AATSEEL
 
 
Why Study (Individual) Slavic and East European Languages?
~ brought to you by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages ~
This page is a work in progress; please contribute your suggestions and ideas.

Its purpose is to provide information for current and potential students of these languages, and information (plus interesting facts amd factoids) that instructors of these languages may use ito describe and advertise their courses.

Why Study Albanian?

Albania is located southeast of Montenegro and Croatia, northwest of Greece, roughly due south of Belgrade and Warsaw, just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. About 8 million people speak Albanian, an Indo-European language with no close linguistic relatives. Besides Albania proper, there are numerous speakers of the language in Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Italy (especially in Sicily), and in diaspora communities in Europe, Australia, and North America. Albanians may be Muslim, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or non-religious.

Interesting facts:

  • Unlike most other East European languages, the spelling of Albanian resembles English spelling (at least in some aspects). In the past, Greek and Arabic writing systems were used as well as Latin.
  • One of the best-known contemporary European writers, and winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize, Ismail Kadare, is Albanian. Many of his novels have had to be translated from Albanian into French, and then from French into English.
  • John Belushi was an Albanian.
  • So is Regis Philbin.
  • So was Mother Teresa (born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1910)
  • So is Eliza Dushku, who played Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • ...all the way from good to evil!

Albanian is taught at the University of Chicago and in summer language programs at Arizona State University and Indiana University.

Some information courtesy of Victor Friedman.

To add information about courses or suggest additions to any of the sections of this page, contact Sibelan Forrester.


Why Study Armenian?

The Armenian language is spoken by some 4 million residents of Armenia (formerly a republic in the Soviet Union), as well as in diaspora communities in the region and farther abroad. The language was put into writing early, in the 5th century. For more information see "Classical Armenian Online" at the University of Texas at Austin.

Interesting facts:

  • Armenian is an Indo-European language (like English, but not all that like English).
  • You can tell that Dr. Jack Kevorkian is Armenian by the -ian ending his last name. Some Armenian-Americans removed that suffix when they came to the US, in fear of the persecutions they had fled.
  • Other well-known Armenians include tennis star Andre Agassi, writer-actor Eric Bogosian, actor and singer Cher (her real name is Cherylin Sarkissian), painter Arshile Gorky, composer Aram Khachaturian, artist and film producer Sergei Paradjanov, author William Saroyan - and the entire group System of a Down.

Armenian is taught at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan, and in summer workshops at Arizona State University.


Why Study Belarusian?

Belarusian is an East Slavic language that is rarely taught in North America - if you get a chance ot study it, grab it.


Why Study BCS?

Because Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian are less commonly taught languages, many North American institutions that teach them offer a single sequence of courses, abbreviated as "BCS." Students who wish to do so may concentrate on the lexical or grammatical features of one of the regions (for example, to maximize attention to the jat' reflexes). Other institutions label their courses as Croatian, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, or Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian. For more information, see the SEELRC Webliography

"All of my students who have traveled to the region where Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are spoken keep going back and many have stayed or wished to relocate there. Yes, it is a part of the world full of paradoxes; yes, it is often more complicated to get things done; and yes, those languages really do have seven cases. But it is also a region with great economic potential, extraordinary beauty (Lonely Planet will back me up here!), exceptional cultural richness, and welcoming people. I recently read an interview with a Polish writer who was visiting Split [an ancient, picturesque coastal town in Croatia]. He said that he perceives the South Slavic countries as a great solution to the East-West dichotomy, as a crossroads, a merging point of Europe. If you ask my students, they will tell you that it takes some effort to learn both the language and the complicated history of the region, and that it is not always easy living there, but also that they would not have it any other way. I’d say that paths less trodden are often more difficult, but also unexpectedly rewarding."
-- Aida Vidan, Harvard University

"Three languages for the price of one! Although Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian have all become official languages of their newly independent states, they remain almost completely understandable among each other. If you learn one language, you can with speak any of nearly 20 million people in three countries, in the Republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. It is a well-kept secret that some of the world's most beautiful beaches are to be found in Croatia and Montenegro. In the hinterland is to be found the confluence of Byzantine, Roman, and Muslim civilizations. Lovers of art, archaeology, architecture, film, history, folklore, dance, will find the countries of the former Yugoslavia filled with unique treasures. Though many now think of war when they think of the former Yugoslavia, the Bosnians, Croats and Serbs are in fact passionate and easygoing southern Europeans, with good senses of humor and a penchant for living life fully. Career opportunities connected with Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are numerous and so far demand for employees with knowledge of the language(s) has greatly exceeded supply. Possible career paths with this language include commerce, academia, intelligence, security, tourism, NGOs, journalism, diplomacy and foreign service."
-- The University of Kansas

