Why study Russian -- or any other Slavic language?
There are a lot of good reasons for studying Slavic and East European languages. There is even a web site
entirely devoted to answering the
question. You should take a look at it in a moment. But the fact that
you are reading this already indicates that you are interested in, or
at least slightly intrigued by the idea of studying Russian, or another one of the Slavic languages we offer. So our question
to you is, Why not
study Russian (or Ukrainian, or Polish, or Czech, or Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian)?
Who could ever learn to read that crazy alphabet?
You can. Our students learn the entire Russian alphabet in the first
week of class and write and read it well by the end of the third week.
After all, about 18 of the letters should at least look familiar to
you already. Have a look. (And in case new alphabets aren't your thing, if you choose to study Polish or Czech, you can stick with the alphabet you already know!)
Anyway, Russian is too difficult. We
are not going to lie to you. The truth is that Russian takes longer
to learn than many other commonly taught languages. But it takes less
time than Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic, to take a few examples. You
don't need special abilities in order to learn Russian. People of average
language abilities learn Russian all the time. You can too.
Russian is impractical. On the contrary! A major in
Russian prepares you for many of the same things that a major in other
humanities disciplines does, and sometimes better. You learn to write
and express yourself well in more than one language. You gain a broader
perspective on American culture and your own history as well as specialized
knowlege of another culture, both of which are of inestimable value
in the current global economy. In fact, that's why Russian
in combination with another major can give you a real edge. Here
the prejudice that Russian is difficult plays in your favor. Russian
on your resume shows that you believe in your abilities, that you accept
challenges, that you are not afraid to go off the beaten path.
I can always study it later. Sure,
but Russian is not offered just everywhere, and who knows if you will
have the time later. Why not do it now?
At Columbia you have one of the top Slavic programs in the country at
your disposal. We are proud of our language program: our students learn
more of the language and learn it better than students at many other
universities. Sign up for Russian, and take a look at our undergraduate
programs. Perhaps you will find one that is right for you. And watch
for our annual open house for prospective majors and concentrators.
Knowing Russian will get you around in a number of beautiful and exciting places whose native languages are rarely taught in the West. (Like to climb? Visit the Caucasus Mountains [left], home to no fewer than 50 distinct languages in addition to Russian.)
The Slavic Department also offers excellent instruction in Czech, Polish, Serbian/ Croatian/ Bosnian, and Ukrainian, and a concentration in Slavic Literature and Culture. Each of these languages can open up a world of culture and opportunities for you. And once you learn one Slavic language, the second one comes easier -- they are all closely related.