Language anxiety when speaking Armenian

A follow-up interview with Gevick Safarians (University of California, Los Angeles).

Gevick Safarians joins Shushan Karapetian again for a discussion of a research project he conducted on the issue of language anxiety when speaking Armenian.

Citation

Karapetian, S. (2019, August 23). Language anxiety when speaking Armenian [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from httpps://nhlrc.ucla.edu/nhlrc/article/206455

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Transcript:

[Shushan] Hello everyone. I'm Shushan Karapetian with the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA and welcome to our new podcast series entirely dedicated to heritage language research, education, pedagogy, and lived experience. My guest today is Gevick Safarians, who is a neuroscience major here at UCLA. Gevick took a course with me in the spring of 2018, titled "Language and Diaspora: Armenian as a Heritage Language." The course covers the life cycle of Armenian as a diasporic language. The Armenian people have been a diasporic people for a very, very long time... for most of their existence. To add to that was, of course, the calamity of the Armenian genocide that wiped out a million and a half Armenians from Western Armenian, but also wiped out the language from its own homeland. So, Western Armenian became a diasporic language. And, of course, Armenian is a pluricentric language so we have Modern Eastern Armenian and Modern Western Armenian. And so, to trace the experience of Armenian and Armenians in their diasporic existence and the role of language and what's happened in the different diaspora communities... how language maintenance has fared in different environments. So, Iranian-Armenians, for example, have maintained the language for hundred of years whereas Armenians in France are struggling. And tracing the trajectory of the center or epicenter of the Armenian diaspora from the Middle East to the West... to the United States... to Western Europe instead of the traditional Middle Eastern communities, who - maybe socioeconomically, socio-politically - weren't doing so well but linguistically had a very rich environment. Whereas in terms of heritage language maintenance, the western communities are struggling. So, that's kind of a big picture of some of the things we discussed in class and contextualizing Armenian as a heritage language among heritage languages and the experiences... kind of the global experiences. So, one of the components for this course for each student was to write a term paper based on their own original research. So, each student was given several options along with an open-ended option, which is what Gevick chose - to conduct a research project on any element of Armenian as a heritage language or Armenians as heritage language speakers. And what Gevick chose to do what to tackle the issue of language anxiety, and this is something I've worked on as well in my dissertation and a publication that came after... this issue of having some kind of a fear or some kind of a hesitance or apprehension about speaking Armenian. And Gevick kind of took that and did this wonderful, wonderful project that I'd like us to talk about today in detail. So, Gevick, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and welcome to the podcast.

[Gevick] Thank you so much for having me.

[Shushan] Let's first start with how and why you chose the topic of language anxiety. We covered a lot of different topics in class, right? We covered language attitudes, ideologies, language use practices, linguistic features... [pause] What was it about language anxiety that you found interesting or compelling, and why did you decide to pursue it?

[Gevick] Sure. So, three things - one being your dissertation that you spoke about briefly. I gave that a read and I thought that was very fascinating how there was research about language anxiety, which brings me to my second point which is something that I experience myself and have experienced. So, it was a personal topic as well and I really wanted to address it through research. And your class gave me the opportunity to do that. And third being that there is this tie that it has with my field of neuroscience since I'm a neuroscience major. It had that appeal of, you know, looking at anxiety levels also...

[Shushan] Ah! The interdisciplinary...

[Gevick] Sure.

[Shushan] ... or cross disciplinary element of it.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, before we move forward, why don't you define language anxiety for our listeners, right? I think most people probably have a general sense but maybe it would be helpful for you to give us a definition.

[Gevick] Sure. So, language anxiety is defined as the fear of producing certain language due to some external or internal factors that may inhibit your ability to communicate in that language.

[Shushan] And you said you had some personal experience. I mean, that was kind of a very official definition but in layman's terms, what was Gevick's experience with language anxiety? Can you maybe give us a scenario or narrate an experience that might make it tangible for a listener?

[Gevick] Sure. So, I talked about external and internal factors affecting my ability to use my language. An external factor, for example, may be: Whether using it in front of family versus friends... in front of friends who may speak a different dialect than I do, I have greater anxiety in using my Armenian dialect with them because just out of the fear... the anxiety of being ridiculed or whatever consequences come with it... [pause] But at the home, say, I'm more comfortable because I know my mother and my father speak the same language or just internally, it may be... I don't know... past experiences. I've had memories, which come back to haunt me when I try to use the language in front of certain people, right? So, there's always that's always there as well.

