 different SOUNDS that all SOUND THE SAME TO ME!!!  For example they have 3 sounds for G, gh, gk, kg or for D, dt, td, ta...but in the spoken word it is so slight that unless your ear is well trained a lot of the sounds don't sound different at all.  The best is when we try to say words and people look at us as if we are speaking...English or something..."Dram...which is money, is pronounced TDRAM and if you just said Dram THEY WOULD HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE SAYING...then you try to add another word to help clarify like, POGHK and then they say, "OH, TDRAM!"  I don't think I will ever tire of feeling like an idiot when I try to speak!  Back to our lesson, Kalem wants to study his letters, so FROUGH JEMMA would give us a word and we would try to spell it...which would be followed by a cacophony of "TSK, TSK, TSK!!" from Jemma and then the exaggerated sounding out between the two VERY different letters, "Rruh, NOT Ruh!!!!"  At one point she even had her ruler out and was whacking his knuckles! (I spotted the ruler in lesson one and subconsciously decided NEVER to sit close to Jemma lest I learn from my bruises and not my studying!)  Good grief!  But I will toil on because I do not want to live the old way of Armenian learning..."If you can't learn with your head you will learn with your backs and shoulders!"  So enjoy your day, talk to many people and for GOODNESS SAKE....ENUNCIATE!  Love Jonelle;) 

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