When choosing a school in Moscow — again, as with everything else in the city – you have to be cautious. Source: PhotoXPress
Over the past fifteen to twenty years, many private Russian-language schools have thrown open their doors to foreign enthusiasts.
Every year, people from all over the world
come to Moscow to try to absorb the Russian language. Learning Russian through
a university has remained as the most traditional option, but over the past
fifteen to twenty years, many private language schools have thrown open their
doors to foreign enthusiasts.
Like many aspects of life in the city, the
supply of schools is vast, but cluttered and often confusing for those who do
not know their way around.
The schools face challenges too, especially
the difficult task of distinguishing themselves from others. Many try to make
their organization excel by creating their own unique combinations of size,
location, price, programs and/or target group. "Russianlab,"
"Language Link," and "Ruspeak" are three of the main Moscow
schools now capturing the attention of linguists, with Liden & Denz also
maintaining its high yearly international intake.
Russian language school
"Russianlab" decided to focus on teaching expatriates. Because this
cross section of foreigners tends to be in Moscow for long periods of time,
many require a method of teaching which is more focussed on enhancing students'
daily use of Russian.
"Russianlab" chose a central
location near Kropotkinskaya metro station in order to appeal to their focus
group. "This location is very expensive," said Elena Nikiforova,
founder of Russianlab. "I took a risk when we started up. But it worked
The site is close to many embassies, making
it convenient for them to send employees there. Russianlab opened in 2007 and
has since developed a working relationship with prestigious programs such as
"Alpha Fellowship Program" and "Skolkovo".
Read section: Education in Russia
Nikiforova has a degree of technical
knowledge, having been schooled as a linguist, with more than eight years
teaching experience. Later, she decided to concentrate on management.
Nikiforova explained why learning Russian can be challenging for native
speakers of English.
"Russian and other Slavic languages
are synthetical," Nikiforova said. "This means that when learning
Russian, you first need to learn the broad basis of grammatical constructions
and rules that take at least a few months to acquire before you can express
yourself properly." The process speeds up once you master these rules.
However, English is an analytical language.
"If you learn a few hundred words you can start a conversation and it
seems to the listener that you talk correctly and he will think that you speak
English," Nikiforova said, pointing out that it is still necessary to
continuously learn new words in order to improve.
Another popular school is "Language
Link". They opened in 1994 and operate in four Russian cities, with their
Moscow office being the largest. Language Link tries to stay 'on top' by
offering a great variety of learning programs, backed up by the ability to
provide a long-term experience for their pupils.
"We are the only private school that
can supply one year of academic schooling. Every year we have about 30-40
students from universities like Birmingham that send students to our
school," said Maria Cherkasova, the manager of Language Link.
Beside the academic program, they also have
a "Work and Study" program, during which you work teaching your
native language for moneyin order to cut the costs of your own education.
The market does not seem to be saturated
yet. The latest addition to Moscow's offer in language schools is Ruspeak. This
Russian language school officially opened it is doors in September 2012 and,
according to their director, Yelena Merabova, already teaches around 50
students. Merabova gained experience teaching Russian at the Pushkin Institute.
"We adapt the learning program to the
needs of our students, unlike the universities, for example, which only teach
according to their predesigned method," Merabova said.
In practice, this means that Ruspeak will
change the speed, nature or topic of teaching, depending on the student's
In general, most of the language schools
have taken up Russian culture as part of their teachings. Despite Merabova's
Georgian descent, Images of Russian heroes such as Yuri Gagarin and Alexander
Pushkin adorn the walls of the classroom.
An interesting specialty of the school is
its "discussion club." These weekly meetings are free and participants
do not have to be enrolled at the school. The school welcomes all foreigners
wanting to practice their Russian in a controlled environment with the guidance
of a teacher. Topics of discussion tend to include Russian culture,
stereotypes, society and Russian idioms, the knowledge of which can be a great
help with day-to-day life in the country.
Liden & Denz is one more long term
option for acquiring the Russian language. The company started in 1992 and has
premises in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. It takes in roughly 1000
international students on a yearly basis, with many coming from big-name
organizations, while also offering unpaid work experience placements to its
Every person has its own demands and
preferences when learning a language. But when choosing a school in Moscow —
again, as with everything else in the city –
you have to be cautious.
"Be careful what you read on the
website," Cherkasova said. "Especially when it comes to group
classes, schools that say they do, may not actually have this option."
Nikiforova is even more pessimistic.
"There are a lot of schools — but maybe five of them are actually
serious," Nikiforova said.
First published in The Moscow Times.
All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.