A joint class for the Japanese language students of St Petersburg University and students of the University of Tokyo studying the Russian language was held at St Petersburg University. An interactive master class on oral speech practice was conducted by Associate Professor Yoshiko Arakawa, and the teacher of Tokyo University Kseniya Golovina, who is a graduate of St Petersburg University.
The philologist Kseniya Golovina graduated from St Petersburg University in 2005. She then completed a master’s degree and postgraduate studies at the University of Tokyo, where she currently works at the department of the Global Communications Strategies. In the oldest university in Japan, she teaches an intensive course in colloquial Russian and communicative grammar to students of a trilingual education programme. For the first two years, they study intensively languages (Japanese, English and Russian), and in the third year they choose a profession-oriented subject: from law to engineering. During the inter-semester vacations, Kseniya Golovina has organised three visits to St Petersburg for her students in order to immerse them in the language and environment and acquaint them with Russian culture.
Among the main reasons why Japanese young people choose to study the Russian language, Kseniya Golovina notes first and foremost the influence of Russian literature. "Many works of Russian classics have been translated into Japanese: young people are familiar with the works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Moreover, in my group there is a student who, shortly before our arrival, read the "Gulag Archipelago". I should note that new translations of Russian classics are constantly published in Japan. In particular, the famous modern translators work at the University of Tokyo: for example, the department I work at is headed by the philologist Haruka Yashuoka, the daughter of the Japanese writer Shotaro Yasuoka and the current translator of Dostoevsky", said Kseniya Golovina.
Another reason for interest in the Russian language, according to Kseniya Golovina, is its unusualness. "The Russian language is difficult. Learning Russian for young people becomes a challenge. In spite of the fact that our countries are neighbours, in Japan the Russian language in comparison with English or Chinese is not so widespread and therefore is especially attractive, " Kseniya Golovina comments. Her students are assiduous, hardworking and versatile, and by the end of the first year they already speak Russian fluently, read and write in Russian, and after the second year they successfully pass the exam for the certification level of TRFL-1, and some - for TRFL-2 (TRFL- Teaching Russian as Foreign Language).
Unlike foreign colleagues, for St Petersburg University students this joint class has become the first immersion in a foreign language and culture environment. First-year students of the bachelor's degree programme have taken part in the meeting. Nevertheless, the daily language practice allows them during the first weeks to have basic dialogues in Japanese fairly confidently. "A huge role in the study of a foreign language is played by classes with a native speaker: for example, personally, I am still grateful to Arakawa-sensei for the pronunciation," adds Kseniya Golovina.