Uses of a "Hyperreader" for Beginning and Intermediate Russian Language Students Using Authentic Material

Anindita Banerjee, University of California, Los Angeles

My presentation will discuss a number of issues surrounding the creation and use of an annotated reader for beginning and intermediate levels in Russian using the electronic medium. In light of the pedagogical problems of applying authentic reading material in a Russian language classroom, I wish to present (along with a sample demonstration) a project which aims at a compilation of authentic Russian texts with "hyperannotation." Such a "reader" may be used primarily in teaching reading, but its format allows a host of other features which can create a text far richer in form and content than traditional printed material. It likewise integrates the process of learning reading along with pronunciation, vocabulary acquisition and cultural material. It offers variable modes of annotations, where it is possible to hypergloss words or phrases in any language, and even adding "audio glosses" for simultaneous exposure to pronunciation and intonation. Any unit of a text of this type can be linked to graphic or video material and even to World Wide Web links. This provides almost limitless options for adding cultural details and "digressions," an activity for which there is little time and scope in a classroom with a printed text. The electronic format makes this text and its accompanying material available outside the classroom. In addition, non-literary texts can be directly linked to video or audio materials on the same or related issues (e.g., articles from the news media with TV news clips or radio broadcasts).

The problems of reading authentic texts in non-advanced levels is a long standing question for teachers of language (S. Devitt, "Interacting with authentic texts: multilayered processes," 1997), but the type and quality of annotation, or even its real value while dealing with the primary task of reading remains a controversial issue (J. H. Hulstijn, "When do foreign language readers look up the meaning of unfamiliar words?", 1993; R. P. Leow, "To simplify or not to simplify," 1993; J. H. Hulstijn, M. Hollander and T. Greidanus, "Incidental vocabulary learning: the influence of marginal glosses, dictionary use, and reoccurence of unknown words," 1996). My proposed method of creating a "Hyperreader" seeks to eliminate some of those problems. The electronic medium is definitely more conducive to "top-down" reading for meaning and information. Recent works on language pedagogy have considered hypermedia or multimedia as valuable aids in teaching reading and vocabulary acquisition ( D. Chun and J. Plass, "Effects of multimedia annotations on vocabulary acquisition," 1996 and A. Martinez-Lage, "Hypermedia technology for teaching reading," 1997). My presentation is aimed towards a discussion of the practical application and viability of existing opinions, as well as a way to incorporate the latest technology in solving some of these issues.

Serafima Gettys, Stanford University

A Lexical Approach to Teaching Grammar

Serafima Gettys, Stanford University

The paper will discuss some essential tenets of the approach that has become known in literature as the "lexical approach to grammar instruction" or"lexically-driven grammar".

Today's language course objectives are specified in terms of communicative functions the learners wil be able to fulfill. Most practicing teachers agree that communicative competence can be developed only in proportion to linguistic competence. The strategy suggested by the author is a way of creating an appropriate balance between the two major aspects of language competence: grammar and lexicon.

The paper will briefly review research literature related to the issues under consideration; provide arguments in favor of the lexical approach to grammar and describe an instructional sequence designed and used by the author in teaching beginning Russian.

Basic assumptions for the study come from the theory of UG (N. Chomsky). According to Chomsky, the maturation of the language faculty reaches the steady state shortly before puberty and the ability to learn a new language natively disappears (J. Strozer). Language acquisition after childhood differs in important respects from the language acquisition before puberty.

However, there seems to be no critical period for at least one aspect of language acquisition--the growth of vocabulary (N. Chomsky). Learning words, according to N. Chomsky, is the main part of language learning. This led some researchers to the assumption that a language course should essentially be built around a mental lexicon supported by grammatical information (Vivian Cook, Philipp Hibbard, David White etc).