Well-known people from Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, or North Americans from that background:

  • Novelist and Nobel Prize winner (1961) novelist Ivo Andrić
  • Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich
  • Film director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Composer and guitarist Goran Bregović
  • Writer and journalist Slavenka Drakulić
  • Actor Mira Furlan (Babylon 5, Lost)
  • Author Aleksandar Hemon
  • Tennis player Goran Ivanišević
  • Linguist and philologist Vatroslav Jagić
  • Actor and model Milla Jovovich (who's also part Ukrainian)
  • Author Danilo Kiš
  • Author Miroslav Krleža
  • Basketball player Toni Kukoč
  • Film director Emir Kusturica
  • Film director Dušan Makavejev
  • Actor John Malkovich
  • Mathematician Mileva Marić Einstein
  • Sculptor Ivan Meštrović
  • Author Milorad Pavić
  • Pianist Ivo Pogorelić
  • Chemist and Nobel Prize winner (1975) Vladimir Prelog
  • Assassin Gavrilo Princip
  • Chemist and Nobel Prize winner (1939) Lavoslav Ružička
  • Saint Sava
  • Author Meša Selimović
  • Poet Charles Simic
  • Inventor Nikola Tesla - born and bred in Croatia, of Serbian parentage
  • The TV comedy group Top Lista Nadrealista ["Top list of Surrealists"]
  • Author Dubravka Ugrešić
  • Faust Vrančić (inventor of the parachute)
  • Actor Goran Višnjić (ER)
  • Ohio Senator George Voinovich
  • Singer and parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic

Bosnian, Croatian, and/or Serbian are taught at Arizona State University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago,Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Princeton University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and in summer programs at Arizona State University, the University of Chicago, Indiana University, and the University of Washington.

Information from Aida Vidan (Harvard University), the 2007 web survey of the CCPCR, and Sibelan Forrester (Swarthmore College).


Why Study Bulgarian?

Bulgarian is a South Slavic language that gives access to literature, wonderful food, well-known folk music, agriculture and business, and outstanding oportunities for tourism.

"Why Study Bulgarian? Because it's easy! No pesky grammatical cases to memorize as in other Slavic languages. A small-class-environment way to satisfy your language requirement."
-- Excerpted from the web page at OSU.

Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe. It was founded in 681 in the picturesque Balkans, when only two other states were in existence in Europe - the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. Since this time, Bulgaria and Bulgarian culture have flourished. Since the fall of communism, present-day Bulgaria boasts a young European democracy, which recently joined the European Union (in 2007).

From the Black Sea to its numerous mountains, lakes, and rivers, Bulgaria is an attractive place for tourists from all over the world. And, because of its unique geographical position and long history, Bulgarian cuisine, much like its culture, has evolved into an interesting mixture between Slavonic, Greek and Turkish influences. This is a mixture, which very much resembles the mentality of the Bulgarian people, who are known for their great hospitality and laid-back attitude. Bulgarian cultural traditions are popularized all over the world by famous Bulgarian folk singers, musicians, and dancers. Get to know this great tradition and great people by taking Bulgarian!

Why Bulgarian?

  • Students who wish to learn a Slavic language will find Bulgarian interesting and exciting.
  • Students who are interested in Slavic linguistics will benefit from taking Bulgarian not only because it resembles English in its grammatical system (Bulgarian does not have a case system like Russian, and it does have definite articles! which follow the nouns or adjectives they modify), but also because it shares certain grammatical and lexical features with the other languages of the Balkans (Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, Turkish, etc., all part of the so-called Balkan Sprachbund).
  • American students who are interested in Bulgarian history, economy, or politics should consider taking Bulgarian language, especially if they would like to do research in Bulgaria (average Bulgarians above a certain age do not speak English). Bulgaria is a small country but its prominent place on the crossroad between Europe and Asia, its rich history and culture, developing democracy, investment opportunities and tourist attractions are all factors for the country's growing popularity in the USA.

