Growing a Russian-Language Community at a Mid-Western Liberal Arts College

A Project Prototype by Maria Hristova

published on Jul 1, 2016


DePauw students of Russian investigate why the Russian-speaking community at the university has dwindled to the point of virtually disappearing. There are no international students who speak Russian as their first or second language; in addition, the Russian program is having problems with low enrollments. What this means for current students of Russian is that they have no conversation partners or a community to turn to outside of the classroom. This is a big problem for learners of a foreign language.


This project will investigate why there is no Russian-language community on and around campus and will attempt to rectify the situation in two ways. First, we will attempt to recruit more students to take Russian language or Russian Studies classes; second, we will reach out to Russian students in Russian-speaking countries and advertise DePauw as a great option for pursuing a B.A. or for study abroad.

Final product:

The final product will be a bilingual website connected to the DePauw Modern Languages and Russian Studies parent websites. The English version will be geared towards incoming American and English-speaking students and the Russian version will target potential international Russian (or Slavic)-speaking students.



Overview files comments



Implementation Info

Implementation information not specified.

Preparing for the Project


I will show segments from several videos that introduce two main ideas: what is "college experience" and the differences between the college experiences in the US and Russia;  cultural stereotypes: American ideas about Russians and Russian ideas about Americans. This will set up the stage for increasing self-awareness (what it means to be a college student) and cultural awareness (learning to see yourself and your culture through the lens of a different culture). 

1) Moses Maksimov's channel (a Russian-speaking student from Almaty, Kazakhstan) on YouTube. Episodes include

a) a short self-introduction and how he learned English ( and

b) his poll of what Americans think/know about Russia (

2) Polina Shuravina's channel (a Russian student from Tumen, Russia) on YouTube. Episodes include

a) first impressions in the US ( and

b) different types of relationships (

Launching the Project


Each student introduces themselves in their respective L1. My students take notes on what they think is different/unusual about the introduction of the Russian students. We will also have access to the written text to further disect and analyze in class. My counterpart and I could enact an "interview" or "talk" about some differences in education and the idea of study away/international community.

Task Extension

1) Write out an autobiography in English to be read to Russian students learning English

2) Read/listen to and deconstruct a similar autobiography by a Russian student (in R)

3) Compare/contrast

4) Rewrite autobio in Russian intended for a Russian audience

5) Run it by the R students

6) Post both versions on the English and Russian parts of the webpage, respectively

Managing the Project


1) Investigate why there are no Russian speakers on campus

a) Why are there so few students of Russian?

- poll 10-16 students each from different majors/years/interest groups (in English - report back results in R)

b) Why are there no international students from Russophone countries?

- interview admission officers, financial aid officers, international student organization officers (in English - report back results in R)

2) Come up with answers based on results (for international admissions)

3) Verify answers with Russian students

4) Come up with ideas on how to solve these two probelms: no interest among US students and no international students

5) Decide on which solutions to implement (posters, skits, video guide to Indiana, interviews with other DePauw students translated into Russian, etc)

6) In groups, come up with a desired final product, timeline for implementation, other areas that will require help (from the IT office, f.e.)

7) Present the final products and integrate them successfully into the webpage




1) give feedback on any written output after the end of each phase

2) benchamarks

3) grade vocabulary quizes based on project needs, listening comprehension exercises

4) grade ability to reuse material in new contexts with no scaffolding

Implementation Info