Russian 1122: Course Description

This course is a continuation of Russian 1121, but there are a few differences between the two courses.

NEW option in 2016

Completing this course makes you eligible for our two-week summer offering in Moscow, Cornell's first ever language program taught in Russia. Sign up for RUSSA 1127 for ten days of classes in Moscow at the Eralash Theater School. These are not academic language classes. They are more like acting classes: students rehearse and perform humorous skits similar to the Eralash episodes studied in Russian 1121. These classes are taught by Russian theater-arts instructors together with a teacher from our program at Cornell. At their Web site you will see that their goals are актерское мастерство, художественный вкус, умение общаться. Those are our goals as well!

These classes are taught in Moscow in early June. Although taught in the summer as a 2-credit Cornell course, RUSSA 1127 does not involve paying Cornell summer tuition. For information regarding the (modest) tuition charged by Eralash Theater, and about travel and living expenses in Moscow, write to Viktoria Tsimberov, Financial aid may be available from a grant we won for that purpose. Talk to us about the details of the arrangements.

How is 1122 different from 1121?

  • You'll have short reading assignments from What I Saw twice a week. Be sure to read notes on these assignments, below.
  • You won't be writing translations of the dialog in the film; instead, you'll write short summaries in English during the first 8 weeks or so; after that, you won't write anything for the film classes but will memorize a short scene from one of the clips.
  • For each film class, prepare three simple questions on the assigned episodes.
  • You'll record two Lessons each week in Web Audio Lab.
  • You'll write one dictation each week--the dialog assigned for memorization. Dictations will be graded.
  • You'll write one film vocabulary quiz each week. This work will be graded.

The Piazza page for this class is at It is an easy-to-use space to ask and answer any questions, like a mini-forum dedicated to this class.


Note: These materials cover Russian 1121 and Russian 1122

Beginning Russian, Second revised edition by Leed, Nakhimovsky, and Nakhimovsky, Slavica Publishers

5000 Russian Words by Leed and S. Paperno, Slavica Publishers

What I Saw by Boris Zhitkov, annotated by Leed and L. Paperno, Slavica Publishers

Interactive video (online):
Beginning Russian Through Film is a series of annotated interactive movies (excerpts from several REussian films) prepared for language learners by Slava Paperno and Viktoria Tsimberov, with editorial assistance by Matthew Huss. Use it on our Web Audio Lab site under Russian 1122.

Online dictionary:
The Russian Dictionary Tree (under On-line course materials), a greatly expanded online version of 5000 Russian Words

Online Grammar:
Beginning Russian Grammar (On-line course materials), a conveniently organized online version of the grammar sections in Beginning Russian by Leed et al.

Online Self-Test Quizzes:
Beginning Russian Quizzes online at the COLLT site: click About COLLT or COLLT Login under On-line course materials.

Online Web Audio Lab:
Beginning Russian with WAL online at the WAL site: click About WAL or WAL Login under On-line course materials. Use your login name and password from last semester.

Based on your performance in class (active participation, linguistic accuracy and, to a large extent, the results of the quizzes and dictations) (75%) and the final exam (25%).

Russian 1104 may be taken simultaneously with this course for additional conversation practice and credit.

All homework assignments are shown in the Syllabus (the link at the top of this page or in the navigation bar on the left). Homework should take no more than an hour and a half each day, and perhaps less on some days. Four days a week, most of the homework must be done in the language lab or on your computer; ask your teachers for technical advice if needed. Weekly written work includes two short exercises from the book and two short summaries (in English) of the video clips. If you prefer writing translations instead of summaries, feel free to do so, but be aware that this will take longer. Homework is indicated in the syllabus and explained below:

Read in Beginning Russian
Read the assigned Lessons carefully and analyze any new concepts. Make sure you know the meaning of most Russian words and sentences.

Read in What I Saw
If you have the time, read the assigned paragraphs, look at the glosses on the opposing page, and try to understand more or less what every sentence means. It should not be necessary to look up (or, God forbid, write down the English translation of) each word or sentence. This is where you learn to guess the meaning of the sentence from its structure, the familiar words, and your general knowledge of the context and the world. We will always go over this text in class, so if anything remains unclear, we'll figure it out together.

Do the written exercise after reading all the grammar explanations. Write in cursive and leave room for the teacher's comments. Write complete sentences or phrases, even when the exercise requires you merely to fill in the blanks.

Record sound using Web Audio Lab.
Record and submit to our server all exercises in the assigned Lesson. Don't strive for perfection; spend a reasonable amount of time doing this work (twenty to thirty minutes per Lesson).

Beginning Russian Quizzes
Log in to COLLT, select Beginning Russian Quizzes, click Resume to continue where you left off last fall, and skip to the Quiz that is assigned for the day. Read the grammar notes and type the answers to fill all blanks. Click check to verify. You do not need to be always right the first time, but when you make a mistake, try again until you get everything right. When done with the quizzes that are assigned for the day, click the Finish button so that a record of your work is created and dated. Even though these are self-tests and are not graded, you are required to complete them when assigned.

Review in Beginning Russian
Reread the grammar portions of the Lessons and practice saying or acting out the conversations in the assigned exercises from the book. It may be very helpful to do this with a friend.

