Literature written in Armenian appeared in the 5th century right after the Armenian alphabet was created by Saint Mesrop Mashtots in 406 AD. The written language of that time, called Classical Armenian or Grabar, remained the Armenian literary language, with various changes, until the 19th century. Meanwhile, spoken Armenian developed independently of the written language. Many dialects appeared when Armenian communities became separated by geography or politics. The alphabet, with two additional letters, is still used today. The early grammatical forms had much in common with classical Greek and Latin. The Modern Armenian, has undergone many transformations in phonology and mostly in grammar, creating a certain degree of difficulty for the students to move from the modern language to classical. On the other hand, the vocabulary with various changes survived to present and is at some extent shared by Classical and Modern Armenian. Nonetheless, some students take the Classical Armenian course before or even without taking any Modern Armenian.

The Modern Armenian language program consists of three-level instruction: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Elementary Modern Armenian I, II, III

The first year instruction sequence utilize the most advanced computer technology and audio-visual aids enabling the students to master a core vocabulary, the alphabet and basic grammatical structures and to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency in modern formal and spoken Armenian (one of the oldest Indo-European languages). A language competency exam is offered at the end of spring quarter for those taking this course as college language requirement. A considerable amount of historical-political and social-cultural issues about Armenia are skillfully built into the course for students who have intention to conduct research in Armenian Studies or to pursue work in Armenia.

Intermediate Modern Armenian I, II, III

The second year sequence enables the students to reach an Intermediate level of proficiency in the Armenian language. The course covers a rich vocabulary and complex grammatical structures in modern formal and colloquial Armenian. Reading assignments include a selection of original Armenian literature and excerpts from mass media. Students feel comfortable to read texts in their field. They can communicate in Armenian well beyond basic needs about the daily life and obtain a level of fluency in their professional interests. A considerable amount of historical-political and social-cultural issues about Armenia are skillfully built into the course for students who have intention to conduct research in Armenian Studies or to pursue work in Armenia.

Advanced Modern Armenian I, II, III

This three-quarter sequence is offered to students who have completed the grammatical and lexical content of the intermediate level (second year Armenian or the placement exam are prerequisites). The main objective is literary fluency. Reading assignments include original Armenian literature and excerpts from mass media, as well as scholarly literature. There are also enhanced writing assignments: weekly essays on given topics or scholarly research.

Read Research classes

Advanced students can register to an Advanced reading course in Armenian to improve their ability to read targeted academic and scholarly materials for their research.

In addition to the language program Cultural courses are also offered.

Introduction to Classical Armenian, and Readings in Classical Armenian

These courses focus on the basic grammatical structure and vocabulary of the Classical Armenian language. Reading assignments include a wide selection of original Armenian literature, mostly works by 5th century historians, as well as passages from the Bible, while a considerable amount of historical and cultural issues about Armenia are discussed and illustrated through the text interpretations.

Introduction to History and Culture of Armenia

This 10-week crash-course surveys Armenian history and elements of culture (religion, mythology, literature and music, manuscript illumination and architecture) as well as offer a mosaic of social life, traditions and customs (festivals and feasts, childbirth and wedding rituals, funerary cult) of Armenia. It also discusses transformations of Armenian identity and symbols of ‘Armenianness’ through time, especially in Soviet and post-Soviet  eras, based on such elements of national identity, as language, religion or shared history. Recommended for students with intention to conduct research in Armenian Studies or related disciplines, Indo-European or General Linguistics, etc.

Pre-modern Armenian Literature and Thought

This course surveys the greatest Armenian pre-modern writers and poets like Zohrab, Toumanian, Sundukian, Shirvanzadé, Issahakian, based on English translations of their works. It also discusses issues of Armenian thought and identity end of 19th and beginning of 20th c. Recommended for students with interests in Armenian Studies, Russian and Soviet Studies, Comparative Literature, or Pre-modern Middle Eastern History. No knowledge of Armenian language is required.

Aside from the formal curriculum, there is also Armenian circle which meets every other week to watch Armenian or Armenia related films, listen to lectures on some topic that provides information about Armenia's culture and history, practice Armenian language while indulging in Armenian cuisine, etc. Students also have a chance to make their own presentations. Field trips to Armenian community centers or restaurants are also organized to practice spoken Armenian, as well as “special hands-on classes” in Armenian cuisine.

Overall, the Armenian program aims at serving students, both graduate and undergraduate, as the source for Armenian language instruction as well as history and culture. In addition, the program prepares students for research in Armenian and related area studies. Usually the undergraduates take Armenian to gain exposure to Armenian culture or as preparation for study and travel in Armenia. Others (mostly graduate students), take Armenian as their second or third language and focus on translations for their research (in Armenian, Byzantine, or Islamic Studies, Indo-European or General Linguistics, Post-Soviet Studies, Human Rights Studies, etc).