[Shushan] And just as a note to our readers: If you're interested more about Gevick's linguistic autobiography, we did record another podcast interview with him really tackling his own experience growing up speaking Armenian and speaking a dialect of Eastern Armenian, which is a particular variant of Iranian Armenian. So, take a listen if you'd like more information about that. Okay. So, we talked about how and why you chose the topic and, again, I want to remind our listeners that this was a ten-week course so it's tough to get so much done within ten weeks and other courses... [pause] But I was really impressed with your methodology and the way you tackled... kind of your scientific approach to this. So, can you talk us through what methodology you decided to choose and who your participants were? And maybe, actually, before we get to that... [pause] What were your research questions? And then, what methodology did you use to answer those?

[Gevick] Right. So, addressing language anxiety... I knew I had they population of just Los Angeles Armenians - specifically, Armenians who reside in Los Angeles and are of my age group. So, I chose the ages of 18-22...

[Shushan] So, you know, the college-aged...

[Gevick] College-aged...

[Shushan] ... the group that's most studied in the world! [laughing]

[Gevick] Right, exactly. Exactly, yeah. So, I chose those individuals and I was really going to... [pause] Because I knew Armenian is - as we talked about - pluricentric language. There's different dialects associated with it. So, I decided to address anxiety as far as how speakers of different dialects feel when they're speaking to each other... how, perhaps, people of different genders... how they may feel when they're talking to each other... the differences among those populations. So, those were, really, the questions I had and was there any really significant differences between, say, those groups. Because I'll say this again: In Los Angeles there this just all these different types of Armenians who come in contact with each other and this is more person-to-person contact outside of a classroom setting. And most of the studies that had been done have taken place in classroom settings. So, for example, to kind of as... [pause] Looking into the background of my research, I looked into language anxiety for different languages, right? So, Chinese... I believe there was a study about Indian language anxiety... [pause] And they all took place in a classroom setting and there was little-to-no research on, say, someone goes to the local grocery market and they encounter someone that speaks a different dialect, like, of their same language. What anxieties do they, if any... do they have? So, I was really going to just approach it from the scope of, "Hey, maybe there's just a colloquial conversation going on between two people. What anxieties are there?" And then, obviously, because of the different dialects, I've got to narrow it down between Eastern and Western dialects. So...

[Shushan] I think just a point here...

[Gevick] Yes.

[Shushan] When I was doing my own research on language anxiety, you know, I had the same experience. Most of the studies are in classroom settings, in-classroom settings... an overwhelming majority on foreign language students.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, students who are studying a foreign language who have some kind of anxiety...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... producing or interacting in the language. Of course, this is very interesting and very valuable, but it's very different from the heritage...

[Gevick] Heritage language...

[Shushan] ...language anxiety.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, heritage language anxiety takes place in their lived experience, right? A classroom is a very limited space and classroom interactions happen over a very limited period of time...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... and a foreign language student knows that.

[Gevick] Correct.

[Shushan] A heritage language student lives in a classroom, right?

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] If we're going to use that analogy... their whole life is the classroom experience that a foreign language student goes to. So, I think there is a very important moment of identifying these differences. So, when you go to the grocery story or you visit your neighbor or you go to your doctor - who's also Armenian and speaks Armenian - that this anxiety is following you all the time if you have it.

[Gevick] Right. And the anxiety feel differently. And what you were talking about was people who engage in, say, taking classroom to learn a second language or new language. So, for example I took Spanish and if I want to speak Spanish outside the classroom, that's a whole different type of anxiety you feel because you're speaking to someone who you know that they know Spanish isn't your primary language...

[Shushan] Yes.

[Gevick] ... Spanish isn't your heritage language.

[Shushan] Yes.

[Gevick] So, there's less anxiety you feel, compared to when you want to speak to someone of your same dialect. And Armenian being your heritage language - which literally means the language that you're associated with culturally... you identify with that language - it's a whole different type of anxiety you feel.

[Shushan] Yes. I've had this conversation with many intellectuals in the Armenian community and I remember one of them saying, "Oh, I'm so annoyed with these Armenians who are mostly multilinguals" - Armenians are known all over the world for being multilingual - "who have such ease picking up Spanish and French and Arabic and Farsi, but all of a sudden struggle with Armenian."

