There are many good reasons to learn the Russian language

Deepa Sekhar completed her Class XII from Bharathi Matriculation School, Madurai, last year and secured a full scholarship to study marine engineering in Astrakhan State Technical University in Southern European Russia.

Her five year main degree programme starts this fall. In the last 10 months during the preparatory course she established herself as the best foreign student knowing Russian language in her class of 55 students from different nationalities. Deepa apparently is the only Indian in the city of Astrakhan and the only girl student enrolled in the course, which even prompted the Indian Ambassador to have an hour long meeting with her before she joined the programme.

She left her hometown with another credit. She became the first student from Madurai in the last quarter century to bag a scholarship of the Russian Government that would finance her five year degree programme.

Deepa lives her dream largely due to her hard work and the efforts of so many other people in her life including her parents and teachers. One of them is Kravets Zoya Vladimorovna who taught her Russian.

Kravets runs two Centres for Russian Language Courses affiliated to the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Chennai. There are 13 such language study centres of the Russian embassy in India, of which two are in southern Tamil Nadu. But not many in the region are aware of it.

“People from the region still go to Chennai to learn Russian,” rues Kravets who is married to Dr. A. Manavalan and has been living here for the past two decades. A pedagogical degree holder, she came to work in the Embassy as a translator. Marriage brought her to Madurai. The opportunity to teach Russian came her way when the city hosted higher education exposition-fair two years ago for students wishing to study abroad and top Russian Universities participated in it.

Her qualifications landed her the job in small town Madurai. Entrusted with the responsibility, Kravets found teaching Russian was easier than finding students. Every batch she takes should have minimum six and maximum 20 students. Initially, only a few individuals going to Russia on business came for a crash course but Kravets couldn’t take them as a group. Only when the Le Chatlier School management stepped in to help, things began to look up.

Now two centres are run out of the school premises at Melur and in Madurai city. In both the places, 10 of its own students were enrolled at each centre last year besides another four from other schools. Depending on the student’s progress, Kravets runs two/three or five-month course starting with the basics and graduating to the advanced levels.

From day one, students start learning Russian poems, songs and how to converse in the language. All study material is provided by the centre and it also conducts an exam before giving away certificates to the students.

“Russian is one of the most difficult languages and the pronunciation is also very tough,” says Kravets, but appreciates each of her student’s ability to grasp. The syllabus is designed by the Chennai-based Russian centre to familiarise the students with Russian culture as well.

Four of her students applied for scholarship in Russian universities last year and Deepa made it.

Not only the applications have to be filled in Russian but knowing a language also helps in understanding the people and culture of another country better, says Kravets.

She laments not getting enough students to the centre. Lack of publicity and ignorance about the various study programmes available in Russian Universities, she says, keeps them away. Many professionals are still not aware of such a centre in Madurai, she says.

The fee is Rs.1,000 a month and the duration of the course depends on the individual’s ability and progress.

With Class XII results expected next month, students on vacation now could perhaps make use of the opportunity to learn Russian. The Russian Government offers international scholarships in various disciplines to selected students having proficiency in Russian language.

Even those students going on private finance can enrol at this centre to learn and get the Language certificate as it helps in various ways. In the wake of Indo-Russian goodwill and cooperation in various projects, there are ample placement opportunities as well.

The centre is run not just for the scholarship programme but to facilitate students, adults and professionals alike to learn the language in case of an opportunity to visit, study or work in Russia in the future.

Says Kravets, “the language barrier can make the work a tall task whereas some basic knowledge can brighten study and job prospects for all.”

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