Reading Russian is Easy: Techniques for Developing Reading in a Russian for Reading Course

Lora Mjolsness, University of California, Irvine

This presentation is based on my experience teaching a Russian for Reading Course over the past seven years. This course primarily is designed for students interested in acquiring a solid reading knowledge of Russian, and in facilitating the understanding and translating of Russian texts dealing with a variety of disciplines. The main aim of the course is to improve students’ reading skills in Russian, develop basic translation skills and increase their awareness of cultural differences.

One main problem in teaching this course is the need to isolate the skill of reading from the skills of comprehension, speaking and listening. In the past Dewey and Mersereau’s Reading and Translating Contemporary Russian: An Introduction (Passport Books, 1989), Arant’s Russian for Reading (Slavica, 1981) and Levin and Haikalis’s Reading Modern Russian (Slavica, 1979) have been utilized to teach this course. These textbooks all have their strengths; however, their exercises do not reflect changes in vocabulary usage in the past fifteen years. Another challenging problem in teaching this course is finding ways to optimize classroom-teaching procedures involving a diverse group of students with varying backgrounds in Russian from no Russian language background to heritage speakers.

The main purpose of this presentation is to outline the teaching techniques used in the classroom to engage the diverse group of students and to examine the effectiveness and difficulties with exercises designed to isolate the skill of reading Russian. The conclusion of this presentation underscores the need for exercises designed to enhance reading skills, the inclusion of exercises that reflect changes in both language and culture in the past fifteen years and also the desirability of new teaching materials and methods to meet these needs.