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] And I had to articulate for him that when you as an Armenian or as an Armenian-American are speaking Spanish - and you so eloquently gave that example - the person you're speaking to has no expectations of you performing a Spaniards identity...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... or of a Mexican's identity.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] It's very clear that you're a foreign language speaker. But when you as a heritage language speaker are speaking Armenian, you are being judged by native speaker standards.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] There idea is: You should know Armenian and you should know it well.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] And Armenian is a reflection of your "Armenian-ness"...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, the expectations are so much higher for a heritage language speaker... hence, I think, the heightened levels of anxiety, you know, and this is a very interesting distinction. And then I wanted - even though we spoke in our other podcast about the situation of LA - just, again, to highlight how unique LA is in terms of... as a diasporic community because you have Armenians from the Republic... you have Armenians from various diasporic communities who are all now in this one community, who are interacting, who have differences in terms of linguistic background... in terms of, you know, is it Eastern Armenian... is it Western Armenian... is it a dialect of Eastern... is it a dialect of Western... who have different sociocultural, socioeconomic backgrounds... and all of these people are interacting with each other in the same space at the same time.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, a lot of these issues that were already significant within a particular community that was more homogenous... now, all of a sudden, take on this, again, heightened significance in this very heterogenous community.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] Okay. So, your participants were college-aged Armenian heritage language speakers.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] Correct? Now, tell us about what methodology you chose.

[Gevick] So, I mainly went with a survey. I did have a lot of Armenian students available at my disposal through the Armenian Student Associations at universities... UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine. I had participants from all over. And, again, these were college-aged students. I devised the survey to mainly address one: demographics, say, age, gender, what Armenian they spoke... get those details out of the way. And then that would help me with just data analysis later on. And then I devised a confidence assessment to - and it was just five questions - to assess just how confident they feel in producing the language or knowing Armenian as in they can read... write with confidence... speak... [pause] And another... [pause] I had a language anxiety assessment which was done, and these were scored. So, I gave them exams... or I gave them the opportunity to answer questions and questions went sort of, like, for example...

[Shushan] Yeah. If you could give us a couple of samples, I think that would be useful.

[Gevick] Yeah. So, one example would be: "I feel uneasy when I speak Armenian," or, "I feel embarrassed when I speak Armenian," "I do not know enough to speak Armenian," and then they would answer if they agree, right, on a Likert scale from "Strongly Disagree" to "Agree." And based on their answers, I assigned them an anxiety score and I'd used that in my data analysis. And...

[Shushan] So, were there questions about interdialectal interactions? So, was there a question saying, "I feel uneasy speaking to someone who speaks a different variant of Armenian than I do?"

[Gevick] Yes, there were questions.

[Shushan] Okay.

[Gevick] That was actually the last question. "I feel particularly uneasy," yes, "when speaking to someone with a different dialect."

[Shushan] Okay.

[Gevick] And at the very end, I did give a little short questionnaire. I asked people whether they believed there should be a single dialect of Armenian, just spoken in Los Angeles... so, a Los Angeles Armenian dialect [laughing] and then I also asked people just how they felt about the superiority of one dialect versus the other. So, Eastern versus Western... whether they felt theirs was more superior than the other.

[Shushan] Interesting. So, how many participants did you have? Have many people took your survey?

[Gevick] I ended up having 93 participants.

[Shushan] Wow!

[Gevick] Which is pretty good, I'd say.

[Shushan] That's... I think for a term paper, yes.

[Gevick] Right, yeah. [laughing] Right!

[Shushan] Even for a bigger research paper... [pause] And so, there were not just UCLA students, correct? These were Armenian heritage language speakers from across campuses in Southern California?

[Gevick] In Southern California, yes.

[Shushan] Okay. That's fair to say...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... or, maybe, yeah. Okay. And can you give us a little taste of your findings. What were your big findings?

[Gevick] Sure. So, one of the main findings was... [pause] I'll begin with the last two questions I asked about the superiority complexes that these dialect speakers have. I defined about 33% of the responders did feel that their dialect was superior to the other. However, only half of those - so, totaled to 16% of all responders - thought that there should be one single Los Angeles-Armenian dialect or American-Armenian dialect and that was very interesting to me. So, I'd assume that those numbers would be more equal... [pause] No, there was a sense of... [pause] So, a lot of the... most people went with the fact that, oh, there was these differences and different types of Armenian... that we should just embrace, right... that there shouldn't be this just one mundane... just one Armenian...

[Shushan] Right.

[Gevick] ...you know what I mean?

[Shushan] Right, right.