For the Slavists among you: When making generalizations about Slavic languages, you always have to ask yourself 'But what about Bulgarian?' Some knowledge of Bulgarian is essential because it is an exception to the features considered 'common' to Slavic languages – it has vestiges of case only in the pronominal system, a more complicated verbal system than most of Slavic, and it is not as fond of consonant clusters. Bulgaria has a relatively short but rich literary tradition, both in poetry and prose, though very little has been translated. Because Bulgarian is one of the easiest Slavic languages to master for a native speaker of English, a language course in Bulgarian, combined with your knowledge of another Slavic language, will provide a good foundation for experiencing the intensity and complexity of Bulgaria's literary jewels.

For the linguists among you: the Balkan Sprachbund is one of the best studied areas of language contact. Learn a language which exhibits some of the most crucial Balkanisms: the presence of schwa, substitution of synthetic declension markers by analytic ones; grammaticalization of the category of definiteness through postpositive definite articles; pronominal doubling of objects; analytic future and perfect; loss of the verbal infinitive.

For the English speakers among you: in a year you will acquire a lot. Bulgarian is easier to learn than most other Slavic languages because it is more similar to English in its grammatical structure: it relies on prepositions (not case) to express grammatical relations and it has a definite article. At the same time, the definite article is used in interestingly different ways from "the" in English.

For the musicologists among you: Bulgarian folk singing has enjoyed international success with the distinctive sounds of women's choirs like Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares and Trio Bulgarka. Bulgaria has a very rich folklore tradition, it has seven ethnographic regions, each characterized by specific songs, dances, customs and costumes.

For the archaeologists among you: Bulgaria has a rich history of archaeological exploration. Many sites and monuments are still unknown to the broader international community, while others are being discovered every year. There are numerous Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age settlement mounds, significant remains of Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman urban centers, settlements, and temples; many thousands of Thracian tumuli. Archaeological research and cultural tourism have experienced a boost in the last several years in Bulgaria. The American Research Center is located in the capital city of Sofia. The goal of the ARC is to facilitate research in the humanities and social sciences (in the fields of anthropology, archeology, art history, epigraphy, history, philology), from prehistory through the modern age.

Information from Petia Alexieva and Professor Angelina Ilieva at the University of Chicago, OSU, and Professor Cynthia Vakareliyska (University of Oregon).

Bulgarian is taught at Boston College, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the The Ohio State University and in summer programs at the University of Pittsburgh.


Why Study Czech?

Ask the experts: Masako Fidler (Brown University), Bronislava Volková (Indiana University), and Craig Cravens.

Craig Cravens (UT Austin) writes,

  • The Czech Republic has the highest per capita beer consumption IN THE WORLD (see below).
  • The Czech Republic is the home of the world's first pilsner (see below).
  • The word Robot was coined by a Czech (see below).
  • The Czech and Slovak Republics are the fastest growing business markets in the European Union (no really, see below).

The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any other country in the world. The Czechs put away an astounding 163 liters per person a year.

This includes men, women, and children, and since women and children don't consume a lot of beer (preferring wine and milk respectively), a lot of Czech men must be drinking a lot of Czech beer. "

Pilsner Urquell, the world's first pilsner beer, was invented in a Czech brewery in 1842. It is now the preferred style of beer throughout the world. Look at any can of Budweiser, Miller, or the plethora of other "lesser" beers, and you'll see the words "Pilsner style beer."

"

Czech playwright Karel Čapek coined the term "robot" in his 1920 play Rossum's Universal Robots (RUR). The word immediately spread throughout the world.

And then of course there's Prague, the "city of a hundred spires." Located in the geographical center of Europe, Prague is indeed the heart of the continent.

"But shouldn't I study something more practical?"

The Czech and Slovak Republics joined the European Union in 2004 and are the fastest growing markets in the Union. Western European nations are moving their factories eastward to burgeoning markets with fewer governmental restrictions and a population more eager to work. In 2005 Peugeots, Citroëns, and Toyotas started rolling off the line of a new factory at Kolin in the Czech Republic. In 2004 the South Korean car and appliance maker Hyundai chose Slovakia for a giant car manufacturing plant, joining earlier carmakers such as Volkswagen and Porsche and instantly giving the country the nickname the Detroit of Europe. In May 2006 Hyundai confirmed its intention to invest up to 1 billion Czech crowns in a plant in Nosovice, in northern Moravia.

In May of 2006, the world's largest bank moved to the Czech Republic.

The property investment company Property Secrets recently write that property values in the Czech Republic are set to rocket 15 per cent per annum for the next ten years.

And don't forget, Czech is a gateway language:

Czech is a Slavic language, related to Russian and even closer to Polish and Slovak, which can easily be learned after Czech. Unlike Russian, it uses the Latin alphabet and is thus more immediately accessible to the western learner.