The study of today's textbooks reveals that although on the whole the textbooks focus on meaningful information and contextualized practice, the rules that are used to describe grammar remain unchanged. The latter makes apparent the obvious contradiction of language teaching: while the communicative approach considers grammar as something peripheral, the textbooks are still grammatically structured. The rules, as they are presented in contemporary textbooks, invite their readers to move from abstract to concrete, from general rules to their specific realization. The author will argue that with inadquate vocabulary in the earlier stages of L2 learning learners are not able to comprehend and internalize grammar. The latter makes the rationale behind the development of lexically-driven curriculum highly relevant.

The rationale of the approach is based on the principle of priority of words in language acquisition. The author will attempt to demonstrate the central role of lexicon in language acquisition, the significance of lexically-oriented grammar in the context of communicative methodology, and will outline the organization of the mental lexicon and its implications for teaching. The main features of the lexical approach to teaching will be discussed:

1. High-level grammatical rules are derived from specific instances of the language in use. Whenever the language material is not subject to clear-cut rules, it is treated as a vocabulary item.

2. More grammar forms are studied as vocabulary items, each instructional sequence is built around some specific lexical item. The knowledge of a lexical item includes more background grammatical information and information about the way words combine and operate in a sentence.

3. In presenting and practicing new language items the teacher relies on the native language of students: students are made aware of the differences between the two languages in the means of expression of the same meaning. Translation aids better comprehension of the language phenomena.

4. The language sample is presented and practiced in a phrase rather than in a sentence (the phrase is known to be the main operational unit in language processing).

5.The lexical approach differs from more traditional (textbook) handling of grammar in the amount of detail. Particular attention is given to the verb.

The lexical approach to teaching grammar binds the learning of vocabulary and grammar more closely than it is usually done in the textbooks.

The author designed and conducted an experimental course based on a lexically-driven curriculum and its implementation is still under way. Further empirical study will investigate the effect of the approach. Nevertheless, even today the results of the classroom study suggest that the lexical approach to teaching grammar may have a positive effect on the general achievement of the students; both fluency and accuracy in using L2 in communication improve.

Valerie Pellegrino, Ohio State University

Gender Choice: The Effects of Interlocutor Gender on Students' Spontaneous Russian Use

Valerie Pellegrino, Ohio State University

Gender research in second language acquisition during study abroad has generally focused on the different rates of development and levels of language proficiency achieved by men and women while studying in the target culture. This paper, however, explores the effects of interlocutor gender on American students' spontaneous use of Russian language during semester- and year-length academic programs in Russia. During the 1995-96 academic year, a group of 76 American college students living in Moscow and St. Petersburg were surveyed about their preference in American and Russian interlocutor gender. When asked about gender preferences for speaking Russian with Americans, the majority (79%) responded that they had no preference, 13% preferred speaking Russian with women, while only 8.5% preferred speaking with men. When asked the same question concerning Russian interlocutors, however, only a third of the respondents reported having no preference, while of those who did report a preference, 86.5% preferred speaking Russian with women as opposed to men. Male participantsexpressed slightly less preference than female participants in the gender of their interlocutors, although of the male participants, nearlyhalf (47.6%) still preferred speaking with Russian females. Less than tenpercent of both male and female students preferred speaking with Russian males.

The gender preference finding is significant since language learners studying abroad may reject opportunities to interact with native speakers due to gender preferences, thus, limiting their opportunities to develop second language proficiency. This body of this paper presents a qualitative investigation of possible reasons for interlocutor gender preference as offered by learners' narrative journals and interviews. The extensive narrative data base was collected throughout the students' time abroad and is supplemented by researcher observations, student demographics, and other forms of statistical and qualitative data. The narrative journals and interviews are analyzed using Strauss and Corbin's "grounded theory methodology" (Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques, 1990). The findings of this study are discussed in light of linguistic, sociolinguistic, and sociocultural theories of gender and communication.

