This autumn, teachers of St Petersburg University, with the support of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, launched the telegram channel ‘Let’s talk about Russian as a foreign language’.
Professor Tatiana Popova, the project leader, Head of the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language and Methods of Its Teaching at St Petersburg University spoke about: how the channel was created; how much Russian is in demand abroad; and whether the profession of a teacher of Russian as a foreign language is interesting for young people.
Who created the channel ‘Let's talk about Russian as a foreign language’ telegram and when?
The Telegram channel ‘Let's talk about Russian as a foreign language’ was created by a group of teachers from the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language and Methods of Its Teaching at St Petersburg University. The project was supported by the Russkiy Mir Foundation. It has existed for about a month, and we already have 300 subscribers, and their number is growing daily.
The goal of the project is professional communication between teachers of Russian as a foreign language in Russia and abroad. Does the channel already have a foreign audience? Who else would you like to attract to the channel?
After looking at the names of the participants, it is now obvious that we have international subscribers from Europe, Asia and America. Our podcasts are listened to in Mexico, Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, Azerbaijan, and other countries. The channel is open to everyone who is involved in teaching Russian as a foreign language: school teachers; teachers of universities and courses; bilingual kindergarten teachers; and tutors. In a nutshell, everyone who has a professional interest in teaching Russian as a foreign language can join the channel.
The channel is also interesting for students, future teachers of Russian as a foreign language. The sections about textbooks and technologies for teaching the Russian language to foreigners will be useful to them. We give step-by-step recommendations to teach grammar topics, information about online courses, and Internet resources that can be used at the lesson.
Podcasts are released on the channel every week. How do you look for experts and choose topics?
The central figures of the podcasts are our professional colleagues, Russian and foreign, who are well-known due to conferences, webinars, projects, and textbooks. You don’t need to look for them intentionally.
The first podcasts were devoted to one important topic – the qualities of a Russian as a foreign language teacher and how to develop these qualities. Our experts are well-known experts in teaching methods: Leonid Moskovkin and Nina Fedotova, Professors of St Petersburg University. A podcast with Associate Professor Irina Gonchar began a series of programmes with the authors of textbooks. In a podcast with Yulia Amlinskaya, a teacher, we raised the issue of organising coursework in the Russian language abroad. We are planning to record podcasts of leading overseas teachers.
The channel has published polls about the age and work of readers. Could you please share the results? Which teachers are among the readers now?
It is too early to talk about the sociological portrait of our subscriber. However, according to the first survey, these are young teachers with three to five years of relevant experience who work at universities, and those who are going to teach Russian as a foreign language. These are the expected results. Certainly, there are more young people on the Telegram channel.
Do you plan to implement other projects aimed at popularising the Russian language abroad?
There are many such projects. Oncoming year is the 70th anniversary of the first Department of Russian as a foreign language at St Petersburg University. We are planning to hold ‘The Week of Russian as a Foreign Language’ at St Petersburg University in September. Roundtable discussions, seminars, competitions for students, and master classes are planned to be held during this event.
Is it possible to assess how popular the Russian language is among foreigners at present?
In 2018, the number of Russian language learners in the world was 38 million according to the Centre for Sociological Research of the Ministry of Education and Science. Over the years of the pandemic, this number has not decreased. For example, this year foreigners have submitted a record number of applications to St Petersburg University – 21,000 applications. 1,900 people from 74 countries have become students of St Petersburg University.
Is there currently a shortage of teachers of Russian as a foreign language?
During the years of the pandemic, the intake of international students to universities decreased slightly (as I have already mentioned, this have not affected St Petersburg University, where there is an increase in the number of international students). Definitely, this has affected the employment of instructors of Russian as a foreign language in some universities. Now, the situation is stabilising and we can expect an increase in the demand for teachers of Russian as a foreign language. Every year, we award a degree to about 20 specialists in the field of Russian as a foreign language, and they are always welcome at the universities of St Petersburg.
How interested are students in Russian as a foreign language? How many young people want to study these programmes at St Petersburg University?
Programmes in Russian as a foreign language at St Petersburg University are in demand. The University implements the bachelor’s programme ‘Russian as a Foreign Language’, which accepted from five to ten Russian applicants and 40-50 international applicants, and the master’s programme ‘Russian Language and Russian Culture in the Aspect of Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language’, in which there are 20 Russian and 60 –70 international students. This year, we have a large number of entrants to our doctoral programmes – 26 people. There are many people who wish to enter the profession of a Russian as a foreign language teacher. It is a fascinating specialty.