History professor Alexander Riasanovsky is teaching Russian History the old-fashioned way. In Russian. For the second semester in a row, Riasanovsky is offering a Russian-language recitation for his Russian History class to students who have completed two years of college-level Russian. Riasanovsky said last week that through the course, students gain practical communication skills which will be vital in a shrinking world. Riasanovsky, who grew up in Russia, said the seven students in this semester's section work on their language skills and learn about Russian history by writing a 10-minute oral report. "No sort of normal American kid would undertake studying a language for four or five years if they weren't serious," he said. Riasanovsky said he is trying not to simplify the material in the special section in light of past criticism that classes taught in foreign languages treated course material superficially. Students called the class "wonderful" and said they were improving their language skills by applying them in another discipline. "I wanted to just listen so I could add to my Russian understanding," said College sophomore Marianne Alves, who is auditing the course because she is only enrolled in third semester Russian. "It is nice to be able to talk to someone who has such a rich family history," Alves said yesterday. "He adds in little tidbits about the Soviet Union." Alves said the students in the section are not competing for grades, so the students are not under pressure and can concentrate on studying such things as how different words evolved. "We are trying to build a Russian vocabulary of historical terms," Alves said. "It is one of the best courses I have ever taken." College junior Janice Lawner, who has studied Russian for five years, praised Riasanovsky for teaching the recitation himself. "You have the advantage of having the teacher as your recitation leader," Lawner said yesterday. "He doesn't have to do a recitation. He volunteers for something like that. You almost have to be a loser to not take advantage of something like that." Lawner also said the recitation is often difficult because Riasanovsky does not simplify the material to make up for the language barrier, but she said the professor helps students. "A lot of it goes over my head because it is not watered down," she said. "I miss a little of it in class but he can explain it to me after class. I don't think I lose any of it." College senior Ron Bobroff said that the students in the section are learning as much as their counterparts in regular recitations. "We are getting just as much as everyone else because we have the lectures at the same time," Brobroff said yesterday. Each students is assigned a lecture to summarize in Russian in the recitation, Bobroff said. "If anything we get it twice," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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