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Why Study Russian?

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way,” says psycholinguist Frank Smith. Being able to fluently converse and read and write in another language is a powerful skill and tool that will help you excel in a variety of career paths. Learning foreign languages allows you intimate insight into another culture, another way of life, and improves your overall understanding of grammar and the utility of language. Communication is key to helping improve international relations, especially among disparate groups or countries in conflict. Those with training and skill in another language can be vital assets to companies and organizations. Here's why aspiring language students should consider learning Russian.

Jun 6, 2020
  • Education
Why Study Russian?

1. One of the most spoken languages in the world

Russian, or русский язык, is the official language of Russia and also of nearby Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring countries Belarus and Kazakhstan. Also widely spoken and used for official business throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, Russian is spoken by more than 260 million people in the world, according to Russian is also spoken in the United States, where there are an estimated 850,000 Russian speakers.

As the eighth most spoken language in the world, learning Russian can open doors for you. A Slavic based language, originating from the Indo-European language family, Russian uses a unique alphabet, based on the Cyrillic script, and grammatical structure, which can be difficult for learners but also provides a fascinating and stimulating challenge.

Serious man looking at laptop wearing headset learning foreign language

2. Fascinating diverse culture and food

“I always wanted to see for myself what it is like to live in another country, get acquainted with other people’s traditions, their mentality. Russia has turned out to be a fascinating country in many aspects. I am even somewhat frustrated that I will have to leave soon,” Hassan Rezhna Ismaiil, an international student in St. Petersburg, told QS Wow News.

Russia is a complex country with diverse cultural treasures to explore and a variety of wonderful cuisine to try. Learning the Russian language will give you the ability to experience Russian culture and food like a real Russian.

“When temperatures can drop to -30°C during Moscow’s winter, it’s no surprise that Russian food is typically hearty; potatoes, bread, pastry and sour cream often feature as common ingredients. Yet delicate smoked fishes, thin papery crêpes and red and black caviar are equal contenders in Russian cuisine. You may feel French influences show through in several dishes, although the Russian versions stand on their own merit,” writes Expatica.

3. Employment opportunities

Aside from the cultural exposure and Russian cuisine, learning Russian can open more employment opportunities for you after you graduate. Yale University graduate Joseph Doran participated in a study abroad experience in Russia and it had a profound impact on his life and career trajectory. He spent a year in the National Security Language Initiative living in Moldova and studying Russian. “I had never travelled farther than Ohio, never even been on a plane,” he said. Doran enjoyed his study abroad experience so much that his long term goal is to become an economic officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, possibly in Ukraine, putting his Russian language skills to good use.

Translators, interpreters, language teachers, and more are just some of the jobs you might pursue from learning Russian. Russian language specialists are coveted by governments like the United States because fluent foreign-language speakers are essential to successful international policy and diplomacy. “Federal agencies have identified Russian as a priority language of national need,” according to the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University.

It is not just government and diplomacy jobs -- learning Russian can set you up for success in a variety of other professions. MosaLingua explains, “Having the opportunity of including on your CV that you master Russian will always make you stand out, even if the position you’re applying for doesn’t require you to speak Russian or any other languages. For an employer, being able to immerse yourself in and continue to learn a language which is considered to be difficult to learn will demonstrate dedication, recursion and perseverance (such qualities are highly sought in candidates). In short, being able to speak Russian speaks about your intellect.”

4. It’s a language of the future; former Soviet/Russian-speaking countries are opening up

Some experts say Russian is the language of the future. Since former Soviet Union countries -- which typically speak Russian, at least to some degree -- are opening up, there will be more and more opportunities for companies and organizations to work in the region. One example is the country of Kazakhstan. “Rather than aligning with Western countries and closing opportunities for trade and cooperation with Russia, it has taken an open approach to cooperation with Russia, China, Middle-Eastern countries and the US/EU. This ‘multi-vector’ approach has afforded Kazakhstan strong economic growth while maintaining harmonious relations between the ethnic Kazakhs and Russians,” reports Glenn Diesen for The

If you’re interested in working in the region, then learning Russian is key. Businesses, companies, and organizations will more readily hire you if you know Russian. In 2019, Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times, “Russia set a goal to quicken its economic expansion — to grow faster than the world as a whole — as a way to secure the country’s position as a dominant global power.” Knowing Russian will put you in an excellent position to participate in the country’s economic growth. You will more easily find a job overseas or land one in your home country as the Russian expert.

5. Read Russian literature from the likes of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Pushkin in its original language

War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and more -- Russian literature has produced some of the most significant authors and novels of the 19th and 20th centuries. By learning Russian you can read Russian literature --some of the greatest novels and stories in literature -- with the original texts, exactly as the authors intended.

“The 19th century is the golden age for Russian literature with Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekov, Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy creating some of Russia’s greatest pieces of literature. It was also where the literary movement Russian Romanticism was established, which explores metaphysical discontent with society and self, from notable authors like Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov,” writes literature enthusiast Michael Kitto for Medium.

The challenging process of learning to read and write the Cyrillic script will all be worth it when you can open Russian books, newspapers, and websites and feel the sense of accomplishment in gradually being able to read and comprehend them. Translations do a good job of approximating meaning and can allow access to subject matters and stories that one normally wouldn’t be able to access without knowledge of the language of origin. However, there is something unique and truly special about reading a text in the original language in which it was written.

Learning a foreign language can be the most challenging and rewarding endeavor you can take on. It will certainly open doors for you professionally, but it will also, most likely, provide profound personal growth and an overall more expansive world view. Russian language learning is one way to achieve both.

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