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Russian Speaking Club: Practicing the Language and Meeting New Friends

Russian Speaking Club: Practicing the Language and Meeting New Friends

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

For HSE Preparatory Year students, the Russian Speaking Club is a way to improve their language proficiency in a relaxed atmosphere. At this year’s first such event, they discussed online communications and social media. Michael Dzodzoe from Ghana and Leen Sabbagh from Syria shared their impressions with the HSE News Service.

The HSE Prep Year organises Speaking Clubs at the end of each month throughout the academic year. The meetings are open to students with a Russian proficiency of A2 level and higher.

The first meeting of the club was open to everyone. Its special goal was to welcome the newly admitted HSE Preparatory year students, so that they could meet other students and teachers. Overall, 188 students from 47 countries have already arrived to study in the preparatory course.

The participants were divided into groups of five to seven people. With tea, coffee, and snacks available at each table, the setting invited a relaxed discussion. The first prompt was ‘introductions’—students said their names and home countries, then shared what social media apps are used in their respective countries and which emojis are the most popular. The next topic for discussion was ‘the advantages and disadvantages of social media’. The students agreed that some advantages may also be disadvantages at the same time, such as the abundance of information of all sorts.

Further topics required the students to do a spot of thinking. Using a list of someone’s subscriptions, they speculated who that person might be: their gender, profession, and interests. Everyone eagerly engaged in games to guess a film or country by three emojis. At the end of the event, the students were given some gifts from HSE University and exchanged their social media accounts.

The next big Speaking Club event will be held before the New Year holiday. Over 50 participants are expected to attend.

Michael Dzodzoe, 38, Ghana

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

I got my bachelor’s degree in graphic design 14 years ago from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). I applied to HSE University, choosing a Russian-taught master’s programme in graphic design.

My first impressions of Moscow are that the metro system is very complex and advanced. Since I’m a designer, I like the way the transportation system is structured; it complies with very high standards. Generally, I like HSE University a lot.

I like the way Russian people are always on time, and the system works well

I came to Russia two weeks ago and started studying on the HSE Preparatory Year programme right away. I like my teacher at HSE University and the way she teaches the language. I love Russian language and would like to speak like a native Russian. I think it is an easy language and I don’t have any problems with it. I think that a great way to learn a language is to learn songs and rhymes, because this way you memorise words and phrases. I learned the song Blue Railway Wagon [from the Soviet cartoon Cheburashka] on my own.

I enjoyed today’s speaking club a lot. It’s an informal way of getting to know everybody and interacting with each other

I now know other language learners on the HSE Prep Year. I believe it’s very useful for language studies and I’ll certainly be attending such events in the future.

Leen Sabbagh, 20, Syria

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

I am from Damascus, Syria. I graduated from high school with a specialisation in science last year. I’ve actually already applied for a bachelor’s programme in psychology at HSE University for the next academic year. Some of the classes on this programme are in Russian, and some are in English.

HSE University encouraged me to come to Russia. A friend of a friend is studying at HSE and I learned from her that it is one of the greatest universities in Russia. I started looking at the HSE website and social media and I was impressed. I want to study at a very good university, especially in the field of psychology. I applied for a Russian government scholarship to study at HSE.

I hadn’t learned Russian in Syria before coming to Moscow, and I came here only three weeks ago. During the first module of the Preparatory Year, we have very intensive Russian classes almost every day except Sunday—15 classes a week.

At first, I thought this was too much. I arrived, and the classes started immediately the next day. But after a few weeks, I am thankful

It was hard not knowing Russian in Russia. Three weeks were enough for me to start understanding some words and speaking some sentences.

For me, practicing Russian is still the hardest part of learning. Russian words are long and not familiar to the ear of foreigners. When you hear it for the first time, you do not know what it means. You can memorise the shape of the word, but saying it is the hardest part for me.

Honestly, at first, I did not want to be here today. I had some social anxiety, since my Russian is not that good and I thought a Russian speaking club might not be the best idea.

I have a great teacher, Anastasia. She encouraged us to come here, and I am really thankful she did. I really had fun today

I am definitely going to attend more Speaking Club events, especially when my Russian gets better. I am going to be here every time.

Anastasia Zinchenko

Our Speaking Club is not a language lesson. We don’t correct errors or drill rules or collocations here—those things are done in classes. Here, our main goal is to let students speak in an informal atmosphere. Everyone has an opportunity to have their say, no matter their level of proficiency, and listen to others, including those who are better at it. The only limitation we have is the topic of the event: we try to stick to the chosen topic during the discussion. Today, we have chosen the topic of social media. We did it on purpose, so that the students have a chance to find each other on social media and become friends.

We have a lot of plans for the academic year. In November, we are organising a club on body language in Russia and other countries—we’ll discuss similarities and differences. In January, Russia celebrates Students’ Day, so we’ll talk about student traditions. In February, when our students will start their courses in history and social science, we’ll discuss the topic ‘Alternative History: What, if…?’ In March, we’ll talk about friendship. In April, when Cosmonautics Day in Russia commemorates Yury Gagarin’s first spaceflight, we’ll talk about space. And in May, before the summer break, we’ll share our thoughts about travel.

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