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We need to teach Russian in schools

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by cimex, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. I'm a qualified teacher of Russian but can't get a job teaching it in secondary schools. I think MFL is too dominated and biased towards French and Spanish.
  2. I'm a qualified teacher of Russian but can't get a job teaching it in secondary schools. I think MFL is too dominated and biased towards French and Spanish.
  3. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    For decades the dominant MFL in UK secondary schools has been French. In the 1980s and 1990s attempts were made under the "diversification" umbrella to teach languages other than French as first foreign languages. The languages in question were usually German and Spanish. There was a lot of enthusiasm about diversification back then and my own school changed to French and German as joint first languages. This arrangement didn't last, however, as it limited the ability of Heads of Year to move pupils from one half of the year to the other for social and behaviour reasons.

    As for Russian, in the 1960s there was a government report flagging up the language's importance. I did an evening class in the language while I was in the 6th form and enjoyed learning it immensely. However, there never developed a "critical mass" of teachers or pupils to make course development in Russian sustainable and schools kept to French and German because it was easier to recruit new staff qualified in these languages. In continental Europe, Russian teaching took a lot of battering when the Iron Curtain collapsed. In Germany, Russian teachers in the East queued up to retrain to teach English. I agree that Russian deserves a much better deal than this, but you need to convince hard-nosed head teachers, not just MFL teachers, many of whom will be sympathetic to your plea. In the meantime, look at language colleges as a possible source of employment. CILT has a spreadsheet listing such colleges with the languages they teach. Be aware that the information is likely to be a little out of date:

  4. Do you have more of a basis for that opinion than just being a bit bitter that you can't find a job?

    Personally I think the more languages we teach in schools the better, whatever they may be. I did a teaching placement in a school that teaches Russian and it was done very well, but was only available to top-set classes. I think it is true that there needs to be a wider range of languages available because I think that learning a language is more about learning a skill than learning the language; i.e. if you know *how* to learn a language, you will be able to learn most languages.
  5. I did O and A Level Russian at school in the 80s and it has, surprisingly, been useful for me.

    However, I am sure it would be much harder nowadays to get the top grades at GCSE or A Level Russian, due to the numbers of expat Russians taking the exams. Back then, we were pretty rubbish and all got As.

    I will be offering a Russian language club in September, hopefully the kids will enjoy it!
  6. I hate all this sniping. Well done for introducing a new language and for encouraging kids to learn a language out of intellectual curiosity. I think we should all be promoting this.
  7. There are a number of schools where Russian is very successful and where a large number of pupils study GCSE and A Level - including my own (comprehensive). We are celebrating record GCSE results of 63% A*-C in Russian from a fully mixed-ability cohort of 48 this year.

    For information on schools which teach Russian, see the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust's Russian Network website:


    Let me know if anyone is teaching Russian and is in need of resources - we have a lot of resources available and would like to share them to keep Russian alive in schools.
  8. I agree but think that lots of other languages need to be promoted. I started out as a Russian teacher and since then realised that if I wanted to move on or have promotion, I would have to relinquish the Russian.
    Fortunately I am now working in a school where I have taught Russian, as an enrichment class. The students are going on the British Council Immersion course in Oct and taking GCSE in 2008, when they are in Y9. So many students now want to take Russian on it is being considered as a possible GCSE option - I think this could be great as there would then be an opening for a Russian teacher in the future. kto zhaet?
    StevenH's resources are fab by the way and he is very helpful!
  9. catmother

    catmother Star commenter

    Do we?
    Even if one was to put very good reasons for having more than French/German or French/Spanish as the only choice,you do realise that the main reason for having two or,more and more,only one choice is money.
    Far easier to timetable and save money if all pupils do the same.That way all classes can be of 30 pupils. I teach in a region where more and more schools are well on their way to only offer French.Only a few years ago they all offered a choice of two languages in S1 and many gave pupils the chance to take another different language one in S3.
  10. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    Chicken and egg.
    Vicious circle.
    Call it what you like.
    I can't think of a single pupil of mine, past or present, who has been to Russia, but many have been to France, Spain and Germany.
    I know, I know, there are more reasons than that for learning a language, but let's be practical.
  11. Russia is shaping up to be a major world economy in the near future. Its massive reserves of oil and gas will make sure of that.

    Therefore there will be an increased demand for Russian speakers, particularly as English is barely spoken by anyone over there. Makes sense to me to include Russian in a modern curriculum.
  12. catmother

    catmother Star commenter

    I get the feeling that Russians involved in the Oil Industry probably speak English.
  13. We don't need to teach Russin in schools, it's just that you speak it, like it and think everyone else should too. That's where we all go wrong as language teachers!
  14. Russian and Mandarin will both be major languages in the global economy of the 21st century and demand for knowledge of those tongues will outstrip French and German.

    We need to train Russian speakers or risk being left behind.
  15. catmother

    catmother Star commenter

    Good luck with trying to teach another alphabet to kids who can barely read and write in their own language.
  16. Well funny that you say that catmother - as it can be done. Anyone who has taught Russian to mixed ability groups knows this. I myself have taught it to classes where there have been a significant number of statemented children - they loved Russian. Of course it was only the basics but they could only do that in French anyway. Being a truly phonetic language Russian made some sort of sense to them. I am well aware of the arguments for and against but think that a wider choice is the way forward in our schools. The curriculum is boring and has been for ages quite honestly. If it does all come to a head though and they Russia pull our gas links well it could prove quite interesting!
  17. Steven,

    Would it be possible to have a copy of your resources please. I asked a while ago now but think they must have got lost in the post or the placement school I was in never passed them on to me.

    I am going to be starting a Russian club so anything would be a great help.

    Thanks. x
  18. "Well funny that you say that catmother - as it can be done. Anyone who has taught Russian to mixed ability groups knows this."



    Languages, taught properly (through grammatical analysis, in case you were in any doubt), and always hard, and boring for the scrotes. They can't even manage to learn **** properly, so are you honestly telling me that they can learn Russian - even the 'basics' - to any reasonable level.

    'The basics' - awfully subjective that, isn't it, like people who state they can 'speak' such and such a language, when all they can do is order a coffee and say 'Good Morning!'!!!

    I'd love to hear your little darlings showing off their Russian 'basics' so please, Youtube them for us!
  19. Let me know your email address so that I can contact you and get your postal address - then I can send you a CD and a booklet.

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