Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

Lessons in Language Learning

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So, last week Magevney and I resumed our Russian classes. We had been studying in Bishkek before moving to Karakol but stopped for the move and then had to wait on new classes to resume at the University, plus an extra month for the University to determine how and what to do with us. Switching to another location and another system for learning has brought some unique challenges.

In Bishkek, we had three different teachers in our five and a half months at our language school, in addition to a private tutor. The language center, Glossa, was focused on teaching Russian, and to a lesser extent Kyrgyz, as a second language for foreigners. They are experienced. The University in Karakol didn’t even know what to charge us for classes or even how to enroll us. Okay, no big deal. This is just logistics.

The big challenge has come in working with a new teacher. You see, when we switched teachers in Bishkek, we were still at the same school and in a single system. They knew where we were in our learning process. Here, they had no idea. I missed the first couple of days because I was back in Bishkek so Magevney went solo. When I returned, they put us together with LaVena, who has several years of practice in Russian. Needless to say we are not on the same level. Soon they switched things around so that it was just Magevney and I together. I expected some growing pains as they determined what we knew but thought the proficiency exam we had taken would speed things along. It didn’t speed things along as much as I would have liked.

Our lessons are still generally over our heads, though a few of them have been right on target. We really do believe our teacher wants to help us but she just doesn’t know how to teach Russian as a second language. The Russian department at the University primarily teaches Kyrgyz students how to speak better Russian, which is much different than teaching Russian from scratch. As we now start our foreign language center teaching English as a second language, I know a little more about the effort required in determining where the students are in their knowledge. Now if only I can figure out how to express all this in Russian, without sounding like I know a lot more than I actually do.

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