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The ability to assimilate new skills and theories has always been among the most obvious qualities of the Armenians. Christian theology in the Vth century, Greek science and technology in the Vlth and Vllth centuries, Syrian and Arabic medicine in the Xth-XIIIth centuries, printing in the XVIth century and newspapers in the XVIIIth and so many other examples, at all times that can be quoted to finish with data banks and computer software in the XXth century !
It is in this state of mind that we must welcome the “Méthode Audio-Visuelle d’Armеnien Occidental” by Mrs. Hilda Kalfayan-Panossian which is the first application of a new skill and theoritical reflexion for the benefit of the Armenian language.
Traditionally, language teaching was based on a logical analysis implying the successive account of the various parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective etc...). By understanding the language as the means of a dialogue in given situations, the audio-visual methods have totally disrupted this traditional order and created a progression no longer based on the internal logic of the message conveyed but on the frequency of words and grammatical tools. They have changed the acquisition of a theoretical knowledge into a lifelike practice, stimulated by structural drills calling not only for intellectual memory but also for auditive and visual impressions.
The application to Western Armenian of this method originally worked out for important world languages of communication raised considerable difficulties. The author of this manual overcame them over twenty years by sustained efforts that we cannot describe here. Virtually alone, practically without help and external financing, she carried out a task that, for another language, would have employed a whole institute of teaching research for several years.
The results obtained match her efforts. We have now at our disposal a complete method - student book and notebook, teacher’s book, pictures and sketchings drawn by Gayaneh Gulamirian, along with cassettes recorded in the studios of the National Armenian Radio in Erevan - for the oral and written teaching of Western Armenian, from the beginner level to the acquisition of all the essential grammatical structures and of the around six hundred most frequent words, at which point this method can be relayed by the traditional methods.
This method, fruit of the teaching practice of its author, was experienced over the years and thoroughly tested in Armenian classes as well as by students of all ages studying by themselves. Even in full-time Armenian schools, it can be used efficiently to contribute to the attainment of standard of students who started without any knowledge of Armenian.
In addition, one must point out that, as there are no training institutes for teachers in the diaspora, the teacher’s book gives the teacher particularly valuable instruction and advice.
Let us wish that, due to the new opportunities provided in the present edition, the conclusive experience involved by Mrs. Kalfayan-Panossian’s manual be rapidly extended to the largest possible number of Armenian schools in the diaspora, in French as well as English-speaking countries. The teaching of Armenian can no longer stay away from an innovation that has revolutionized the teaching of other living languages. This evolution is necessary for Annenian to remain alive in the western communities of the diaspora in the XXIst century.
Let us thank and congratulate Mrs. Kalfayan-Panossian to have provided it the means necessary.
Membre de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres
Directeur d’études à L’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (E.P.H.E. Sorbonne)
Membre étranger de l’Académie des Sciences d’Arménie