Czech is difficult, make no mistake, but for that more rewarding.

So think about Czech — "the other Slavic Language."

Contact Professor Craig Cravens for more information.

Interesting fact: The famous Chilean poet and 1971 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Pablo Neruda (né Ricardo Reyes Basoalto), took hs pen name, eventually also his legal name, from the 19th-century Czech poet Jan Nepomuk Neruda (1834-1891).

"

Bronislava Volková describes Czech Language and Literature at Indiana University:

Why Learn Czech? Why Study Czech and Slovak Culture?

FOR THE SLAVIST:

Since Russian language and literature are usually the Slavist's main field, another language and culture is generally required. Outside the East Slavic group, Czech is an excellent choice. One of the two most significant West Slavic languages, Czech has the advantage of a simple orthography using three diacritical marks, and a simple stress rule (stress is always on the first syllable).

Bohemia - The Czech lands are the birthplace of the first Slavic literary language, Old Church Slavic, formed by Constantine and Methodius in the 9th century. Later, in the 19th century, Slavic Studies was conceived as a discipline in Bohemia, the site of the first Slavic Congress. Finally, in the 20th century Prague became the site of the development of one of the most important linguistic, literary and semiotic schools in the world, the internationally based Prague Linguistic Circle. Since many important works can be read only in Czech, study of the language can greatly benefit the Slavist in his or her research.

FOR THE LINGUIST:

Czech is of importance because of a considerable German lexical element, which has interesting stylistic functions, especially in the spoken language. For historical reasons, Czech has a well-developed diglossic system, where a spoken and a written variant are kept separate by the speaker and are also used in an intertwined way for stylistic purposes. The extremely rich and original linguistic tradition is exemplified in the well-known Prague School of Linguistics and Semiotics, a monumental movement of thought in the 20th century influencing linguistic thinking all over the world.

FOR THE STUDENT OF LITERATURE:

Many American readers know of one of the greatest satires of all times, Hašek's Good Soldier Švejk, others know Čapek's philosophical relativist novels, his artistic detective stories or his science fiction. (The word "robot" was created by Čapek from an old Czech word for heavy work, "robota"). But not many people are aware that these two authors are but a fraction of a rich and unique literary culture, especially rich in poetry (Nobel laureate Jaroslav Seifert is a significant, but again only a small fraction of it). Bohemia and Slovakia have produced a great pléiade of outstanding poets, such as Mácha, Vrchlický, Neruda, Král', Holan, Halas, Nezval, and many others, as well as the writers Kundera, Škvorecký, Vaculík, Hrabal. Others still rest in darkness for the Western world. It is also barely known that Czechs produced their own avant-garde movement, poetism, a unique synthesis of constructivism, dadaism and cubism; these were all transformed into a qualitatively different, playful movement with its own theory and interdisciplinary applications (one creator of this movement was Jaroslav Seifert). Jan Mukažovský's theory of literature is only now making its full impact on Western theory.

The social and cultural milieu of Bohemia produced such important German language authors as Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel and Rainer Maria Rilke; writers such as Werfel, Rilke, Max Brod, and E. E. Kisch wrote in Prague between the First and Second World Wars.

Czechoslovakia also produced a remarkable new wave of cinema, concerned with realistic, understated insight into life, as well as poetic surrealist films. Names like Forman, Jireš, Němec, Kádár, Chytilový, Passer, have gained world renown ever since the 1960s.

FOR THE HISTORIAN

Today's Czech Republic lies on the border of East and West. The earliest state of the region, the Great Moravian Empire of the 9th century, saw two important developments: the democratic concept of the linguistic accessibility of religion and culture (unheard of in Western Europe at the time), and the birth of the first Slavic literary language, Old Church Slavic. Later, Bohemia posed the first successful challenge to the outdated practices of the Catholic Church as the first carrier of the Protestant idea in Europe; it was the home of the early encyclopedist Comenius, who reformed the outdated scholastic education so effectively that he is to this day known as the "teacher of the nations." His ideas even now serve as the basis of modern pedagogy. This great humanist also shares the fate common to the Czech people--he is one of the first of hundreds of thousands of Czechs, Moravians, and Slovaks who for historical reasons and reasons of conscience or profession were forced to emigrate. The wealth of Western cultures owes much to such exiles.

Many important historical events — the Thirty Years' War, the First and Second World Wars — had their inceptions or took decisive turns precisely on the territory of this early industrialized country on the crossroads of the East and West.

