Whether it’s possible to learn the Russian language in a year, what impact the World Cup in Russia has had on the influx of foreign students and what in RosNOU surprises foreigners the most – these are only a few topics among the others covered by the Director of RosNOU Centre of Education for Foreign Nationals Alexander L. Zamula in our interview.
Why do foreigners learn the Russian language?
Everybody has different goals: someone wants to enter a university in Russia, someone wants to work here, someone is simply interested in Russia and its culture, and there are cases of international marriages when for fully functional family life it is necessary to know the Russian language. But in any case it is a conscious choice: the person sees professional or personal prospects in learning such a difficult language as Russian. Preparatory Faculties at universities are gradually receding into the past, and there is a growing demand for the courses of the Russian language for foreign nationals at the market of educational services.
Is it really possible to teach someone the Russian language in a year?
It is. Much depends on the level with which the student comes to us. We don’t refuse anyone but we always divide students into groups in accordance with the results of the placement testing. If the person has even the Elementary level of the Russian language, it is much easier to work with them. But the students who come to us usually have the Starter level.
Of course, for achieving good results one of the most important things is the student’s commitment, his or her motivation. And it is necessary to take into account national peculiarities: for instance, students from Afghanistan, Iran, Northern African countries master the spoken language very easily but they have difficulties with writing as grammar is more difficult to them. And there is a totally different situation with Chinese and Vietnamese students: it takes them a great deal of time and effort to master the pronunciation but their writing skills are excellent.
How much does it cost to study in the Centre and what is the educational process like?
We carry out two educational programmes. The first programme – the classical one – is intensive. It consists of 960-1,000 academic hours, 10 months of education cost 120,000 rubles. The second programme is shortened; it consists of 536 academic hours. The tuition fee is 85,000 rubles. The programme is designed for those who already live in Russia. Students in the first programme have classes every day; students in the second programme have classes three times a week in the evening. The average number of students in a group is 12. The educational process is totally in Russian, regardless of how many languages our teachers speak. This is a method of teaching Russian as a foreign language which helps the student to immerse in the language environment and learn the language faster.
Having completed the course, students of both programmes obtain the university’s certificate stating the acquired level – Elementary, Basic or the First Certification Level which gives grounds to enter any Russian university.
We are going to design individual plans, customise them for those who come in the middle of the academic year as at the moment we have to put new-coming students to the already existing groups, which is not entirely right.
What other subjects do the students study apart from the Russian language?
We have academic plans for students of economic, technical, medical and biological fields. They are designed to prepare students to enter a university. Nevertheless, the most popular course is the one for students of the humanitarian field where we give classes in Social Science, History of Russia and Russian Literature.
We don’t really have an enrollment plan but each year we have a slight but steady growth. In 2017/2018 academic year, we had 97 students from 30 countries. Traditionally, a great part of our students comes from China, Vietnam and Iran. We also have students from Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, India, Mexico, Romania, the USA, Tunisia, Japan and many others.
Why do students choose RosNOU?
All our teachers are highly qualified professionals in the sphere of teaching Russian as a foreign language specifically. They have enormous experience, many of them have worked abroad – in China, Vietnam and other countries. I could say a lot about each of our teachers but I would especially like to draw attention to Rosa Khalyafovna Anopochkina who was one of the pioneers of our Centre in those times when it was called the Preparatory Faculty (she’s been working here since 2003), to Head of Chair of Russian Language and Publishing Anna Feliksovna Ghershanova and to Olga Dmitriyevna Ryabova.
Has the World Cup in Russia promoted the influx of foreign students?
Quite the opposite – because of a great many foreign football fans we are facing some temporary difficulties with visas and migration registration of our prospective students. Nevertheless, we are expecting to have an additional influx of students when the World Cup is over due to the increased interest in Russia.
Does the University arrange visas to foreign students?
They arrange visas themselves but we, on our part, provide full visa support: we send invitations to all those who want to study at our Centre so that they could come to us with the student visa. Moreover, we provide support with migration registration as well as accommodation at RosNOU’s dormitory. The living conditions at our dormitory are very good; they’ve never given reasons for complaints.
Do students have doubts about choosing RosNOU as it is a non-state university?
For those who are simply interested in Russian language courses, the only important thing is good value for money. But those students who plan to enter a university in Russia ask questions sometimes, and we explain to them that RosNOU has the license and state accreditation as well as state-financed places.
Much more often we have to explain the word “new” in the University’s name – we emphasize that our university is already 25 years old, and the word “new” means “innovative”.
For many of your students, the arrival in Russia is their first contact with our culture. What kind of questions do they ask you? Are there difficulties for them?
People who come to us do not live in an information vacuum. They get prepared, search for information, ask their acquaintances questions about Russia. We get a lot of questions about the history of Moscow, and that’s where our out-of-class activities help us greatly: we arrange many excursions and in a year we visit all major parks, mansions and museums of Moscow – Tretyakov Gallery, Pushkin Museum, Museum of Cosmonautics and so on.
At the very beginning of every academic year, we organise the festival «Let’s Get to Know Each Other». Students present their country, tell the others about its history and traditions. This not only broadens their horizons but also helps them to make friends with their new classmates.
Thanks to that, we’ve never had ethnic conflicts or misunderstandings. Students themselves know perfectly well that they all have come here with one purpose – learn the Russian language
How many of your course leavers stay in Russia?
The majority stays, and 20 per cent on average come back home. Some are scared away by the cold winter, expensiveness of our metropolis, and some struggle too much with learning the language. But even those students who come back to their native countries after completing the courses tie their professional activity with the Russian language – it may be work for an international company or work in the sphere of tourism, for instance.
The rest either find a job in Russia or continue their education: improve their language (we have a multi-level programme) or enter a university in Russia.
Interviewed by Julia Annenkova