(Now available in a CD edition!)
This course, used by hundreds of American universities, is easy to use and begins with lessons in audio that emphasize listening and repeating with a given English equivalent (allowing you to listen and practice in your car, etc.). Modern Russian consists of two volumes of eighteen lessons each, designed for a two-year course. Stressing the fundamental structural features of the contemporary spoken language, the thirty-six lessons present a total vocabulary of some 2700 items. Reading and writing is introduced later in the course after you have become familiar with the language. The course is now available in a CD edition that has been remastered with much improved audio quality.
Modern Russian -
MP3 Sample -
Course Structure -
Contents of Modern Russian 1
The materials of Modern Russian, like those of its prototype, the Modern Language Association's Modern Spanish, provide a language course based on audio-lingual principles and aimed at speaking proficiency within the framework of the traditional language program. Modern Russian consists of two volumes of eighteen lessons each, designed for a two-year course.
Stressing the fundamental structural features of the contemporary spoken language, the thirty-six lessons present a total vocabulary of some 2700 items. The audio recordings that accompany the written materials are an integral part of the two-year program.
Audio-lingual principles assume that fluency in a foreign language is acquired less by intellectual analysis than by intensive practice. Awareness of structure is acquired not by memorizing rules and paradigms but by imitation and repetition of basic language patterns and by performance of drills carefully constructed to capitalize on the learner's natural inclination to analogize from material already learned. Language learning thus properly begins with listening and repeating and only later proceeds to reading and writing. These first two stages are of primary importance if the learner is to gain even a minimum control of spoken Russian; for this reason we recommend strongly that most material be presented and practiced with books closed, whether in a class or at home.
Here is an MP3 Sample for the CD version of the Modern Russian course. MP3 is a common sound format for the compression of CD quality audio, and there are many freeware and commercial players downloadable from the Internet, including current versions of the Windows Media Player.
Normally a lesson will take five sessions to cover, though clearly the longer the time spent on a lesson, the more complete the mastery of it is likely to be. The first four lessons are shorter and may therefore be covered in four sessions each. If the course is being used within a class, drills which cannot be covered in class may be assigned for performance in a language laboratory. A course of three class hours a week has been successfully given by Syracuse University with these materials on just such a basis.
A lesson consists of the following parts designed to be used as suggested:
Preparation for Conversation
Anticipating the Conversation to follow, this part presents the basic elements of the Conversation in the order of their appearance, together with parallel English equivalents and, where needed, with phonetic transcription. This material provides a basis for understanding and assimilating the Conversation. Supplementary related words and phrases are also given here.
Simulating situations of contemporary Soviet life, these introduce the basic lexical and structural items of the lesson in dialogue form and in colloquial Russian. The first four lessons contain a single Conversation each; the remaining lessons each contain a pair of Conversations. Notes explain points of cultural difference and of usage and style. For the first five lessons a parallel English equivalent of each Conversation is provided. A phonetic transcription of the Russian is also given as an aid to proper pronunciation in learning the materials; this is presented consistently in the first ten lessons, but only to clarify special problems thereafter. The Conversations, basic to each lesson, are best assimilated to the point of complete memorization. These are recorded on the tapes and CDs for individual repeated listening and imitation. They are presented in four stages: (1) the entire dialogue at natural speed without pauses; (2) the individual sentences, broken down from the end, with pauses for student repetition; (3) complete utterances, again with pauses for student repetition; and (4) the entire dialogue once again at natural speed without pauses.
Basic Sentence Patterns
These are sets of patterned sentences, deriving from the Conversations and illustrating the major structural points of the lesson with the use of new and review vocabulary. They are to be mastered through repeated practice. The Basic Sentence Patterns are paralleled by English equivalents.
To instill habits of correct pronunciation, every lesson provides pronunciation drills, frequently contrastive ones. Additional pronunciation drills, not appearing in the text, are given on the tapes. Lessons 6 through 11 each present an Intonation Practice treating the fundamental patterns of simple sentences.
Structure and Drills
These form the grammatical heart of the course, generally treating four or five major structural points per lesson. Each structural point is developed in five to twelve different drills, with an average of ten responses. The student imitates the models given (generally there are two, the first with an English equivalent), by responding orally to sentences, questions, and/or cues in Russian. All drills are fully recorded on the tapes and CDs with appropriate pauses for student responses, followed by the confirming responses. To make the procedure clear, the desired responses for the first two lessons are printed in full. The drills are widely varied: repetition, substitution, question-answer, subject reversal, transformation, structure replacement, integration, expansion, and progressive substitution. A discussion of a structural point generally follows the drill in which it has been developed.
Reading and Writing
Essentially a recapitulation of the lexical and structural items in the lesson and a review of past items, this part is a reworking of the Conversation materials and provides practice in reading. The portions presented in handwritten form invite practice in dictation or copying (easily self-corrected), as well as in reading a cursive script. Translation of the readings is not recommended.
Experience suggests that presentation of dialogues is most effective when delivered at a normal conversational speed and in natural word groupings (not as words in isolation), with a natural intonation. When the course is used within a classroom choral repetition is helpful in presenting new Conversations in order to bring the class into active participation, and choral recitation of the parts of the dialogue by designated groups of the class provides a useful check on memorizing the Conversations. Memorizing the Conversations, though not indispensable, does result in higher achievement in the structural drills.
Practice in writing - whether mere copying or writing out drill responses specifically assigned for that purpose - should not be neglected, despite the strong oral emphasis of Modern Russian. The writing of selected drills tends to reinforce mastery of the structure and to check on progress being made.