[Gevick] They embrace the differences for most of the part. But other things I found that I really want to talk about... definitely... [pause] I looked for some significant differences in the data just between Eastern and Western speakers. Eastern speakers did have relatively more... more anxiety relative to Western speakers, although this wasn't significant. This was very interesting to me because I've just personally grown up with the idea that Eastern Armenian is the superior, or the better, Armenian, right? The "normal" form of Armenian.

[Shushan] Do you think that's because it's the de facto official language in the Republic of Armenia? Is that why you think you had that particular perception?

[Gevick] My perception... yes. Well personally, I'm speaking... I'm one data point, right?

[Shushan] Yeah.

[Gevick] So, my friends were basically all Armenians from Armenian and me being from Iran - different dialects - I'd always have this complex that, oh, their Armenian is better than mine. Their Eastern Armenian is better than mine.

[Shushan] Better in terms of more authentic or better in terms of their more fluent them I am?

[Gevick] Both.

[Shushan] Both.

[Gevick] Definitely both, yeah. But one thing... [pause] I found that Western Armenians had less anxiety relative to the Eastern Armenians. That was pretty interesting to me as well.

[Shushan] When you say - sorry... [pause] When you say "relative to..." [pause] So, when you say Eastern Armenian speakers had more anxiety relative to Western... [pause] So, you mean when an Eastern Armenian speaker has to engage with someone who is a Western speaker, they have more anxiety than a Western Armenian speaker who's engaging with an Eastern Armenian speaker? Am I understanding it correctly?

[Gevick] I'm speaking overall.

[Shushan] Overall.

[Gevick] When engaging in speaking their Armenian dialect...

[Shushan] Ah!

[Gevick] ... and it doesn't matter... [pause] I didn't really assess...

[Shushan] Who the (inaudible) is...

[Gevick] Exactly. They generally have... Westerns have less anxiety.

[Shushan] So, I have my own theories as to why this is. Do you have yours?

[Gevick] Yes, I have one theory.

[Shushan] Okay.

[Gevick] And it mainly has to do with the Armenian schools here, I believe. The Armenian schools that I've... [pause] I've noticed the Armenian schools' primarily instruction that is through Western Armenian... they really tell their kids, "Oh, this is a right way speaking Armenian," and they do give that education of, "Oh, there are different types of speaking Armenian," and they expose that to their students. And students have an easier time engaging with other students using their dialect of Armenian. So, I'd assume - and just from people I've met here at UCLA - they're more confident in using their Western Armenian. So, that's one (inaudible)... that's one theory.

[Shushan] So, you're saying Western Armenian speakers have less anxiety...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... because those who have the opportunity to attend Armenian school receive formal instruction in Western Armenian?

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] And that is true that in the Los Angeles community... even though the Eastern Armenian demographic is steadily increasing where some would say - at least in the schools - it's 50/50, Western Armenian is still the dominant language of instruction.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, that's an interesting point. I was... the first thing that I thought of was that Eastern Armenian is a diglossic language and Western Armenian is not.

[Gevick] Okay.

[Shushan] And I'll explain why I think that impacts this. So, when we say it's a diglossic language, we mean that it is functionally compartmentalized. So, there's a colloquial variant - you know, your everyday variant - and then there's a literary variant that's quite different...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... grammatically, phonetically, and so on. So, for heritage language speakers, they're introduced and only exposed to primarily... to the colloquial variant.. to the casual variant.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] But when they're interacting in public or in officially domains, the expectation is for them to perform in the... like, a formal - what we would call in linguistics, "the high level," right, variant. Whereas Western Armenian doesn't have this big distinction.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, what you're exposed to at home is pretty similar to what you're exposed to in school. So, the leap from the home variant to the school variant or to the formal variant is much bigger for Eastern Armenian speakers than it is for Western Armenian speakers. So, that might be the reason that this experience of anxiety is higher for Eastern Armenian speakers... because they know when they speak in... kind of in a public environment...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] The expectation is for them to perform in a different register, right, in a different variant.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] And in terms of Armenian schools, I also think that there's a large number of Eastern Armenian students who have attended Armenian school...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... and they have been instructed in Western Armenian.

[Gevick] Oh, okay.

[Shushan] So, this idea of Western Armenian as the superior form - as the formal form - can enhance their anxiety when having to perform in Eastern Armenian.

[Gevick] I see.

[Shushan] Do you see?

[Gevick] Yeah.

[Shushan] So, that might be an interesting component.

[Gevick] That's, yes, definitely something to look into.

[Shushan] Okay. What about other findings?

