Magazine article Russian Life

Study Russia: Looking for Language outside the Capitals

Magazine article Russian Life

Study Russia: Looking for Language outside the Capitals

Article excerpt

The options for Russian language study today are extensive. In addition to over 200 college-level language programs in the US, there are summer workshops (like the largest ones at Middlebury College and Indiana University), summer camps (like the Concordia full-immersion program) and study abroad programs. The latter have boomed in recent years. Russian democratization and marketization has opened up academic exchange opportunities and fueled the start-up of privately-owned Russian language schools for foreigners.

Time was, if you wanted to study Russian in Russia, you had to go through one or two officially-sanctioned programs in Moscow or St. Petersburg. That has all changed, and the "cutting edge" of language study in Russia is study beyond the two capitals.

The advantages of such "provincial" study may not be immediately apparent:

* There will likely be fewer other foreigners, forcing one toward greater immersion;

* The pace of life may be less frenetic;

* Provincial residents tend to be more welcoming to foreigners;

* One is exposed to less "beaten path" tourist options and more rural and provincial excursions.

On the other hand, there is a reason that "provincial" and "backwater" are often twinned. For some, only megalopolises like Moscow or major cultural centers like St. Petersburg offer the kind of diversions and activities that are sufficiently stimulating for one's year abroad. But Russia's two capitals are fast becoming more and more like the rest of the world's big cities. If you want to see the Russian heartland, to get a sense for how most Russians live, you need to go beyond the capitals.

What cities in Russia are open for language study? More than you would think.

One way to investigate programs is to consider where you are interested in living for a semester or year, then looking into what programs are available. It makes no sense to get excited about Novosibirsk University's programs if you don't want to live in Siberia. …

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