Victor Frank, Bryn Mawr College/NFLC

Acquisition of Second Language Pragmatic Competence during Study Abroad

Victor Frank, Bryn Mawr College/NFLC

The proposed paper, incorporating data collected by the presenter in Moscow during the 1997-1998 academic year, focuses on the pragmatic aspects of second language learning processes during study abroad. The theoretical framework of this paper rests on three interrelated areas of linguistic research: Second Language Acquisition (SLA), Interlanguage Pragmatics (ILP), and the ethnocultural basis of linguistic consciousness. The key concept of SLA that guides the proposed project as a study of language learning is that of interlanguage, the learner's dynamic system of target language knowledge. The interlanguage system is continuously evolving, although not necessarily in the direction of the target language. The bulk of SLA interlanguage studies have focused on domains of learner production at or below sentence-level speech. Yet examining learner production above the sentence-level opens up possibilities for examining the interrelationships in interlanguage between sentence-level phenomena and larger units of speech: textual cohesion and coherence, speech acts, and other areas of discourse analysis. The proposed paper describes the processes of language learning above sentence-level speech from the perspective of interlanguage pragmatics.

Interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) brings together the disciplines of SLA and linguistic pragmatics. This area of linguistic inquiry examines the relationships between form, function, and intention in learner production and comprehension of target language at different levels of linguistic proficiency. In this context, the learner's pragmatic knowledge of the target language and target culture manifests itself in all domains of interlanguage. The data discussed in the paper examines learner interlanguage in the speech act of request.

Most ILP studies have used a contrastive approach to focus on language learner and native speaker differences in speech act production and comprehension. The study discussed in the paper broadens the perspectives of ILP studies by exploring the longitudinal processes of language learning in its pragmatic aspects; by exploring the ethnocultural origins of speech act realization; and finally, by exploring why pragmatic differences are significant in the context of intercultural communication (communication between representatives of different ethnocultural communities). The work of Russian linguists on intercultural communication from the viewpoint of the ethnocultural bases of linguistic consciousness offers wide possibilities for placing the results of ILP studies in context. Karaulov defines linguistic consciousness as those images of consciousness that are externalized by linguistic signs. In this view any text created by a speaker is an external manifestation, although an imperfect and distorted one, of the linguistic consciousness of that speaker. Thus the ultimate cause of pragmatic failure in intercultural communication is differences in the ethnoculturally-based linguistic consciousnesses of the speaker and hearer. The speech act formulae themselves are only reflections of those linguistic consciousnesses.

The proposed paper presents the analysis of data collected through open-ended role-plays conducted with language learners and native speakers; retrospective interviews; and introspective language learning journals. The paper also discusses SLA models that incorporate linguistic consciousness, as well as implications for foreign language pedagogy.

Wayles Browne, Cornell University

Further Problems in Teaching Serbo-Croatian in the 90s: Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian

Wayles Browne, Cornell University

Despite the recent wars and the breakup of socialist Yugoslavia, Serbo-Croatian continues to be one unit in the classification of Slavic languages for historical-linguistic purposes. It is also usually listed as one unit in the course catalogues of those few North American universities which teach it. If the purpose of teaching it were only to impart a reading knowledge, it really could be presented as one entity. But in recent decades languages have been taught more and more for active oral use by the students. The Serbian standard and the Croatian standard have always been different enough in pronunciation, vocabulary, and stylistic preferences that no textbook could impart an active knowledge of both--unless it were written in parallel columns, like Magner's Introduction or the Foreign Service Institute materials. Intercommunication is nearly complete between native users of one and the other standard, but speakers were often heard to criticize any perceived "mixing" of the two. Teachers willing and able to teach a different standard than their own were a rarity, just as there have been few Britishers capable of teaching EFL students to speak like Walter Cronkite without gaffes.