[Gevick] Other findings... [pause] I also looked at differences between males and females... their responses. This was very interesting. This was the significant difference that I did find between two groups and females did experience more language anxiety than males. And the more interesting thing was: Over half of the females - over 70% of the females - experience moderate to high levels of anxiety, whereas only about less than 40% of males...

[Shushan] Wow.

[Gevick] That was a very interesting finding to me. But what I really took away from that was... [pause] Again, I had to rely on just what I've seen... just observational... I don't have too many, just, research articles to rely on... [pause] But males are more comfortable using Armenian because it is a way to show masculinity, right... dominance, or what comes with masculinity...

[Shushan] Macho-ness!

[Gevick] Macho-ness.

[Shushan] Right! [laughing]

[Gevick] Yeah, for lack of a better term. And then females... them having those opportunities to engage in those types of social interactions, I believe, makes it easier for them to assess whether or not they have anxiety, right? So, they have more opportunities to engage in Armenian.

[Shushan] Interesting. I did, in my own work, find a gender-based compartmentalization in language use and for mine - statistically - the difference wasn't that big but there was constantly more agency by men...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... to use Armenian...

[Gevick] Okay.

[Shushan] ... and to use Armenian as an articulation or as a declaration of their Armenian identity.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] Whereas for women - even though my women participants had better Armenian proficiency...

[Gevick] Oh yeah.

[Shushan] ... their self-assessment wasn't as high...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... their confidence wasn't as high... their agency in performing Armenian wasn't as strong as the men.

[Gevick] I also did find that in my study, yeah. That's very interesting.

[Shushan] And I think it's so fascinating.

[Gevick] Yeah.

[Shushan] And when I looked at studies on other languages, they were mixed. Some studies had very similar findings to mine and some studies had opposite findings.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] Right? Because women are more - especially immigrant women or the children of immigrant women - are more tied to the home domain. So, typically they would end up using the heritage language more, whereas the men had the opportunities to interact with the, you know, the host society. And then there were studies that showed the exact opposite. So, I don't think the research is, you know, clear now but I think this is such an interesting contribution. Anything else? Any other findings that you found kind of interesting or unexpected or...

[Gevick] Yeah, most definitely... looking at just how people rated themselves as far as proficiency goes... proficiency in the language and their anxiety scores. So, there was a very weak negative correlation. So, as in... [pause] So, the more... the more proficient someone said they were in a language, the less anxiety they were supposed to feel. But this was very weak.

[Shushan] Ah.

[Gevick] Which suggested that there were factors outside of just their proficiency which are contributing to their anxiety.

[Shushan] So, to clarify: The expectation is that the higher their proficiency, the lower their anxiety should be.

[Gevick] The lower their anxiety should be...

[Shushan] But this wasn't what you found.

[Gevick] This wasn't the case, right.

[Shushan] And that's exactly what I found as well.

[Gevick] Right!

[Shushan] That some of my most proficient participants had the lowest self-assessments.

[Gevick] Right. That was very interesting to me.

[Shushan] So, it's not just a linguistic thing.

[Gevick] Right. It's not just (inaudible)...

[Shushan] It's so much more than that.

[Gevick] It's a lot more than that.

[Shushan] Right.

[Gevick] It's very much a psychological thing. So, it really... yeah, that was... [pause] Because I remember speaking about that in your class as well... about how... just factors outside of just knowing Armenian... they definitely contribute to how you feel about expressing yourself in Armenian, identifying as Armenian... [pause] So, definitely this... just this study made me an advocate of changing instruction measures at school. Besides focusing on teaching the Armenian language, maybe teaching expression in the Armenian language should deserve more attention as well.

[Shushan] What do you mean by that specifically?

[Gevick] As in... [pause] In your class specifically, we talked about being able to express oneself creatively in Armenia. So, for example, in my education - and I know this is the same because I've spoken to people who have taken Armenian classes like I have... have taken Armenian Saturday school classes... [pause] We weren't really given the opportunity to express ourselves in Armenian as much as we'd like to, especially at a younger age. So, one thing we can always say is, "Sure, you learn how to read and write in Armenian," but maybe instead of reading the same author's poetry over and over again, maybe "express your own poetry, write your own poetry," or, "write your own..." I don't know, "excerpt," or something like that.

[Shushan] So, give students ownership of the language...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... so that they also feel confident...

[Gevick] Produce with the language, correct.

[Shushan] Right.

[Gevick] Correct.

