Russian 2203: Course Description

Intermediate Russian: 12 Chairs by Slava Paperno, Alexander Nakhimovsky, Alice Nakhimovsky, and Richard L. Leed, Slavica Publishers. (Bookstores under Russian 2203.)

Audio recordings:
RIT-1, RIT-2 (texts in each Lesson in the book); these recordings are linked to the Syllabus so you can listen online.


  • The 12 Chairs multimedia is a Cornell-only resource available from Click Register and create an account using your email address. Log out and log in again, and you will have free subscriptions to all titles on the site.
  • «6 кадров», mini-videos linked to the Syllabus; also available from a link under On-line course materials.

Computer exercises
"Intermediate Russian Exercises" online at the COLLT site (click COLLT under On-line course materials). These exercises will help you prepare for the Verb classes (explained below). See also the COLLT FAQ.

Russian Web sites
Web pages in Russian, linked to the Syllabus.

Any good Russian-English and English-Russian dictionary, e.g. by Kenneth Katzner, published by John Wiley and Sons (Bookstores under Russian 2203). Also, The Russian Dictionary Tree on our Web site under On-line course materials.

One midterm and a final examination.

Grading and attendance:
About three quarters of your grade will be based on your performance in class. One quarter of your grade depends on the final exam. Missing more than four classes without a good reason will affect your grade. If you do have to miss a class, send an email to your teacher, preferably before the class that you have to miss. When you recover, be sure to ask your teachers for help catching up. We'll always be happy to help.

Course structure:
The textbook has eighteen Lessons. Nine Lessons are covered in Russian 2203 and nine in Russian 2204, in the spring. Each Lesson is typically covered in one week, or four classes:

  • Text or Mini-Video class
  • Film or Mini-Video class
  • Verb practice class
  • Translation/Grammar/Reading class

The course includes a few review weeks, when the most recent Lessons are reviewed, and additional reading classes are taught (mostly using contemporary materials from Russian Web sites).

See Rooms and times for meeting times and places. See Syllabus for specific assignments for each class. The rest of this Course Description tells you how to do your homework and what to expect in class.

Assignment for the Text class:

  1. Read the Text once without consulting the dictionary at the end of the book, i.e. consult only the Text Comments and the little Text Glossary printed immediately after the Text. At this first reading, you will only scan the Text and try to understand its general contents. As you read, the stress marks on the key words in the Text indicate that these words are included in the little Text Glossary.
  2. Listen to the recording of the Text online. Note and mark stress on all unfamiliar words in the Text. In class you will be asked to read aloud parts of the Text. You will see links to the recordings in the Syllabus.
  3. Read the Text again, carefully, using the dictionary at the back of the book. You will not be expected to use the entire Text vocabulary in your speech, but you should know what every word means.
  4. Prepare Text Exercises 1 and 2. You are not required to write anything for the Text class.
  5. Be ready to act out short scenes from the text. Text Exercise 3 may be helpful when preparing for this.

Assignment for the Mini-Video class

  1. Watch the «6 кадров» mini-videos assigned for the day (see the links in the Syllabus or use the link under On-line course materials). Make sure you understand every word; write a transcript for each video--we are not providing transcripts or glossaries ahead of the class (except for a few expressions that may be hard to figure out). Look up the unfamiliar words in a dictionary. Bring your transcript to class. The day after the class, a complete transcript will be displayed on the Mini-Video site so you can fully verify your udnerstanding of every word. Type an English translation of the complete transcript before your next Mini-Video class and submit it using the homework submission box below the transcript.
  2. Memorize the dialog in all assigned mini-videos. Make sure you can recite the dialog imitating the actors' intonation.
  3. Prepare for acting out scenes improvised on the basis of the assigned mini-videos: make up a few remarks, similar to the ones in the video, to start a conversation with a classmate. For example, in one of the videos a customer asks the pharmacist if they have a pregnancy test. You may want to ask a classmate if his pharmacy has toothpaste or some other article with a familiar Russian name. Take notes on the scenarios you want to use in class. These notes are only for you own use--you will not be asked to submit them. In class, your scene may or may not go quite the way you scripted it, so be prepared to be flexible. If you decide to ask the pharmacist for Tylenol, be sure to find the Russian spelling of Tylenol and how to say that you have a headache. On the other hand, your classmates will ask you questions from their scripts that you are not familiar with; again, you'll have to improvise when you respond.

Assignment for the Film class:

The 12 Chairs multimedia is a Cornell-only resource available from Create an account and ask your teacher to subscribe that account to the film. Do this early in the semester, before you see assignments for the film in the syllabus.If you do not own a computer, use the ones in the Language Resource Center in Noyes Lodge. You will watch the movie on the computer screen. On the same screen, you will see a window with various notes on the episode (summaries, transcripts, and descriptions). Every word in the notes has an English gloss: just click the word. Some words and phrases are linked to still images or short video clips. If you need help in using the site, read its on-screen Help (click the question mark button) or ask your teachers for a demonstration.

For the film work, the class is divided into two groups. Each student in the class should watch the entire assignment. In addition, each group is assigned a few scenes for more detailed study. See Syllabus for details.

