On 16th February, 2017 Russian New University (RosNOU) granted Certificates to Austrian students who completed a short course of the Russian language.
Professor of University of Arts Linz and high school teacher of Waldorf School Vyacheslav Nurgaliyev gave us an interview about the process of learning and importance of student exchange programmes.
Mr. Nurgaliyev, how well do your students know the Russian language?
At Waldorf School students usually start learning a foreign language when they are in the first grade but in this case we are dealing with students who have just begun learning Russian, so their level is the Starter level. For two weeks they have been living in Russian families and have been learning the Russian language with RosNOU tutors. During this period of time they have got a taste of the language. Languages are like organisms which have their own structure, essence and vitality. Therefore, it’s been very important for the students to immerse themselves in the language environment from the very beginning.
Does it facilitate the learning process to live in families and study the language with native speakers?
Absolutely. Sometimes studying the Russian language in Russia for only two weeks is more fruitful than studying it for a whole year at an Austrian school. A huge plus was the alive relationship which the Austrian students enjoyed, especially when they were accompanied by RosNOU students during their cultural programme.
What else do exchange programmes give to students?
It is important to me that students feel love not only toward the Russian language but also toward our country and culture, and that they get rid of stereotypes about Russia which now dominate in Europe. When they come back, they tell their friends that the situation in Russia is very different from the one described in the mass media. Student exchange programmes are a great deal not only from the point of view of culture and language learning, but also from the political and social points of view. It’s because alive relationship forms in foreign students a completely different idea of our country and our people. They’ve seen everything with their own eyes and now they have their own opinion. And which is more important to people: their personal experience or mass media’s interpretation?
I have been doing this for fifteen years now, and there wasn’t a single time that after such a trip students negatively spoke of Russia. On the contrary, almost every third student wants to visit Russia again, half of students make friends and find contacts, and all of them keep on loving the Russian language. For me it's a great pleasure to watch stereotypes and cliches about our country being destroyed.
During the fifteen years of your work did any of your students return to Russia to continue their studies?
Five of my students are studying in Russia now. Together with Russian students they organized a center at the Seliger and every year they get together, so this is a sort of a community. It’s hard to explain what they feel drawn to: to the language or to the Russian soul – I don’t know. I asked them about it, they said: "We don’t know, we just like it here". And they keep on coming to Russia again and again, and they will keep on doing that.
Do you plan to continue organizing student exchange programmes?
As long as I continue working, I will constantly organize such exchange programmes. I expect that next year our team will be bigger – about twenty people.
Interviewed by Alexander Tkachev