Staunton, November 6 – Marina Savchenko, who has been sent from Russia to Uzbekistan to help promote Russian language instruction there, says that many of the problems her language faces in that Central Asian country arise from the fact that it lies in a gray zone, no longer an official language but not yet a foreign one.
As a result, Tashkent devotes too few hours to it for young Uzbeks to learn the language and Russian language instructors who teach Russian literature as well have to sacrifice the latter so that their students will learn more of the language (uz.sputniknews.ru/analytics/20201105/15332360/Russkiy-yazyk-v-Uzbekistane-malo-vremeni-mnogo-zhelaniya-i-fishki-v-izuchenii.html).
That means that the acquisition of Russian does not automatically mean the acquisition of Russian culture as some assume. The language is being reduced to a technical skill rather than a cultural unifier. And Russian instructors, Savchenko continues, are making this situation worse by the pedantic way they often teach it.
Instead of promoting conversational Russian, they focus on grammatical rules. Not only do few Uzbek students master all of these, but the time spent on them often means that they are turned off by Russian rather than attracted to it and that the few hours a week devoted to Russian are having a very different effect than many in Moscow may assume.
“The overwhelming majority” of Russian language teachers in Uzbekistan, Savchenko concedes, “are people of the older generation.” They learned the language in Soviet times, and they continue to use methodologies which have been superseded by more effective ones that should be used now.
Moscow is helping, sending 32 teachers this year and planning to send 100 more next; but that is a drop in the bucket considering the size of Uzbekistan and its school-age population. And here Savchenko makes what is perhaps her most interesting point: She concedes that many students won’t use Russian much after they leave school.
In major urban areas, they will find a use for their Russian; but in rural locations, most will speak Uzbek and not use Russian except on increasingly rare occasions. Teachers of the language must recognize that and not try to bring all students up to a single urban or even more Moscow standard.
Instead, she suggests, Russian language instructors be they native or arrivals from the Russian Federation should focus now on promoting Russian language knowledge among those who will really use it, effectively writing off the still-enormous rural population as remaining ever more apart from the Russian world Moscow likes to talk about.