FOR THE STUDENT OF FOLKLORE, THEATER, FILM, VISUAL ARTS, OR MUSIC:

The Czech lands are a place of important developments in modern semiotic theory, not only of literature and linguistics, but also in visual arts, music, theater, film and folklore.

FOR THE STUDENT OF ART:

During many culturally and artistically rich periods, Bohemia was at the heart of Western Culture. It played the role of catalyst, ready more than any other nation to absorb foreign influences, but also to creatively transform them into something unique. Thus during the Gothic period, Bohemia created the so-called "beautiful style", and much more recently, during the European avant-garde, poetism. Some modern painters (Toyen, Šíma, Štyrský, Muzika, Kotík, Zrzavý, Tichý) not only achieved broad renown, but anticipated new art forms. Those forms included artificialism, mental countryside painting, and magic realism. The application of modern forms to content and value concerns had taken place in Czechoslovakia as early as the 1940s - earlier than in other countries. Only a few Czech painters have achieved worldwide acclaim, like Kupka or Mucha, who created a unique Art Nouveau style ("le style Mucha"). Much translation work remains to be done in bringing so many exquisite artists to the attention and awareness of the North American public.

FOR THE STUDENT OF MUSIC:

Czechs are said to be a "nation of musicians." Already in the 17th and 18th centuries there was such a surplus of excellent musicians that they emigrated in large numbers to Western Europe. There, they formed important new directions in music, especially in Germany (for example, the Mannheim School, where they contributed to the development of the modern sonata form). The 19th century composers Smetana and Dvořák are well known; however, a great musical tradition preceded those composers, one that enriched the musical world with such forms as pastorella and melodrama. The modern composer Janáček, the pioneer of onomatopoetic music, has only recently been discovered by the Western world. The tremendous musical creativity of both Janáček and Martinů finds its source in the remarkable themes of Czech and Moravian folk songs. Other great neglected modern composers are Josef Suk (father of the famous violinist) and the Slovaks Ján Ciker and Eugen Suchoň.

FOR THE STUDENT OF JEWISH CULTURE AND HISTORY:

Bohemia, and Prague in particular, were the seat of a richly developed Jewish culture. The Gothic-Jewish quarter of Prague with its beautiful synagogues is the oldest preserved in Europe and embodies the continuity that this Jewish community enjoyed. It is not by chance that during the Second World War Hitler chose Prague for his "Museum of the Extinguished Race;" thus an invaluable collection of Jewish materials and objects was formed and is preserved to this day in the Jewish Museum there. One of the greatest Jewish writers of our time, Franz Kafka, grew up and wrote in Prague, in the center of this special mixture of intercultural relationships.

FOR THE STUDENT OF ECONOMICS OR POLITICAL SCIENCE:

Bohemia and Slovakia offer highly interesting and important resources for the study of political science. They are countries that historically and culturally belong primarily to the West; however, until recently they found themselves under the domination of the Eastern Soviet Empire. Czechoslovakia had its own communist tradition, conceived originally independently of Russia, and an extremely well-developed democratic tradition, being the only democracy in Central Europe between the wars. Because of these elements and because of Czechoslovakia's unfortunate and prolonged experience with totalitarian regimes, both the underground Czechoslovak and émigré literatures played an important if little-recognized role in the fate of the modern world. Today, as members of the EU, the Czech Republic and Slovakia offer examples of economic transition and business opportunity.

Some Famous Czechs:

  • Linguist Josef Dobrovský (1753-1829), founder of Slavic Studies
  • Composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
  • Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923), author of The Good Soldier Švejk
  • Preacher and religious martyr Jan Hus (c. 1372-1415)
  • Composer Leos Janáček (1854-1928)
  • Novelist and literary theorist Milan Kundera (born in 1929)
  • Karel Hynek Mácha (1810-1836), founder of modern Czech poetry
  • Statesman Thomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937) - his mother was American
  • Painter and illustrator Alfons Mucha
  • Composer Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)

Interesting Czech-American fact: Several chapters of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay are set in Prague.

"What can I do with Czech?