In the new states, even more political significance has been attached to questions of language standardization. In Serbia the language is officially called "Serbian" and more than one new spelling dictionary has appeared; the Cyrillic alphabet is strongly favored as a national symbol. Some linguists in Serbia have shown themselves willing to accept the existence of a separate Croatian standard. In Croatia all hyphenated names are rejected: the standard is Croatian and nothing else. Long-standing traditions of purism have led amateurs and professional linguists alike to publish dictionaries stigmatizing various words as Serbian. A new factor in the equation is the independence of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Writers in Bosnia have long complained--with good cause--that they and their usage were underrepresented in the dictionaries supposedly embodying Serbo-Croatian. Now that there is a school system in Bosnia, it needs textbooks for the native language, and in fact a pravopis and other books on correct Bosnian have been published and adopted. Foreign interest in Bosnia has greatly increased, and indeed a good proportion of my recent language students were motivated to learn the language by the intention of doing something for the good of Bosnia. No textbook and no dictionary above pocket size have been published for standard Bosnian so far, however, and linguists in Serbia and Croatia, who may agree on nothing else, are united in claiming that a Bosnian standard cannot exist.

Given this state of affairs, language teaching is even more full of pitfalls than previously. No compromise can be satisfactory to everyone; but we will show a tentative solution which promises some practical value.


Senahid Halilovic. Pravopis bosanskoga jezika. Sarajevo: Preporod 1996. Milorad Radovanovic', ed. Najnowsze dzieje jezykow slowianskich. Srpski jezik. Opole 1996.

William J. Comer, University of Kansas

Russian History and Russian Language: One Model of Implementing Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum

William J. Comer, University of Kansas


A growing body of literature (Brinton, Snow and Wesche; Krueger and Ryan; Straight; Stryker and Leaver) describes the theory behind content-based instruction and the many varieties of its practice from bilingual education and immersion programs to Foreign Language Across the Curriculum (FLAC) initiatives. This literature contributes a wealth of useful information to our professional discourse concerning the implementation of content-based language instruction in different instructional and institutional settings. Each department (or individual instructor) who plans to experiment in content-based instruction knows that previous models will need at least minor modification to meet a given institution's organizational structures and pedagogical needs. Thus, while content-based instruction programs have much in common, each implementation of such instruction offers a new model for the language teaching profession to consider; each instructor's experience adds valuable insight into approaches for integrating content-based instruction into existing programs.

This paper will describe in detail all the stages involved in planning, implementing and evaluating one particular FLAC course for teaching Russian history to upper level Russian language students.

Institutional Challenges

In the given institution the language department and the history department had to work out a structural understanding of how to implement the FLAC offerings. Each department had its own vested interests: both wanted to keep enrollments in upper-level courses; both wanted the demands of their discipline addressed; and neither wanted to "lose" a course offering. The following compromise was worked out: the history department offered "Russia in the Twentieth Century" which the Slavic Department in turn made the theme of its fourth-year Russian language course "Advanced Conversation and Composition." Students with the requisite language background were encouraged to enroll in both courses simultaneously.

Instructional Materials Development

Beyond the institutional challenges, this paper will detail the selection and development of materials for teaching this course content while simultaneously developing students' language abilities in all four skills. Since the course was designed to replace our fourth year Russian course, course readings and assignments needed to be accessible and appropriate for learners who were at the ACTFL intermediate level, but are working on acquiring the extended narrative and descriptive functions typical of the Advanced proficiency level. A samples of course materials will be demonstrated and shared with conference participants.

Evaluation and Future Prospects

The paper will discuss the evaluation of this attempt at FLAC implementation in terms of student response to the structure and content of the course (as measured by their course evaluations) and the instructor's critical evaluation of the course materials and design. On the whole this model for implementing a FLAC course was successful, and it has been repeated with modifications using different subject matter at the same institution, although certain structural and pedagogical pitfalls (low enrollments, cultural differences in American and Russian academic writing styles, etc.) remain. One hopeful prospect for the future is that the content-based instructional materials developed for these courses can be shared with colleagues and students via the World Wide Web; a work-in-progress web site for these course materials will be demonstrated.


