Language Breakdown in Russia: Situation-Specific Occurrences

When students participate on a study abroad experience, they experience a number of different types of situations and contexts outside of the classroom, such as giving or asking for directions on the street, buying products at a store, hanging out with friends at clubs or concerts or buying train or bus tickets. Some of these situations and contexts may be very similar to ones the students experience in their native country, while others may be completely different. In cases where the situations and contexts deviate from the students’ perceived knowledge of the situation, students may experience communication breakdown or feel some type of stress or frustration in regards to their language use.

Kaplan (1989) conducted a study of students studying abroad in France. She gave them a list of situations and contexts and asked them to identify which were the most satisfying and which were the most frustrating for them. In the case of talking at meals with native French speakers, seeking travel advice and reading the newspaper, students found these situations both satisfying and frustrating.

The purpose of this study is to identify potential satisfying and frustrating situations and contexts which students studying abroad in Russia may encounter. The informants in the study participated in a summer study abroad program sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian. The situations and contexts mentioned above will be identified and categorized as satisfying or frustrating through the use of calendar diaries and journal entries, which the students completed during their seven-week study abroad experience in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The results of this study will be helpful in preparing students who participate in study abroad programs in Russia. They can be alerted to possible satisfying and frustrating situations which they might encounter.