Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language Through Literature

Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language Through Literature

Enrique Javier Vercher García (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3379-6.ch005
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In this work, the author analyses theoretical and practical issues regarding the use of literature in teaching Russian as a foreign language (RKI), and more specifically for students whose first language is Spanish. In the first section, they address issues of general didactic theory, such as the method and general didactic approach. Next, they present the characteristics and advantages of using literary texts in RKI, such as encouraging reading and learning, teaching the culture of the studied language, and for entertainment. In the following section, they analyse the factors that influence the selection of a literary text to be used in the RKI class. In the next theoretical section, they detail a working methodology with literary texts (introduction to the exercise and prior explanations, pretextual exercises, comments during reading, post-textual exercises, etc.). The work concludes with a compilation of textbooks, authors, and literary works recommended for use in the RKI class, with a description of their main didactic characteristics.
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Russian is one of the most important languages in many ways. Firstly, it is a language with a large number of speakers (almost 280 million native speakers), being the language with 8th most speakers. In addition to the 145 million Russian speakers in the Russian Federation, this language is spoken in Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and by Russian communities in many other countries. It is one of the six official languages of the UN. It has been the working language of a rich culture and a country of enormous political, scientific, historical and cultural importance. The latter aspect is that which is most closely related with the topic of our study, as it is a language with an extensive oral and written cultural expression. This fact cannot be ignored by anyone studying the language (as behind a language there is a cultural baggage which must be taken into account, being not only an abstract linguistic structure, but the sum of all scientific, cultural and human expressions which have been made in it), and also entails a large quantity of material which may be used specifically as a resource for teaching and learning of the language. In other terms, it would be more difficult to have study material and profound knowledge of a dead language, for example, preserved in few written records, than of a living language with a large number of speakers and a large number of written records, as is the case for Russian.

In this work, we will address a series of theoretical issues for teaching Russian as a foreign language (the abbreviation RKI is usually used for its Russian acronym Русский (язык) как иностранный) through literature such as the didactic and teaching principles which currently govern the teaching of foreign languages, general methodology, the intralinguistic characteristics of the Russian language and how they affect learning, and the role of literature (in its broadest sense) in teaching foreign languages in general and Russian in particular. We will also compile and analyse specific works and authors which may be used in the RKI classroom.


Theoretical Framework

In a theoretical study such as this, the general didactic methodology by which the teaching of a foreign language is carried out must be indicated. Throughout history, a series of teaching methods for foreign languages in general and Russian in particular have emerged and coexisted. Thus, we have the grammatical-traductological method (explaining grammatical forms and translating texts), the direct method (speaking from the first moment only in the language being learned, explaining meanings with images or texts, etc.), the cognitive-comparative method (teaching grammatical forms and analysing similarities and differences in linguistic forms to avoid interference), the combined method (using many techniques of the direct method, but also using the students’ language to organise tasks and explain abstract concepts), the cognitive-practical method (use of sentence models) (vid. Mironesko, 1997). Currently, the communicative method of teaching foreign languages is predominant, that is, using ideas and concepts to be expressed to achieve the forms of the studied language for expressing them, using certain topics of conversation, but combining it with grammatical teaching. There is also the descriptive-functional approach or systemic-functional approach (for example for courses with a strong professional training component, specific courses – Russian for business, legal Russian, etc.) in which the detailed and precise description of certain forms and certain concepts (such as legal texts and terminology) is essential (vid. Drosdov, 2003).

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