In the 2017-2018 academic year, UW-La Crosse is offering two new courses in Russian language with support from CREECA at UW-Madison. Natalia Roberts, a senior lecturer in Russian at UW-L, regularly teaches courses in first- and second-year Russian, but her students did not have the opportunity to continue with the language into higher levels. Now, thanks to funding from CREECA’s U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center grant, Roberts has developed and launched two new culture-oriented language courses for students at UW-L who have completed second-year Russian. Roberts taught “Russian Identity through Film” in fall 2017 and in the spring 2018 semester is teaching “The Russian Mindset: Cultural Perspectives.” Both classes aim to improve the language skills of students at the intermediate level.
Says Roberts, “Some students come to the first semester of Russian with goals of learning not only language and the culture of everyday life, but also with sincere interest in learning about great writers, artists, and musicians in the target language. In foreign language teaching, this is often discussed as ‘Little c’ culture and ‘Big C’ culture. I find it rewarding to meet students’ needs as they gain knowledge into Russian perspectives and increase their proficiency in the Russian language. Different students form their own opinions and discuss them with each other in class with great enthusiasm as well as convey their perceptions in their insightful compositions. I am honored to work with such dedicated students.”
Plans are underway to make the courses available to more students at University of Wisconsin System campuses through the Collaborative Language Program (CLP). The CLP uses distance learning technology to provide critical language instruction to university campuses otherwise unable to support intermediate- and advanced-level language learning opportunities. Under the program, UW-La Crosse has in recent years been the “sending” institution for first- and second-year Russian, allowing students at UW-Stevens Point and UW-Oshkosh to study the language remotely. With continued support from the U.S. Department of Education’s NRC program to increase the number of students proficient in world languages, Roberts’ new film and culture classes will be added to the list of CLP offerings.