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#ELSAStory – Meet Vahan Aslanyan: Wrong stress = “Jumble of sounds”

Welcome to the second part of ELSA’s Interview Series! I now introduce Vahan Aslanyan! Vahan grew up in Yerevan, Armenia and started school at the University of California, Berkeley this past year. Vahan took major steps to improve his English – we asked him a few questions and he was ecstatic to share his English-learning journey.

  • Vahan, where are you from, where have you lived?
    • Vahan: I am from Yerevan, Armenia. I lived there my whole life before starting school at Berkeley.
  • In a few words, describe how being an English Language Learner has affected your living on a daily basis.
    • Vahan: Learning American English took a lot of energy during my first semester. However, as I got accustomed to English, it was not a big deal anymore. On the bright side, being a language learner helps me organize my thoughts better as they pass through more filters.  
  • Was there ever an embarrassing situation when you said something and someone misunderstood you because of the way you pronounced the word
      • Vahan:  I also know Russian; Russian language borrowed some English words. Whenever I wanted using that word I would pronounce it in Russian, confusing my listener. I would put the stress on wrong vowels and all they could hear was a jumble of sounds.


  • Tell us about one time when not being confident and great at speaking English severely affected you
    • Vahan: People speak faster in America, so it was hard to keep up with the pace of my peers. Not being confident in your speech makes you appear uptight too and that is not the impression you want to give people when you meet them.
  • How have you improved your English? Has it been successful?
    • Vahan: I am far from reaching the level. Just living in an English speaking environment helped me improve my speaking skills by catching up with their pronunciation and learning common phrases present only in daily speech.
  • Would you be more successful if you spoke English at a higher level? Why or why not?
    • Vahan: Better knowledge of English is an advantage when you are applying for any program abroad. It is the accepted international language for most international companies and if you want to speak with someone who doesn’t know your language, you should speak to them in English.
  • Do you have any advice for other English Language Learners?
    • Vahan: Practice makes a good base, but if you really want to speak English you need to challenge yourself to get out of the safety zone. It is also important to have people criticize your pronunciation and correct you when you speak to avoid letting those mistake become a permanent part of your speech.

English as a second, or even third language is very tough. Vahan was accepted to one of the best colleges in the world and persevered through all the adversity which came with not knowing American English very well. He’s now a very successful Math major at Berkeley and aspires to do great things. Vahan can do it, and you can do it too!

Tune in next week for another great story! Let us know if you have a story to share!

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