Recent alumni of the Czech program at Brown University, according to Masako Fidler, have combined Czech with a wide range of academic interests and career paths, often taking advantage of the Brown-in-Prague program:

  • Slavic Studies and Mathematics
  • Real estate development in Prague
  • Studying law
  • Education (and serving as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for Czech)
  • International Relations; a summer internship at the US Embassy in Prague
  • MA in Public Policy
  • Concentrating in Slavic Studies and Linguistics (Latin, Ancient Greek and Sanscrit along with Czech), won a scholarship from Masaryk University in Brno for advanced study of Czech language and general linguistics for a year after graduation
  • A scholarship from Masaryk University in Brno to study Czech and Czech culture
  • Slavic Studies and International Relations
  • Research assistant for the Watson Institute for International Relations at Brown
  • MA in International Nursing with focus on the Czech Republic
  • Slavic Studies and History
  • Honors thesis on the role of the rock music in events leading up to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, including archival work and interviews with former dissidents and rock musicians
  • Political Science; internship at the US Embassy in Prague
  • Slavic Studies and Geology
  • One-year immersion program at Charles University
  • Slavic Studies and Economics
  • Combining Czech language with study of Ukrainian or Polish

Interesting fact: Charles University (Univerzita Karlová) was founded in 1348, making it not only the oldest university in Eastern or Central Europe, but also older than plenty of universities in Western Europe (Vienna, Leipzig, Basel, Tübingen, Copenhagen, Aberdeen, etc.), not to meniton North America.

Information from Craig Cravens (University of Texas at Austin), Masako Fidler (Brown University), Bronislava Volková (Indiana University), and the web enrollment survey of the CCPCR.

Czech is taught at the University of Arizona, Brown University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, the University of Florida, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Ohio State University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and in summer programs at the University of Chicago and Indiana University.


Why Study Estonian?

Estonian is taught at the University of Toronto (as well as at the University of Tartu and elsewhere).


Why Study Georgian?

Georgia is an ancient country with an unusual and beautiful language.

Georgian is a Kartvelian (South Caucasian) language in a family utterly different from Indo-European. The languages related to Georgian are Mingrelian and Svan (both spoken in Georgia) and Laz (spoken in Turkey). Georgian is also spoken in neighboring countries and by diasporas in many places, including the U.S. Georgian has a literary tradition many centuries older than that of any Slavic languages. It is an important scholarly language for any field concerned with the Caucasus, including Byzantine and Middle Eastern history, as well as linguistics and other humanities and social sciences. Georgian grammar is very different from that of Indo-European languages; it is an important language for linguists (or anyone else) wanting to go beyond the usual Indo-European languages. The alphabet is beautiful, and the sound system has glottalized consonants (relatively rare in the world's languages). Georgia is also the home of an excellent cuisine and fine wine as well as an elaborate culture of feasting, where the toast is raised to a fine art.

Georgian is taught at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago, and in summer programs at Indiana University.

Information on this page is largely from Professor Victor Friedman of the University of Chicago.


Why Study Hungarian?

Hungarian is an Ugrian language, part of the Finno-Ugric language group. This means it's not Indo-European, unlike almost all the languages around it, in spite of a large vocabulary shared with the Slavic languages and moving in both directions. Hungarian is spoken by about 11 million residents of Hungary, plus some more millions of emigres.

Some famous Hungarians and Hungarian-Americans:

  • Composer Béla Bartók
  • Film director George Cukor
  • Psychologist and author Mihály Csikszentmihályi
  • Nobel Prize winning (1971) physicist Dennis Gábor
  • Actor Zsa-Zsa Gabor
  • Composer Franz (Ferenc) Liszt
  • Actor Peter Lorre
  • Actor Bela Lugosi
  • Athlete Joe Namath
  • Musician Tommy Ramone (born Thomas Erdelyi, Budapest, in 1952)
  • Semiotician Thomas Sebeok
  • Athlete Monica Seles
  • Edward (Ede) Teller, father of the H-Bomb
  • Conductor Kristof (Christoph) von Dohnányi

Hungarian is taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Indiana University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Ohio State University, Rutgers University, and the University of Toronto, and in summer programs at Indiana University.


Why Study Kazakh?

Kazakh is a Turkic language, spoken by most of about 15 million residents of Kazakhstan plus some residents of neighboring countries.

Kazakh is taught at the University of Chicago.

To add information about courses or suggest additions to and language discussed on this page, contact Sibelan Forrester.


Why Study Latvian?

Latvian is a Baltic language, spoken by some three million residents of Latvia plus various diaspora communities.


Why Study Lithuanian?

Like Latvian, Lithuanian is a Baltic language, situated geographically between the Germanic languages and the Slavic languages. Lithuanian is spoken by over three million people in Lithuania and various diaspora communities. Lithuanian literature and cuture have strong connections of long duration to Polish literature and culture.

