do you write "New York" in Armenian?
A State inspection department is on a mission
to save Armenia from an identity crisis.
Since early this month, the State Language Inspection
office has been going door-to-door at Yerevan
businesses, sternly reminding that the law requires
that city shop and cafe signs be printed in Armenian.
Many signs, especially of foreign fashion names
now appear only in English - a violation of Armenia's
"Our Home, Our Language" law.
The inspection office recently took journalists
along as it visited businesses that were on a
list of 400 violators. The new action proposes
fines of up to 200,000 drams (about $350) for
owners whose businesses do not comply with the
While they say they are doing a national service,
inspectors are not met so patriotically by businesspeople,
who are not eager to spend money making new signs
or changing old ones.
At Nana Beggon clothing store on Tumanyan Street
an employee of the store told the inspector: "I
completely ignore the Armenian letters, don't
threaten me by the law, I can sue you, if necessary".
Inspection department head Levon Galstyan, says
responses during inspection reflects the education
and upbringing of business owners.
shops, however, do have Armenian signs,
but still the ones in English look much
Taking into the consideration the insults from
the business owners, Galstyan said: "Such
attitude is certainly not pleasant, but this is
no reason to recoil. We are going to be more consistent,
and I think some people will come to their senses
and will realize that the law 'about the language'
is one of the most important and basic laws".
Colorful billboards and shop signs are common
and especially noticeable at night in Yerevan,
having said good bye to the energy crisis once
and for all. In this feast of light, Armenian
signboards are hardly seen, and the predominance
of the foreign signboards is everywhere. I'M NOT
SURE I AGREE WITH THIS, AS IT SEEMS TO ME THERE
ARE PLENTY BILLBOARDS IN ARMENIAN. JH
Enna Nadiryan, specialist of French language
says: "Xenophilia is one of the ancient diseases
of our nation. Remember the recent Rusophilia,
which today is being substituted with the Anglophilia.
Are we ever going to use our own language?"
Susanna Khachatryan, owner of Ara Geghetsik shop
in Echmiadsin, is quite unaware about the existence
of such law. She says that she ordered both Armenian
and English signboards purely by accident.
At some "high profile" cafes and restaurants,
inspectors were told the owners would rather pay
a 20,000-dram (about $35) fine than replace a
At issue in the matter is a desire to preserve
Armenia's most distinct characteristic, its language.
"Numerous language problems today continue
to remain unsolved. Our goal is to correct all
that together with the community's cooperation,
conducting inspections and using punishments,"
says Galstyan. "It is high time to make some
corrections in the language law by considerably
increasing the amount of penalties."
Hovhannes Saroyan, head of the department's legal
violation at the inspectorate, reports that due
to the inspections, 17 businesses have been sued
DO YOU MEAN FINED??. Five 5 of them still either
haven't changed the foreign language sign or haven't
attached the Armenian sign next to the existing
During recent inspection of 36 businesses, 28
reports concerning violations were drawn up and
will be presented to Armenia's Court of First
Failure to comply with the language law could
have serious consequence.
"We will suggest City Hall to organize some
demolishing activities," Galstyan said. "The
way the illegal buildings are being pulled down,
the foreign signboards will be taken off. This
inspection is the result of the first part of
our work; we are going to continue the struggle
for the native language."