The Place of Foreign Language Training in Area Studies: the Case of Russian and Eurasian Languages

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The Place of Foreign Language Training in Area Studies: the Case of Russian and Eurasian Languages. Dr. Dan E. Davidson American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS Area Studies in the Future of Higher Education February 28, 2009, Indiana University . New meanings, new contexts….
The Place of Foreign Language Training in Area Studies: the Case of Russian and Eurasian LanguagesDr. Dan E. DavidsonAmerican Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELSArea Studies in the Future of Higher EducationFebruary 28, 2009, Indiana University New meanings, new contexts…
  • The L-2 learner “strives to speak, write, and understand those who use a different semiotic system, predict text from context, and context from text.” “Besides everyday conversation, these social processes include the production and critical interpretation of cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs.” Kramsch, 2002
  • By their everyday acts of meaning, people act out the social structure, affirming their own statuses and roles, and establishing and transmitting the shared systems of value and of knowledge. M.A.K. Halliday, 1978 (Kramsch, 2002)
  • What does it mean to know a language?Social Language, Speech GenreSlavic tradition has defined “language” as a larger concept that included culture (Shpet, Bakhtin, Vygotsky). A Slavic elaboration on shaping a multi-cultural identity through membership in a speech community, current and historic: Dialogism applies to individual words and utterances, but also to the language system as a whole, which is embedded with the products of a continuing generalized collective dialogue with “other” users of the language. “To know a language, you must also “know” the general collective dialogue.” (“Inner Form of the Word,” Shpet, 1927.)“Dialogical Overtones”“A word is always half someone else’s. It has to be populated, adjusted, before it is yours. Words carry the scent of other voices.” Shpet, 1927 “Much of what we loosely refer to as a word’s “connotations” may in fact be the “stylistic aura” resulting from the word’s usual generic context. Typical contexts seem to “adhere to words.” (Bakhtin, SG, 87). “After all, when we speak, we do not select the words we use from a dictionary. Rather we take them from other utterances that are kindred to ours in genre.” (Bakhtin,SG 87, ‘79).From The Subjective Worlds of Russian and American Youth: Help/Помощь
  • Russians associate help with meeting their emotional needs and see help as based strongly on positive ties and attitudes, including love and understanding as a source of joy and hope.
  • Americans focus more on the type of action-oriented assistance provided in emergencies. They link help to feelings of grief and fear.
  • Both groups address problems of society such as hunger and poverty, but only the Americans think of help as providing solutions.
  • Both groups consider family and friends as important in providing and receiving help, but only the Americans consider their own individual need for help and think in terms of asking for help.
  • N = 1617 US, 1583 RusFrom The Subjective Worlds of Russian and American Youth: Success/Успех
  • The most important indicators of success for Americans are money and material possessions, as well as power. Success to Americans is a matter of business, achievements, and personal performance.
  • Russians think of success as joy, happiness, love, well-being, and satisfaction. Work and labor are also sources of success. Russians view success somewhat fatalistically and as a matter of luck.
  • These differences in perspectives reflect social experiences between the two systems, one which glorifies business and entrepreneurial skills and one which glorifies work.
  • N = 1723 US, 1555 RusComparison of Pre- and Post-Program Oral Proficiency ScoresComparison of Pre- and Post-Program Oral Proficiency ScoresNote. * ACTFL OPI scores were converted into ILR scores; post-program OPI scores from FSI were used for students receiving a U.S. government fellowship.Strengthening the Core Architecture of the Russian Field: ACTR Models
  • Professional Development of Teachers:
  • Summer Institutes at Moscow State University and the Herzen Pedagogical Univ (SPB)
  • Stateside Summer Institutes (Prototype AP Russian Teacher Certification, NEH)
  • On-Line Resource Sharing for Teachers (
  • Visiting Curriculum Consultant Programs
  • “Front Page Dialog” ACTR Letter
  • Strengthening the Architecture of the Russian Language Teaching Field: ACTR Models
  • Student and Teacher Recognition and Incentive Programs:
  • 1. High School Olympiada (regional, national, international) 2. Scholar Laureate Programs: Secondary and Post-Secondary 3. National Essay Contests; Secondary and Post Secondary 4. Scholarship Programs to support study abroad: Fulbright-Hays, Title VIII(State), The Russian FlagshipStrategic Marketing of the Study of Russian
  • Identify programs and support teachers and students within them
  • Link students and programs to opportunities for growth and recognition
  • Create and support through dedicated space on social networks FaceBook, YouTube
  • Provide incentives to start, continue, and pursue the language to the advanced/professional levels, through stipends, scholarships, and public recognition
  • ACTR Models: Strengthening the Field through Research
  • Supporting and conducting research on Russian and SLA
  • Russian Language Journal (57 years)
  • ACTR Newsletter, “Front-Page Dialog
  • Russian-American Collaborative Research Conferences and Publication Series (1974 – 2008)
  • Participation in the International Association of Teachers of Russian (MAPRIAL) since 1974.