Lithuanian is taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago


Why Study Macedonian?

Macedonian is one of the smaller Slavic languages, first recognized as a separate language when Macedonia became a constitutive republic of Yugoslav after the end of the Second World War.

Macedonian has fixed stress and no nominal declension, which makes it easy for North American students at the beginning level. It is understood in all its neighboring South Slavic countries as well as parts of Greece, Albania, and the North American and Australian diasporas.

Macedonia is a land-locked country, and the same mountainous terrain that still makes it difficult to get to once protected its churches and other monuments from destruction by various rulers and invaders. Tourist spots like the city of Ohrid, on the large freshwater lake of the same name, combine a warm, easy-going, amost Mediterranean lifestyle and attitude with amazing artistic and architectural treasures. Government officials in Macedonia treasure their early literary and cultural achievements in a way that is hard to imagine in most other countries.

Macedonian is not widely spoken in North America - if you use it to chat in a restaurant, most likely no one will understannd you.

But if they do understand you, they'll come over and hug you.

Why Study Macedonian? (from the U of Toronto web site)

  • Macedonian is a Slavic language. It is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia and is also spoken by Macedonians living outside of the Republic, both in the Balkans and in diaspora communities
  • Macedonian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Students learning the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet will find it easy to learn the writing systems of many other Slavic languages.
  • Although Macedonian is spoken by a small number of people, learning Macedonian will provide the student opportunities to read Macedonia's rich folklore, literature, and history, and to understand its wonderful folk songs.
  • Many students become interested in Macedonian because of the large numbers of Macedonians living in Toronto and other cities, because of family ties, or because it is an understudied Slavic language with a grammar quite different from other Slavic languages. New opportunities for employment using Macedonian may arise as Macedonia develops closer ties with the European Union.

Information from Professor Victor Friedman (University of Chicago) and Professor Christina Kramer (University of Toronto).

Macedonian is taught at Indiana University and the University of Toronto, and in summer programs at Arizona State University and Indiana University..


Why Study Old Church Slavonic?

(Also known as Old Church Slavic)

Of course, you could ask: why study any dead language?

Old Church Slavonic continues to exert an influence on all the Orthodox Eastern European languages and cultures through its presence in the liturgy, and thence in music, art, poetry, and other cultural products. Church Slavonic provides a layer of elevated stylistic vocabulary and abstract or intellectual terminology very nearly parallel to the role of Latin and Greek roots in the English language. In this way, it has influenced Bosnian and Croatian as well as Russian, Serbian, and other languages spoken in countries with an Orthodox tradition.

Old Church Slavonic lies at the root of various recensions of Church Slavonic still used by Orthodox churches, including some non-Slavic ones (Romania).

Old Church Slavonic was compiled from elements of various Slavic languages and dialects - it began its history as a language that no one had ever spoken, an artifial or composed language.

OCS is "the Latin of Slavic."

Why Study Old Church Slavonic?

  • Old Church Slavonic is the language of the oldest written texts of the Slavic-speaking world, which today is represented by modern Slavic languages including Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Polish, and Czech.
  • The texts of Old Church Slavonic were composed in Bulgaria and Macedonia more than a thousand years ago in two distinct alphabets, Cyrillic and Glagolitic. Whereas the old Cyrillic alphabet is quite similar to that of modern Russian or Serbian. Glagolitic bears little resemblance to any modern script. Therefore, texts originally composed in Glagolitic are usually read in a Latin-based transcription which closely resembles the modern Czech, Polish, and Croatian alphabets.
  • Knowledge of Old Church Slavonic is important for understanding the cultural, literary, and linguistic history of any modern Slavic language. It is also provides information for comparison with other ancient Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.
  • The texts of Old Church Slavonic are those of the early Christian church — the gospels, the psalms, sermons, and lives of saints and martyrs.

If you talk to God in a language that few people know, perhaps it makes its way more clearly through the clamor?

Information from Robert Mathiesen (emeritus, Brown University) and the web page of the University of Toronto

Old Church Slavic is taught at Bryn Mawr College,the University of Chicago, Columbia University, the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, Yale University


Why Study Polish?

Polish is the most commonly taught Slavic language after Russian, and is widely available in North American universities - both because of Poland's geopolitical and cultural importance and because of the large numbers and important achievements of immigrants from Poland to North America. Its popularity means that courses in Polish literature and culture are also widely available, and some universities have special programs and institutes devoted to Polish studies.

