Man, I hate the Armenian alphabet. It's a big part of why I'm not picking up much Armenian.
I read Cyrillic, no problem. But Cyrillic is easy-peasy. I picked up Cyrillic in a day or two. Armenian... doesn't look like anything. The letters don't look like letters to me. They look like symbols for World of Warcraft tribes, or something. And when you put them all together, the visual processing center of my brain says "bar code!" and shuts down.
I can't read. I have to spell. I have to spell everything.
Before this, I hadn't realized how much of my language acquisition had been through reading... street signs, billboards, newspaper headlines. Cut off from that, the language comes much more slowly.
(Another thing that bugs me: the alphabet is used, exclusively, for pretty much all monuments and memorials. Isn't this missing the point? If you have a statue of a famous general, or a plaque on a house saying "this great writer lived here", wouldn't you want the whole world to know about it?)
I can understand why the Armenians are proud of their alphabet. It's been their thing, uniquely theirs, for half of their long history. But it doesn't exactly invite the stranger in.
Anyway. Here are some random facts about the Armenian alphabet.
-- It was invented in 405 BC by Saint Mesrop Mashtots. Apparently Mashtots was dreaming one night and saw a hand write the letters in the snow. Yah, that's what I thought, too. Carlos once told me that something very similar happened to the author of the Cherokee alphabet. (Carlos?)
-- It has 38 letters (and two "digraphs"), though some of them aren't used too often.
-- I suppose I should provide a link to the alphabet. Here it is. This doesn't really give the flavor, though. When you see the letters alone, you think, "That's not so bad". But in combination... well, there are just too many vertical strokes. Somehow I'm just not able to convert letters into words without staring at them for a few seconds first.
-- It has just four letters in common with the Latin alphabet: L, O, S, and U. However, three of these letters don't mean remotely the same thing... for instance, "S" stants for the "t" sound, while "U" is really "ss". "L", on the other hand, is "l".
One odd consequence of this: automobile license plates in Armenia have a two-letter code for the city or province where they're registered, followed by a six digit number. Well, because Armenians do drive out of the country sometimes, the government has arranged matters so that only those four letters -- L, O, S, and U -- are used on the license plates. So, you see endless variations of the sixteen possible combinations: LL, LO, LS, LU, OO, OL, etc.
The two exceptions to these are taxis and military vehicles. I guess neither of those are supposed to leave the country, so they both use codes that include Armenian letters. (Or letters that are only in Armenian. You know what I mean.)
Finally, I note that with the exception of a few road signs, it's quite rare to find signs that are in both Armenian and another alphabet, whether Latin or Cyrillic. This is another reason I haven't picked it up easily... there's not a constant trickle of reminders that "this squiggle is an 'ee', but that other one is a 'kh'."
I try not to complain about things, and most especially about things that can't be changed. And the Armenians aren't going to give up their beloved alphabet just to make things a little easier for stupid foreigners.
But if I'm going to blog every day for a month, I think I get one bitch post, and this is it: I hate that damn alphabet.