Dedicated Language Courses for Flagship Students: Integrated Curriculum Model
These language and culture courses designed specifically for Flagship participants target a broad and comprehensive range of competencies, including structural facility, general and professional discourse skills, practical sociolinguistic and socio-cultural expertise, and strategic competence. The different courses which encompass the core language training component of the program are carefully coordinated to complement each other in developing professional communicative competence in the Russian language. Most group classes work through overarching thematic units addressing high-interest topics in the spheres of politics, economics, culture, history, and sociology. The topics constitute a core body of content knowledge highly relevant to professionals working with the Russian language in a broad array of fields. In the past few years, the Flagship curriculum featured thematic units such as St. Petersburg, Russian State Symbols, Political Composition of the Russian Federation, Russian Economy and Russian Reforms, Holidays and Significant Dates, Personality, Appearance, and Social Standing, The State of Contemporary Russian Language, Family, Upbringing, and Education, The Military, Religion in the World, and Culture as a Way of Life.
Sample Course Descriptions
Reading beyond the lines: Russian literature and press (4 hours)
This course focuses on two mutually dependent goals: upgrading reading skills and orienting students to the manifold “insider” cultural references so characteristic of texts directed at a native-Russian readership. Students read, analyze, and discuss a variety of texts, all reflecting the program thematic units and representing a broad spectrum of genres: verse, prose fiction, memoirs, government regulations, documentary prose, reports, interviews, and others. Special attention is devoted to nuances of vocabulary and structure, and their role in conveying textual meaning.
Oral Communication (4 hours)
Designed to raise speaking skills to a level that approaches educated native-speaker norms with respect to naturalness, nuance, and substance, this course targets two broad and interrelated areas of oral productive competence. It broadens and consolidates the repertoire of speech functions (e.g., complimenting, offering, accepting, rejecting, advising, etc.), while simultaneously improving cohesion of oral text across long conversational turns. The course also polishes conversational management skills through work in such areas as expression of disagreement; requests for repetition and clarification; indication of element sequence in complex oral text; introduction of opinions and new topics; expression of concession in arguments; and indication of emphasis. Materials employed for illustration and practice reflect program thematic units and encompass a broad range of texts, some written but most in oral form (excerpts from documentary and feature films, news reports, radio call-in programs devoted to public affairs, and others). In-class activities and homework assignments take the form of monologues, dialogues, and group discussions.
Russian Grammar and Lexicon (2-4 hours)
In this course, authentic materials reflecting program thematic units serve as the framework for the development of superior lexical and structural competence in the Russian language. Students review and extend topical vocabularies in the program thematic units by means of various communicatively oriented in-class tasks and homework assignments. Such activities are also incorporated into structural practice that serves to consolidate functional knowledge of grammatical items. These present a challenge for even accomplished learners of Russian (verbal aspect, short adjectives, passive constructions, and others), and expand the range of constructions in the active repertoire of students. As a result of this course, students can expect significant improvement in the sophistication, effectiveness, and expressiveness of their communication in both written and spoken Russian.
Written Communication (1-2 hours)
This course introduces the students to the essential lexical, grammatical, and organizational features of various types of written communication that Flagship participants might face currently or in the course of their subsequent careers. This course focuses on various types of composition, including the “referat” (research paper), CV, letter of complaint, short report, friendly letter, and various kinds of short essay (narrative, compare-and-contrast, opinion). Work on composition is supplemented by a review of spelling norms, a survey of Russian punctuation conventions, and exercises in word order.
Language and Culture (2-4 hours)
Students in this course gain an appreciation of the interrelation between the Russian language and Russian culture, while acquiring the elements of “cultural literacy,” which distinguish educated native speakers of Russian today. Such knowledge enables students to comprehend and produce language with the cultural sophistication expected of superior-level users. In the first semester, students survey Russian history and culture from ancient times until the end of the eighteenth century with an emphasis on those historical events, legends, historical and fictional personages, material and linguistic artifacts (e.g., sayings, proverbs, quotations) commonly cited or alluded to in contemporary Russian speech and writing. Excursions to pertinent sites of interest in Saint Petersburg and its environs complement lectures and other classroom activities. Most of the second semester is given over to a survey of Soviet/Russian film from the early 1960s to the present, with an emphasis on the penetration of film into oral culture. Particular attention is directed to representative film-based “anekdoty” and numerous film-generated catch-phrases employed by or familiar to all contemporary native speakers of Russian. The course concludes with a brief unit on contemporary literature in which excerpts from the works of Pelevin, Akunin, Kibirov, Dovlatov, Erofeev, Tolstaya, and Sokolov are introduced and discussed with respect to the way in which they reflect and influence contemporary Russian linguistic practice.
Phonetics (1-2 hours)
This course centers on the development of intonational competence, with additional attention devoted to the pronunciation of troublesome individual sounds and other suprasegmental phenomena such as lexical stress, devoicing, and vowel reduction. With respect to content, materials for pronunciation practice coincide with thematic units under treatment in other courses.
Systems and Strategies for superior Russian proficiency (1-2 hours)
Taught in English (all other courses are conducted exclusively in Russian) by the Resident Director, the course is composed of a review of Russian inflectional morphology (first semester), an introduction to fundamental principles of Russian word formation and stress patterning (second semester), and an ongoing survey of effective language learning techniques for advanced-level learners studying in a target-language environment (ongoing). In addition, class meetings take up questions of Russian grammar and lexicon introduced in other courses in those cases where students can benefit from an English-language explanation of the same material.
Listening Comprehension through Contemporary Mass Media (1-2 hours)
In this optional course, students upgrade their listening skills by means of video material in the form of news broadcasts, excerpts from feature length films, and other kinds of television programming. Students work with most items viewed in class by completing tasks that focus either broadly on the general sense of the text or more narrowly on specific aspects of its content or language. The learning tasks are designed to enhance immediate comprehension of increasingly complex and fast-paced audio texts, raise awareness of sociolinguistic and cultural references, and improve ability to grasp implied meaning. All materials viewed in class relate to the program thematic units currently under treatment in other courses.