Brinton, Donna, Marguerite Ann Snow, and Marjorie B. Wesche. Content-Based Second Language Instruction. New York: Newbury House Publishers, 1989.
Krueger, Merle and Frank Ryan, eds. Language and Content: Discipline- and Content-Based Approaches to Language Study. Lexington, MA: DC Heath, 1993.
Straight, H. Stephen, ed. Languages Across the Curriculum. Binghamton, NY: SUNY at Binghamton, 1994.
Stryker, Stephen B and Betty Lou Leaver, eds. Content-Based Language Instruction in Foreign Language Education: Models and Methods. Washinton, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1997.

William P. Rivers, Bryn Mawr College and The National Foreign Language Center

(Concrete) Pieces of the Puzzle: Instruments and Procedures for the Evaluation of the Effects of Immersion Learning

William P. Rivers, Bryn Mawr College and The National Foreign Language Center

Immersion learning environments, whether study abroad, summer intensive, short-term, community-based, or even campus language tables and residences, are a familiar and indispensable part of post-secondary language learning programs in the United States. However, the value, real or perceived, of immersion varies widely according to the type of immersion and the quality of the program. The Immersion Training Evaluation Kit, developed by the National Foreign Language Center and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, provides a framework to evaluate and design programs, based on the type of immersion and the expected benefit from the immersion. Those benefits include: changes in interlanguage, including gains in proficiency (Brecht, Davidson, and Ginsberg, 1993; Liskin-Gasparro, Wunnava, and Henry, 1991; Davidson, Rivers, and Marshall, forthcoming) as well as fluency, sociolinguistic competence (Frank, 1998), and vocabulary; changes in learning behaviors (Brecht, Frank, Keesling, and Rivers, 1997); changes in affective behaviors (ibid., Frank, 1997; Pellegrino, 1998; Blender, 1997); and changes in language use behaviors (Blender, 1997; Chao, 1998).

This paper details the multiple approaches required to document the effects of immersion training. Results of quantitative, qualitative, and ethnographic procedures and instruments are detailed, including: proficiency tests, self-assessment instruments for proficiency (Oscarson, 1984, 1989; Clark, 1981); and instruments and procedures for gathering data on behavioral changes. The ITEK provides a set of surveys for learners, teachers, and program administrators to assess changes in learning behaviors, affective behaviors, and language use behaviors. As well, an array of qualitative data collection instruments for self report of learner behaviors is included, as is a set of ethnographic procedures for external researchers and evaluators of immersion programs. The use of these instruments by immersion programs in the U.S. and abroad, including US Government programs in several languages and academic programs in Russia, is described. The results obtained include notable increases in learner autonomy and self-managed learning, particularly among experienced learners; mixed linguistic gains and losses and correspondingly mixed affective behaviors in homestay environments abroad; and positive affective results from short-term community-based immersions in Brighton Beach.

Yelaina Kripkov, University of Oregon

Movies as a Means of Developing Conversational Skills in the Advanced Russian Language Courses

Yelaina Kripkov, University of Oregon

In many Russian language programs, advanced Russian language courses leave little time for comprehension and conversation practice in the classroom. Usually students are overwhelmed by lengthy analytical reading and/or written assignments, and by the end of the year practically lose the conversational skills achieved, for example, by the end of the third year. Introducing a movie series into the advanced language curriculum may solve the problem and further develop students' comprehension and conversational skills, without sacrificing reading and writing.

The present paper summarizes the results of research and practical application of the new methods of teaching movies in the advanced Russian language classroom.

Syllabus problems

Two years experience in teaching this course have proved that one should not base the syllabus for the advanced Russian language course (for the whole academic year) exclusively on video materials, because (1) work with movies is a non-traditional type of activity in class and students sometimes feel reluctant to do it all the time; (2) it is monotonous and therefore, tiresome; (3) not all like movies to such extent, some prefer books. The best solution is (1) to combine work on some textbook, articles, or short stories with a movie (one for each term); (2) to start with reading as a traditional type of work, then turn to a movie.

What Movie Series to Choose (Methodological Requirements)

(1) From easier to more complicated ones;
(2) movies should have something in common--tradition, actors, or message (to be recognizable), but still be different;
(3) provide valuable cultural and language material;
(4) develop all four language skills: comprehension, conversation, reading and writing.

