Presentations (Communicative Events)

The Socialization and Accommodation of the Russophone Immigrants

Miller, Frank J.

“Language Teaching and Curricular Development for Russian Immigrants: Re-Adapting to Russian Culture in America?” The so-called third and fourth wave immigrants from Russia have forced many universities and colleges to adjust their teaching of Russian in order to accommodate students whose native language is Russian. We have always had the occasional student in our language classes who spoke Russian at home with parents or grandparents, but since the 1970s this number has increased dramatically. Most of these students, whom we call heritage speakers, have spoken Russian at home before they began to learn English, which we can call the dominant language of their environment, and Russian therefore remains a language that has not been completely acquired. There is considerable variation in the proficiencies of our heritage students but they nevertheless are better grounded in Russian than the average American student of Russian. This situation presents several challenges at the college level. Most heritage speakers of Russian want to exempt a two-year foreign language requirement and many of them are quite fluent in Russian, far more fluent than American students in a second-year Russian course. But very often speaking and oral comprehension skills are the only ones these heritage students have. The instructor has to decide whether or not to exempt a person like this from a language requirement. Some heritage speakers want to take Russian for an easy “A.” This often leads to resentment towards these students by American students. Thus the largest challenge is how to integrate heritage speakers into the classroom, especially in a small college or a university that does not have many heritage speakers, and create a separate curriculum for them.


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Harriman Institute
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September 20, 2013