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Matthew Howard Kellner, USA
When I first arrived in Moscow people told me that you don't have to know Russian to live and work here. While that is somewhat true if you stay in the city center, the further away you are from downtown the harder it gets to find someone who speaks English. My experience has been that most people don't speak English or if they can they are nervous about talking with a native speaker. Usually I have someone with me who speaks Russian and English.Well, recently I started a Russian language class here at Denis' School and I have a very good teacher, Ксения. She is methodical, patient and very good at explaining the rules of the Russian language. In each lesson we have a mixture of grammar rules, vocabulary and plenty of practice. While learning the numerous rules of the Russian language, where to place stress and intonation, I am gaining an appreciation for my students' struggles with English. Even though we are meeting only once a week I can notice an improvement in my understanding of Russian. Now, I can have a simple conversation with a store clerk and understand some of what is being said to me. Not all of it of course, but enough to get the meaning.Learning Russian will also help me to understand the difficulties my students have that are caused by first language interference. That knowledge will help me to predict the problems they may have and how to better explain the cause to my students. I'm looking forward to watching a movie without subtitles, having a conversation without an interpreter, reading an article without looking up most of the words. For me, some important reasons for learning Russian are that it will give me freedom and independence. I do miss being able to go anywhere or do anything without having to worry about how I'm going to communicate with people.
Nicolas F, England/France
As far as challenges go, learning Russian definitely is a big one! From my perspective the really tough part is finding an adequate method to learn the language. We, as English teachers are spoilt with choice. We have overflowing libraries full of amazing books, looking at the English language from all perspectives and tackling the issues non Native speakers have with clear and efficient methods. There is also a wealth of material freely available to everyone on the internet. All this enables a pleasant teaching and learning experience, helping everyone find their best pathway towards the mastering of English.
Needless to say that we native English speakers have an altogether different path ahead of us! If learning English is like a drive on a fluid motorway, then our Russian ordeal is that of a rocky mountain climb. The rarity of good material makes the ride towards mastering your beautiful (but ever so complicated) language a bumpy ride indeed.
That's why I'd like to put my thanks to Denis' School on paper. Since I started working here they have offered me a chance to follow a Russian course with a professional Russian teacher specialized in teaching foreigners, free of charge. Every Friday afternoon, Irina brings her smile and energy along with her, and believe me, it's infectious! She looks at the learning process from our perspective at all times, enabling us to understand more and more of the almost infinite number of subtleties in the Russian language. I've seen steady progress and the task doesn't look daunting anymore, so spasibo Irina!
You can follow Irina's blog at http://rusi-rusi.ru/ It's full of useful stuff and I recommend you to bookmark it.