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Yerevan State University
Faculty of Romance and Germanic Philology
Tel: 3741 55-5061
1 Alec Manoogian, Yerevan
e-mail M. Apresyan: apresyanm@yahoo.com

PRESS RELEASE

First International Conference on Romance and Germanic Philology and Foreign Language Methodology at YSU (2002)

October 31-November 2, 2002 -- "Romance and Germanic Philology and Foreign Language Methodology" was the topic of the conference held at the Yerevan State University (YSU), October 31 through November 2. It was organized by Dora Sakayan, Professor of German Studies, McGill University, Montreal. The conference was dedicated to the memory of Alina Tonoyan, head of the Department of German Philology at the Yerevan State University from 1988 to 1999, who passed away in June 1999 following a long battle with cancer. The conference brought together 30 specialists in foreign languages from a variety of universities and institutes in Armenia, including the Yerevan State University, the Bryusov Institute for Foreign Languages in Yerevan, the American University of Armenia, and the Armenian Pedagogical University. The opening ceremony was held in the Charents Assembly Hall of YSU, which was filled to capacity with foreign guests, university and faculty members and students.

The Opening Session was chaired by Karo Karapetian, Dean of the Faculty of Romance and Germanic Philology, and the opening speech was delivered by the Rector of YSU, Academician Radik Martirossian. The next speaker was the Hon. Hans-Wulf Bartels, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Armenia, who greeted the audience and wished the participants a successful conference.

The welcoming speeches were followed by the launching of a book edited by Dora Sakayan, "Semiotics and Language Teaching: Theoretical Principles and Practical Applications," Ann Arbor: Caravan Books, 2001. The speakers for the launching ceremony were Dora Sakayan, McGill University, Montreal; Svetlana Vardanian, YSU Dept. of English Philology; and Rima Soghomonian, YSU Dept. of German Philology.

In an emotional speech, Dora Sakayan paid tribute to Alina Tonoyan, originally her exceptionally gifted student, later her colleague and also a friend who, after the mentor had moved to Canada, helped her for many years stay in touch with the Armenian academic community. Svetlana Vardanian presented the contents of "Semiotics and Language Teaching" in Armenian and in English. She told the audience that it is in fact the proceedings of a conference held in 1996 at YSU and organized by Alina Tonoyan in honor of Dora Sakayan on the occasion of her 65th birthday. Sadly enough, the book now opens with a note by Dora Sakayan IN MEMORIAM: ALINA TONOYAN. "Semiotics and Language Teaching," which is graced with a preface written by the late Academician Edward Atayan, contains 32 refereed papers in English translation. Dr. Vardanian expressed the hope that the practice of presenting Armenian scholarly work in English and other foreign languages will become a tradition. Rima Soghomonian, who had been a student of the late Alina Tonoyan, gave an eloquent speech both in German and in Armenian. She paid homage to her late teacher and colleague from whom she acquired not only a wealth of knowledge but also high moral values and direction for life.

After the launching of the book, Dora Sakayan gave the keynote address, "On Intercultural Foreign Language Teaching: Incorporating Proverbs into the Curriculum," which had the unusual feature of discussing Armenian as a Foreign Language. The paper dealt with the linguistic and cultural subtleties of Armenian phraseology and the ways they could be utilized with English-speaking students to facilitate the transition to a different set of mind. The paper was well received by the audience.

The opening ceremony was concluded with a short video-film showing Alina Tonoyan at work (as a scholar, interpreter, teacher, and examiner) and at home (as a hostess). It was prepared by Magda Babikyan, the head of the YSU Film-Photo-Center, with Dora Sakayan serving as her consultant.

After this inspiring and, at times, moving opening session, the conference proceeded with its three-day program, which included the presentation of as many as 30 papers given in one of the following three sections:

1) Romance and Germanic Philology
2) Contrastive Linguistics
3) Foreign Language Methodology

On Monday, November 2, the results of the conference were summed up and appraised. While the overall high quality of the presentations was unstintingly acknowledged, increased co-operation was urged between the foreign language departments across the universities and pedagogical institutions of Armenia. It was decided to convene workshops on Foreign Language Methodology on an annual basis and to organize conferences of this caliber more frequently. Professor Sakayan closed the conference thanking the local members of the organizing committee for their work and invited the participants to the closing buffet dinner, generously offered by the Rector of the University.

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