To begin with, let’s ask ourselves: why do Americans and other English-speakers start learning Russian?
Knowledge of at least one foreign language besides your mother tongue has always been a sign of a well educated person. The states allocate a part of budgetary funds for foreign language training in the general education curriculum. One foreign language is included in a set of mandatory subjects in all countries. State decides what language is more useful for its citizens to know. Socio-economic, political and cultural interests lie in the basis
Many foreigners admit that desire to learn the Russian language came after reading Dostoevsky and many other Russian classics in English (Tolstoy, Chekhov, Pushkin). They were so impressed that they started to learn Russian to be able to read these masterpieces of the great connoisseurs of human souls in their native language. Someone works with Russia, someone has Russian roots…So that there are a variety of reasons.
New language is new world view. Knowledge of a foreign language gives you an excellent opportunity to further explore the history and culture of an alien country.
Russian and English are complex, multifaceted modern languages. But Slavic languages in their grammatical structure are much more complicated than the Romano-Germanic language group.
The English Grammar doesn’t know such phenomena as the masculine and the feminine gender, perfective and imperfective verbs, cases, conjugations, etc.
Now phonetics. There are sounds in Russian that have no equivalent in English. English-speaking person finds it difficult to learn to distinguish between «ш» and «щ», and to pronounce such sounds as «ы», hard «ж», soft «л» and «р».
Here is an example of transcription to Russian poetry in the International Phonetic Alphabet:
Зи́мний ве́чер IPA: [ˈzʲimnʲɪj ˈvʲetɕɪr]
Бу́ря мгло́ю не́бо кро́ет, [ˈburʲə ˈmɡloju ˈnʲɛbə ˈkroɪt]
Ви́хри сне́жные крутя́; [ˈvʲixrʲɪ ˈsʲnʲɛʐnɨɪ kruˈtʲa]
То, как зверь, она́ заво́ет, [to kaɡ zvʲerʲ ɐˈna zɐˈvoɪt]
То запла́чет, как дитя́, [to zɐˈplatɕɪt, kaɡ dʲɪˈtʲa]
The Russian language is studied in many highly regarded U.S. universities. As an example, let’s consider Middlebury Language Schools at the Middlebury College, VT. The current U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle and even CIA and FBI agents studied Russian at this school. In addition to Russian many other foreign languages are taught here.
At the first set out students must take the Language Pledge: “I promise to speak only the language I am studying for the duration of all my time in the program. I understand that the breach of this Pledge may result in my exclusion from the School without value or refund.» Since this every student ought to forget his first language and speaks only the language he or she is studying. Even if he or she knows just a few words on it. The essential principle of all learning — immersion in the environment is implemented in such a way.
Moreover, there is a theater circle in the Russian school, which plays are put in Russian.
Russian learning requires a lot of mental exertion and time allocation. Therefore any foreigner can be proud that he or she comprehends one of the most beautiful and the most multiform languages in the world.
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