When the Syllabus says "watch and understand..." you should watch the assignment a few times and try to understand as much dialog as you can. Consult the notes on the screen. If some of the dialog is difficult to understand, consult the on-screen transcript. Be prepared to answer questions about the entire assignment.

Then watch again the individual episodes that are shown in the syllabus as your group's assignment for "detailed study." Re-read the notes. Memorize as much of the dialog and the notes as you can. Be prepared to report on the episodes in class. Each scene's Summary will help you to report on the events. Each scene's Descriptions will help you to report on the characters and objects. The stage remarks in the summaries and transcripts will help you to report on specific actions. Be prepared to answer other students' questions about the episode(s). You may also be asked to act out your scenes.

The syllabus includes one or two questions for each scene that is assigned for detailed study. Write (in Russian) and submit the answers to these questions. Your answers should be as close as possible to the actual text of the Transcript, Summary, or Description.

For each film class, prepare 2-3 questions on the assigned episodes. In class, your questions will be answered by your classmates as part of the discussion.

Some days are indicated in the Syllabus as review classes. For these days, you should work in pairs. With your partner, watch the entire episode(s) again. Make up your own skits (one or two short ones) along the lines of any scene(s) in the film. Memorize your dialog and be prepared to perform it in class.

Assignment for the Verb class:

The purpose of this class is to learn how to conjugate all verbs listed in Exercise 7 (and practiced in all other Лексико-граммaтические упражнения aka verb exercises) and use them correctly in your own speech and writing.

Work with all verb exercises in the book as well as the Intermediate Exercises on the COLLT site. COLLT will give you practice and help evaluate your progress. The green "skip" button allows you to go directly to the assigned Lesson. As you type to fill the blanks, use any source for reference: the glossary at the end of the Intermediate Russian book, the table on pp. 286, 287, the online Russian Dictionary Tree (under On-line course materials), or any other publication. The online exercises, just like the same ones in the book, show the use of the verbs in their most common meanings. Work until you get all the endings right. To conclude this work, use the last page for the Lesson in COLLT to record four sentences of your own that include some of the verbs in the Lesson. Use the verbs in the same basic meanings that are illustrated in the exercises so the class stays "on the same page." Do not read from your written text: try to speak as naturally as possible, the way you would in class. You will be asked to repeat them in class as a starter for improvised conversations. Your work on verbs will be evaluated on the basis of your performance in class. When doing COLLT work, always revise your answers until you get all of them right. Your score is displayed after you click Finish. The expected 100% score you should achieve after doing each Lesson is shown in the syllabus. Ignore COLLT's message about leaving too many questions unanswered--that's because there are 18 Lessons in the book, and you're only doing one Lesson at a time.

A note about Grammar sections at the back of the book (also online under "Russian Verbs" in the On-line course materials section of the navigation bar):
These are entirely optional. If you can master the verbs simply by memorizing the conjugation patterns for various groups of verbs, you do not need to consult any other materials. If, however, you would like to try and find some sense in the seemingly chaotic Russian conjugation system, read the indicated sections in the "Overview of Russian Conjugation" in the textbook. You will not be responsible for knowing the rules or the principles described there; they are there only to help you learn the verbs analytically rather than by brute force. Still, brute force is also OK.

Assignment for the Translation class:

  1. Write the Translation exercise, called Перевод in each Lesson. It is always the last exercise in the Lesson. Start by reading--carefully!--the grammatical explanation that precede the actual English sentences for translation. Then write the Russian translation of each sentence. As you do this, review the necessary parts of Text (and Dialogs, if assigned; if the syllabus never assigns the Dialogs portion of the Lesson, then you are not responsible for this part of the translation exercise). Your teacher will ask you to hand in your translation at the end of the class. If you would like to type your translations, you may want to download an MS Word file with the English text of all Translation exercises, including the explanations. The file is a Windows self-extracting archive.
  2. Make up four English sentences with the type of translation problems that are covered in this Lesson's Translation exercise. In class, you will ask your classmates to translate your sentences into Russian.

Assignment for the Verb review class:

  1. Review all verbs and grammar exercises from the Lessons included in the review (usually those covered since the previous review class).
  2. Write several (5 to 8) questions about anything you like, using as many verbs from these Lessons as you can. In class you will ask these questions, and your classmates will answer them. Instead of writing questions, you may write a story to tell in class, or meet with a classmate and write a dialog together, then perform it in class.

Assignment for the WWW class:

Read the assigned Web page and try to figure out what it says. Use a good dictionary (a paperback edition of a R-E and E-R dictionary by Kenneth Katzner should serve you very well), but do not try to translate every sentence. The art of reading in a foreign language requires a fair proportion of guessing. When reading Russian, an understanding of the grammatical structure of the sentence will often provide very good clues.

You will not be asked to discuss these stories or to use their Russian vocabulary. The purpose of this assignment is to practice reading and understanding. Do not spend more than an hour and a half on this assignment.

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Dept. of Comparative literature • Russian Language Program • 240 Goldwin Smith Hall • Cornell University • Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA
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