Three movies by Eldar Riazanov prove to be a good choice: (1) "The Irony of Fate," (2) "Office Affair," and (3) "The Promised Heavens."

Why Riazanov?

(1) Riazanov is one of the most talented and popular movie directors in Russia.
(2) His basic genre is comedy, which is easier to teach and it is fun. It is typically Russian type of lyrical comedies, based on the traditions of classical Russian literature (of the Chekhovian type), sometimes with laughter through tears. They carry a humanistic message which unites all Riazanov's films. These three movies belong to Russian classics that retain its attraction for a long time.
(3) Riazanov's movies always have brilliant actors.
(4) They realistically and authentically reflect Russian culture and milieu.
(5) They widely incorporate music, songs and poetry which is by itself valuable study material and give the opportunity to discuss a movie as a piece of art.

The paper provides a thorough justification for the choice of these three particular movies, as satisfying the methodological requirements set for this course.

The second half of the presentation focuses on the problems of structuring the syllabus and on types of activities and devices of working on a movie. Although some of these devices by themselves are not new, the novelty of the method, however, is the combination and order of different types of activities:

(1) viewing the movie and answering general questions;
(2) working on the exercises in handouts and audio tapes;
(3) working on the script and language (idioms and style; students receive the script only on this stage which insures their active work on oral comprehension);
(4) role play (by memory);
(5) creative transformation of episodes and performing students' versions of the end;
(6) writing a short play on a similar topic for a contest;
(7) choosing the winner and performing the best play (mini-theater).

Activities 4-7 provide extremely intensive speaking practice.

This method is illustrated by a 7-minute mini-lesson, including a 3-minute demonstration of a fragment from "The Promised Heavens." The audience is provided with handouts of pre-view and post-view exercises and excerpts from the script.

Two years of teaching the course have proven the effectiveness of the proposed methods.

Zarema Koumakhova, Michigan State University

Teaching Proverbs and Sayings at the Beginners' Level

Zarema Koumakhova, Michigan State University

In recent years Russian language textbooks for American students are paying more attention to proverbs and sayings that are an important linguo-cultural stratum of the Russian language. However our review of the textbooks shows that this aspect of the language is still not sufficiently and adequately covered. First, most textbooks that incorporate proverbs and sayings (later P&S) are for the Advanced level, but the majority of students take Russian as a two-year requirement. That means that they are not exposed to this linguo-cultural phenomenon. Second, even in the textbooks for the Beginning and Intermediate levels that introduce P&S, the choice of the material does not always correspond to the level of the students in terms of the vocabulary and grammar. Some P&S abound in archaic forms that present an additional difficulty for the beginners. Third, the lack of exercises makes it difficult for the students to integrate them.

The present paper looks at the practical ways of incorporating P&S into everyday class activity at the Beginners' level. The guiding principles of the selection of the material are: the frequency of usage (for which we rely on recent data) and the material should be congruent with the level of language proficiency of the students. P&S are organized into semantic blocks, such as: food, work and leisure, seasons, parts of the body, clothes, etc.

We give the literal translation and (if possible) an English equivalent. Since proverbs are a sum total of people's wisdom and reflect the mentality of the nation, it is important that students understand the linguo-cultural background; that is why short explanations are provided. It satisfies and stirs language curiosity which is an indispensable part of the learning process.

The paper also deals with P&S that have the same image in both languages: expressions from the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, famous lines from Shakespear,etc. It is important for the students to see the similarities because it gives them the feeling of kinship for another language and culture.

The learning process can be facilitated through visual aids such as pictures, cartoons, and culture capsules. The paper addresses these issues.

Based on the recent pedagogical studies and my own experience, the paper discusses how much additional new material is advisable at the Beginning level when teaching P&S. Five samples that include introduction, translation, explanation, set of exercises, assignments, short texts, culture capsules, and visual material that illustrate the use of P&S are provided.