  • Strengthening the Field through Professional Networking and CollaborationsActive Participation and cooperation with sister organizations and projects:
  • JNCL, Alliance, Consortium on I-HE, WIEG
  • College Board: Prototype AP Russian Project
  • National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)
  • National Standards Collaborative
  • The Language Flagship Partnership (innovation in US FL more generally)
  • Strengthening the Language Field: ACTR Curriculum Development, IT, and Publications
  • Collaborative Materials Development from Basic through Flagship Level III Russian: Stage One (Live from Russia!) video-based course 2008 to “Flagship Russian, 2007”
  • High School Basal Series: Face to Face!
  • Content-Based Series: Political Russian, Business Russian Media, Scientific Russian, “Peers” (Russian for Heritage Learners); Russian Nature Conservation Bilingual Newsletter
  • ACTR non-profit publications and on-line proficiency based exams: 0+ to Level 3 (reading, listening, integrated tasks).
  • Strengthening the Field: ACTR Models for Design and Implementation of Overseas Study
  • Organization of Integrated Study Abroad Programs at partner universities and schools in Russia and the Russophone world: ACTR Study Abroad and Flagship Programs since 1976.
  • Merit- and Needs-based scholarship and fellowship programs to support participation in overseas language training or combined language training and research: $1.2 million annually at all levels from K-12 – post-doc.
  • Current and Predicted Growth: Russian in US Higher Education
  • Today Russian offered at the university level in all 50 states and DC
  • MLA 2006 reports 24,845 enrollments, up 3.9% over 2002
  • 27.3% are advanced-level courses (the highest noted %)
  • Accelerated growth reported by many US programs since 2006
  • Current and Predicted Growth: Russian in the Schools
  • Total current number not known: estimates range from 150 to 320 programs
  • Total enrollments not known: estimates range from 3000 - 5000.
  • 40 schools participated in the Prototype AP Russian, taken by 350 students
  • 1490 students participated in the h/s Olympiada
  • 1200 in the h/s essay contest
  • 6 new Russian FLAP programs funded in 2007-8
  • Current and Predicted Growth: Russian in US education
  • Currently, 26% of US students who study overseas during college began their study of the language in high school
  • Research shows measureable benefits of the “early start” for language acquired through h/s learning
  • In 2008-9, ACTR will launch the first comprehensive outreach and linkage program to h/s learners of Russian with the goal of increasing the number of freshmen enrollments by 25% by 2012.
  • Internal and External Factors Influencing the Future of Russian
  • Russian field architecture maintained despite serious drop in enrollments in the 1990’s. Field can respond to modest increases in demand. Would have difficulty responding to a major “surge.”
  • Need to re-structure graduate edu- Russian/SLA
  • Russian-speaking diaspora is larger than the current population of Russia: 142m versus 180 m (est.)
  • Growth in the Russophone Heritage Community in the US from 240K to 4.5 million
  • Geo-political and global economic situation has always affected Russian enrollments
  • Russian as the lingua-franca of much of Eurasia and immediate borderlands; one of 6 UN languages
  • Internal and External Factors Influencing the Future of Russian
  • Investment in the Russian field by US and Russian governments (Titles VI and VIII), Russkiy Mir (2007)
  • Inclusion of Russian in the Language Flagship;
  • Strengthening of US-Russian/Eurasian business and economic ties (//EEurope)
  • Continuing attraction of Russian culture for US youth: literature, music, ballet, sports; science, IT, space, environment, health care, energy, economics;
  • Ability of the field and others to communicate the importance of all the above to decision makers at all levels.
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