[Shushan] Right. Well I was going to ask you what the significance of your findings are and the "so what" question, which you already started answering.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] Right. So, this has pedagogical implications. This has communitywide implications.

[Gevick] Of course.

[Shushan] In our previous podcast, we were talking about your experience as the Armenian Student Association president...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... and how Armenians in the ASA - Armenian Student Association - speak various dialects, various standards and how, more and more, they're becoming comfortable communicating across dialects. Whereas before, or generally, the easy solution is: switch to English. English is... [pause] We all speak English. English is the common denominator. So, anytime I feel any hesitancy, any anxiety...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... the easy solution is, you know, switch to English.

[Gevick] Correct.

[Shushan] But that reduced your opportunities for exposure to Armenian, you opportunities to interact in Armenian... and it's so many other socio-effective elements that come with that.

[Gevick] Right. And unfortunately, many people - especially my age or outside of my age group - they don't have this approach of looking at Armenian the way we have in, say, your classroom... this educational approach, where you've taught us that it could end up endangered... there is this factor of, "Hey, if you're uncomfortable producing the language, it could die off." And a lot of that has to do with how people treat each other when they're interacting... either if it's to their face or away from people. What you see at home can easily contribute to how you want to produce Armenian outside the home. All of these factors need to be addressed. So, it's very much a social issue... it's very much a social issue.

[Shushan] Right. And something that, you know, I wrote about and we talked about in class was this vicious cycle....

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... of anxiety.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] So, let's say you're a young heritage language speaker... someone teases you...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... ridicules you...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... completely with the best of intentions, right? This isn't done to hurt you... this isn't done out of meanness... this is just done out of good humor.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] But that leaves a mark.

[Gevick] Yeah.

[Shushan] You become... you become insecure, you become worried. And so, you start avoiding interactions with other Armenian speakers, which then decreased the amount of input that you get... which is the only way for you to improve your proficiency...

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] ... or the best way for you to improve your proficiency. And then, because your proficiency isn't strong enough, you get teased or ridiculed again and this viscous cycle just feeds itself.

[Gevick] Correct.

[Shushan] Right?

[Gevick] What I don't... [pause] One other thing I took away from my study is this: If so many people don't want their to be single form of Armenian... if so many people do accept these differences that we have in Armenian, then why is it so hard for people to be more, just, welcoming, right, of the different dialect speaker... of the Armenian that speaks a different dialect. Why is it an issue then, if you do really feel that way? What is forcing your hand to, say, ridicule someone, you know?

[Shushan] It's a very good question.

[Gevick] Yeah.

[Shushan] And I think part of the answer lies in the fact that language is always so much more than language.

[Gevick] Right.

[Shushan] Right? And that's a whole other podcast. [laughing] But is there anything else that I didn't ask or anything else that you'd like to mention about the study?

[Gevick] Definitely if I ever do become a great neuroscientist one day, [laughing] I'm going to incorporate, maybe, MRIs and things like that.

[Shushan] Oh, that would be amazing!

[Gevick] Get a better assessment of anxiety that way, too.

[Shushan] Yes.

[Gevick] That'd be very interesting. But no, this was... this opportunity that your class gave me was just phenomenal, extraordinary. I was really able to do a social study research for the first time; I haven't really done that in my major. I haven't been really given the opportunity to do that as much. It's really been mainly analyzing data and this and that. But yeah, this was a very fun study and my findings are directly applicable to myself, to my family, to my peers. And it was just a fantastic experience, yeah, that's all I got to say.

[Shushan] Aw, I'm so happy.

[Gevick] Thank you so much.

[Shushan] So, for those of you who may have an opportunity to attend our Undergraduate Armenian Studies Colloquium: Gevick's paper has just recently been accepted as one of the contenders to present. We have an annual colloquium in Armenian Studies. For about 15 years, this was only for graduate students. In the last few years, we've opened it up to undergrads. This year, it'll take place on April 8th, so if there are any UCLA students or any Angelinos who may want to attend and personally witness Gevick presenting his papers... [pause] And I'm so excited for your presentation, but I'm equally as excited for the reaction.

[Gevick] True.

[Shushan] I've very curious what your peers... what my Armenian Studies colleagues and what community members... what types of questions they'll ask you, what types of reactions they'll have. So, I think it's going to be a very, very important and interesting experience. So, the best of luck for your presentation and thank you so much for chatting with me.

[Gevick] Thank you for having me.

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Published: Friday, August 23, 2019