By Silva Maserejian Emerian
“Rapido, James! Rapido,” I heard my 4-year-old son, Silas, call to his 18-month-old brother last summer. I cringed inside. We’re Armenian, I thought. Speak Armenian!
I speak our native tongue. My husband, although he is Armenian, does not. Growing up in Watertown, surrounded by Armenian cousins and friends, my sister and I were constantly told to speak Armenian. “Eeraroo hed Hayeren khosetzek” (Speak Armenian with each other) my parents, uncles and aunts would persistently remind us. I attended the AGBU school in Watertown and the Armenian Memorial Church, and feel blessed that, 25 years later, I have retained the ability to speak, read and write in Armenian.
But what about my children? I spoke Armenian with my boys when they were infants. But as soon as they began to speak, it was in English. How could I blame them? “Zoo” beats “gentanapunagan bardez” any day. As hard as I resisted, it became easier and easier to respond to them in English.
And then my guilt set in. Why am I not trying harder? Couldn’t I find Armenian workbooks somewhere to help them learn? Why am I not reading to them in Armenian? Am I being lazy? When they are older, will they question, as my husband did with his parents, why I didn’t persevere in teaching them our language?
My kids are going to grow up not speaking Armenian — and it is all my fault.