Interesting fact: Warsaw has the largest Polish population in the world, but the city in second place is Chicago, IL.

Polish links:

Polish is taught at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Syracuse University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and in summer courses at Arizona State niversity, the University of Chicago, and Indiana University.


Why Study Romanian?

Romanian is not a Slavic language, but it offers a fantastic linguistic situation: a combination of Romance and Slavic grammar and vocabulary, plus the economic possibilities of a new member of the EU and a marvelous geographical location.

Some famous Romanians:

  • Sculptor Constantin Brancusi
  • Author and cultural commentator Andrei Codrescu
  • Writer and scholar of religion Mircea Eliade
  • Playwright Eugene Ionesco
  • Dadaist Tristan Tzara (born Samuel Rosenstock)

Romanian is taught at The Ohio State University and in summer courses at Arizona State University and Indiana University.


Why Study Slovak?

Slovak is a West Slavic language with a lively literary and arts scene and growing economic and political importance.

Slovak is taught at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Toronto, and in summer courses at the University of Pittsburgh


Why Study Slovene?

Slovene is a South Slavic language, with close relationships to German, Italian and Czech.

Reasons to study Slovene:

  • Slovenia is a tiny country, but it offers a climatic and cultural microcosm of Mediterranean and Alpine Europe - good food, good skiing, good beaches, and all a short distance apart.
  • Slovenia is an unusually literate country even for Europe. Besides a lively arts and music scene there are more journals, translations, and original publications than any other country of two million people would be able or willing to support.
  • Slovene is the language the Habsburgs used to speak to their horses. (The famous Lippizaners, named for the village where one of the first stud farms was established, Lipica.) At least, so Kocbek claims in a poem.
  • For fans of linguistic arcana, Slovene is the only Slavic language to retain a non-vestigial supine (similar to, but deliciously different from, the infinitive), and one of only two to retain the dual. What is the dual, you may ask? A special case form for things that come in twos, whether or not the noun follows the number two.
  • Moreover, because of the Alpine terrain in most of its territory, Slovenia has unusually varied and distinct dialects even in communities a few kilometers apart.
  • Do your students think that language study is staid and boring? Shock them with the Slovene rock group Laibach!

Slovene is taught in North America at the University of Kansas, and by request at Indiana University. For more information on the Slovene language, see http://www.thezaurus.com/language.

Thanks to Professor Henry R. Cooper, Jr., of Indiana University.


Why Study Tajik?

Tajik (a.k.a. Galcha) is the the variety of Persian spoken in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Afghanistan by about 4.4 million people.

Before 1928, Tajik was written with a version of the Perso-Arabic script, then with the Latin alphabet between 1928 to 1940, then with a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet. In 1989, the Tajik government passed a law calling for the reintroduction of the Arabic alphabet. Some people are in favor of switching to the Latin alphabet.

Tajik is taught at the University of Chicago and in summer courses at Arizona State University.


Why Study Tatar?

Tatar is a Turkic language spoken mainly in the Russian republic of Tatarstan. It is very close to other Turkic languages of Central Asia. For more information, see the web site of the AATT, the American Association of Teachers of Turkic.

Tatar is taught in summer courses at Arizona State University.

To add information about courses or suggest additions to this page, contact Sibelan Forrester.


Why Study Ukrainian?

From being a rarely studied Slavic language, Ukrainian has now become one of the most commonly offered in North America. It must have something to do with the country's population of over 46 million people, the sizable diaspora communities in Canada and the United States, the lively music, literature and arts scene, or the vibrant folk culture. Or perhaps just those lovely sidewalk cafés in Lviv...

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language, closely related to Belarusian and Russian, but with many points of contact with Polish and Slovak as well. For more information check the Omniglot web page.

Ukrainian is taught at the University of Alberta, Columbia University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Toronto, and in summer courses at Arizona State University, Harvard University, and Indiana University.


Why Study Uzbek?

Uzbek is a Turkic language spoken by over 16 million people in Uzbekistan, in bearby countries, and in diaspora communities. It has been written with Arabic, Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.

Uzbek is taught at the University of Chicago and in summer courses at Arizona State University.


Why Study Yiddish?

Yiddish is often taught in Germanic languages programs, and from many points of view it belongs there, but it is a Central and East European language with many obvious historical, religious, literary and cultural relationships to the other languages of the region.

Yiddish is taught at Binghamton University, Brandeis University, the University of California to Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, The Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Toronto.

To add information about courses or suggest additions to any language section on this page, contact Sibelan Forrester.