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Learning with Passion – Distant Russian in Africa
Editor’s office of the Russkiy Mir Portal
Nearly one hundred and fifty African students and teachers from Tanzania, Ruanda, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar and Mauritius participated in a 12-day intensive Russian language course in July. It marked the first stage of the Distant Russian in Africa online project aimed to strengthen humanitarian ties with Africa, which had been discussed at the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.
Valery Chastnykh, deputy director of the Institute of Russian Language and Culture at Moscow State University (IRLC MSU), told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the concept of such events had been discussed in MSU since late 2019. The Russia-Tanzania Online Forum attended by business leaders from both countries was the first effort implemented in this direction. The meeting was marked by announcement of the Distant Russian in Africa project.
Within its scope, lecturers of the Institute of Russian Language and Culture at Moscow State University (IRLC MSU) teach African students and hold workshops for Russian language teachers working in East Africa. As to the African side, all arrangements were made by the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Tanzania (RCSC in Dar es Salaam).
The first stage of this project was completed on July 31st. The RCSC in Dar es Salaam reported that it had been attended by 120 African students and 14 Russian language teachers from Tanzania, Ruanda, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar and Mauritius. There are also potential participants from Gabon and Togo who would like to join the project.
“The groups were rather large with 15 to 18 students in each of them. However, it is not an issue for our instructors. Most of the students who joined the intensive course of Russian language were beginners, so there was a need in a mediator language. English was chosen for this purpose,” Valery Chastnykh gave some details.
According to the professor, the program’s main mission is to fascinate African youth with Russian language, to show its beauty and spark their interest in Russia and Russian culture. He described the project as a kind of field survey. It would help to understand how modern Africa lives, and what young people are interesting in. But the project can be educational for both sides - Russian teachers may also learn something from their students. Valery Chastnykh gave the following example resulted from the personal communication: “When I asked what the African weather was like in winter, spring, summer and autumn, my students started describing the weather changes experienced month by month. Having tried to bring them back to four seasons, I was told that there was no winter in Africa, and there were two seasons only - with or without rain.”
Not all students who had registered and started learning on July 20 managed to complete the 12-day online marathon. Nevertheless, according to the participants, the project was a success. Now students know how to tell about themselves, their country, work and hobbies, that is, to use Russian language as an actual communication tool.
And completion of the first stage was celebrated by The Youth Singing a Song of Friendship online concert. The trainee teachers and students together prepared the concert and presented it. The most heartfelt gratitude was expressed to Svetlana Yurmanova, Liya Kolobaeva, Valery Chastnykh, Anastasia Lositskaya, Natalia Ivanova, Vera Deshitskaya, the leading instructors of the project.
Here are some testimonials from trainee teachers who were able to upgrade their skills with assistance from lecturers of the IRLC MSU:
“This was a unique opportunity offered by the RCSC in Tanzania and lecturers of the IRLC MSU. Two weeks of intense work flew by and gave us only positive impressions.”
Inna Kraptsova, Tanzania
“It was a very exciting, informative, interesting and useful course where we gained new knowledge and shared our experience.”
Natalia Karamagi, Tanzania
“Thank you so much for organizing the courses and for invaluable experience that we got in the process of learning.”
Kaunda Benjamin, Zambia
“Thanks to state-of-the-art communication capabilities, as well as the creative initiative by those who had organized and led this project, we were directly connected with Moscow State University. During the first week of our training, we were introduced to the new trends in teaching Russian as a foreign language. Electronic resources, basis of intercultural communication, practice-oriented examples, and procedures to introduce grammatical structures were especially relevant and valuable to me.
I had my RFL teaching debut during the second week of training. It was one of the open lessons with a group of curious and hard-working students from Rwanda and Uganda (I was explaining the future tense in Russian to them).
I thank you with all my heart and hope to participate in similar projects in future.”
Bairma Kihoro, Tanzania
Source: The Rossiyskaya Gazeta and RCSC in Tanzania