Memorize from Beginning Russian
We think that memorization is very important in language learning. You must memorize the short dialogs assigned for Wednesday as well as the short scenes from the film clips assigned for many of the film classes. When the scenes are longer than a few sentences, the syllabus says "try to memorize." Do your best!

Watch, understand, write a summary
Use a Windows or Mac OSX computer in the lab or at home to connect to our Web Audio Lab site. In your log-in menu for Russian 1122, select Films (BRTF). Once there, select an assigned part of the film from the top menu and an item from the bottom menu. The items to work on are listed in the Syllabus.

As you watch the clips, read the dialog transcripts aloud, and click any word to consult the on-screen glosses. Make sure you understand the dialog and the events. Do not try to memorize the vocabulary, but do try to imitate the actors' speech. It is a good idea to speak along with the actors in the Role Playing window.

The Syllabus indicates what else (in addition to the video and transcript) you need to work on. This may be Role Playing, Exercises, and/or Discussion.

When you read the text of Role Playing, Exercises, or Discussion, click the words you don't know to see their dictionary entries. Practice performing the dialog, doing the grammatical substitutions, and discussing the scene so you can do the same in class. When (starting with Week 6) the syllabus says "memorize," memorize the assigned dialog or exercise. Write an English summary of the main events in all assigned episodes. If you prefer writing a translation, feel free to do so, but that will take you longer. Don't spend time on things that you don't find very productive. Hand in your text at the end of the class.

If you have trouble using the software, ask your teacher for a demonstration.

Learning the vocabulary in the assigned videos will prepare you for the weekly film vocabulary quiz (translating ten randomly selected Russian phrases from the current week's film assigment).

Attendance is mandatory and crucial. Missing more than four classes without a good reason may affect your grade. If you do have to miss a class for a reason, send your teacher an email, preferably before the class that you have to miss. The most productive way to catch up with the class is to use WAL to record and submit all exercises from the missed Lessons.

One dictation, one film vocabulary quiz each week, and a final exam.

Notes on language learning

Known on our Facebook page as "SLAVA'S BLACK SWAN MANIFESTO", here are a few notes on language learning that describe some the principles that inspire our teaching. Read them if you wonder why we teach the way we do, or if you find yourself spending too much time doing homework ("too much" is more than 60-90 minutes--on average--for each class).

Language is not arithmetic. You don't learn a language in a specific order, and you don't learn something once and for all. You can, and usually do, learn by performing a variety of steps; you learn a portion of each step at a time; you learn gradually, adding one layer after another. It's like making a snowball.
You are not a robot. Everyone learns at his or her own pace. The pace is uneven: you seem to be stuck for a week or two, then suddenly you feel that you can do a lot more now, then the learning slows down again. Some people learn to read sooner than they learn to speak; for some people speaking comes more easily than understanding spoken speech.
It is useful to have a foreign accent. You may take months to learn how to make certain sounds while others can imitate the natives with little effort. Do not lose your accent: in Russia, when you sound like a foreigner, people give you allowances for your mistakes, and they pay attention to what you are trying to say.
Languages are not governed by rules. A programming language is based on rules while a natural language is a living, breathing, and often unpredictable system that does not follow static paths. What some people call "rules" are our observations on the behavior of the language. Like everywhere in nature, we see variation, change, and quirks. Okay, perhaps capitalization is governed by man-made rules, but capitalization is merely a cosmetic detail of the language.
Where there are no rules, there are no exceptions. Russian may have fewer than a dozen nouns that end in -mya but that doesn't make them an anomaly. They are lovely nouns. Three of them are extremely common. Just because something is rare, we don't have to call it an ugly duckling. Some of the so-called exceptions are easily explained by the history of the language... and some, yes, some are accidents. Natural history is full of them, too.
Lists are useless. Trying to memorize series of endings or words is largely unproductive. Of course there are vocabulary lists in the textbook's Grammar Reviews, as well as in the glossary pages in What I Saw and in the glossary panels in Beginning Russian Through Film on the web. Use them to test yourself every now and then if you like, but don't try to learn from those lists. You learn by hearing, reading, writing, typing, speaking words and phrases again and again--in WAL, COLLT, dictations, conversations, drills--by exercising as many of your abilities as you can. Mechanical learning and creative learning both have their legitimate place in language study. Variety and context are the key.
Guessing is learning. In a mathematical formula, if you don't know the value of a variable, you don't know the value of the equation. Language is better: you can guess. Think of your daily interaction with the world: you are guessing all the time. When your guess is verifiable, you learn from your guess; when it isn't, you store the experience for later. Use that strategy while reading in a foreign language, and even while listening. If you look up and write down the translation of every word, you'll never be able to read War and Peace.
We are all authors. Every time you make a statement, in your first language or in a foreign language, you create fiction. Statements like 2 + 2 = 4 may be facts, but most of what we say and write are our own inventions that may be very close to reality or quite removed from it. This is not because we lie. It's because we are all artists. Remember this when the textbook tells you that you have broken a "rule."
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Dept. of Comparative literature • Russian Language Program • 240 Goldwin Smith Hall • Cornell University • Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA
tel. 607/255-4155 • fax 607/255-8177 • email