RUSSA1121 Course Description in the Russian Language Program at Cornell University
Russian 1121: Course Description

Books:
Leed, Nakhimovsky, and Nakhimovsky Beginning Russian, Second revised edition, Slavica Publishers. (Here are the first 8 Lessons in PDF format that you may use if your copy of the book hasn't arrived yet.)

Leed, Paperno 5000 Russian Words, Slavica Publishers

Boris Zhitkov What I Saw, Slavica Publishers

Note: These books cover Russian 1121 and Russian 1122.

Interactive video:
Beginning Russian Through Film (BRTF under On-line course materials in the navigation bar on the left) is a series of annotated digital movies on our Web site. It can be used on the Windows and Mac OS X computers in the language lab in Noyes Lodge. You may also be able to use the site on your own computer (Windows or Macintosh) from your room. Authored by Slava Paperno and Viktoria Tsimberov, editorial assistance by Matthew Huss.

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

Beginning Russian Grammar (under 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.


Tests and papers:
Beginning with the 3rd week, a 4-minute dictation (graded) each week and three Review Papers over the semester. The dictation is always one of the exercises assigned for memorization for that day. The Review Papers should be printed from this PDF page. The final exam consists of over 100 questions (mostly fill-in-the blanks) taken from the quizzes, the three Review Papers, and written homework. Save all your corrected work so you can use it to study for the final exam.

Grading:
75% of the grade is based on your performance during the semester: active participation in class, linguistic accuracy in speech and writing, the quality of the dictations and all homework, and the timely completion of the self-test quizzes and sound recordings. 25% of the grade is based on the final exam.

Attendance:
Mandatory and crucial; missing more than four classes without a good reason may affect your grade. If you do have to miss a class, send an email to your teacher before the class that you have to miss. If you are not feeling well, do the work that can be done on your computer when you recover, and ask your teachers for help catching up when you come back to class. We'll always be happy to help. The most productive way to catch up with the class is to use WAL to record and submit all exercises from the missed Lessons.

Russian 1103 may be taken simultaneously with this course for additional credit and conversation practice. See its Syllabus and a detailed description under Courses in the navigation bar.

Homework:
All homework is shown in the Syllabus. It should take 60 to 90 minutes each day. Four days a week part of the homework must be done in the language lab or on your own computer (Windows or Macintosh):

The details of each type of homework are described below. Different types of work are assigned on different days of the week.

Read and analyze
Read the grammar explanations first, then the exercises that are related to these explanations. Then read the entire lesson, taking note of the English translations. Make sure you know your way around the dictionary, 5000 Russian Words and consult it whenever you have a question.
Web Audio Lab
Log in to WAL, select Beginning Russian Quizzes, select the Lesson and Exercise assigned for the day and click Go. Click Start and follow the directions: listen and read when prompted, speak when the red line starts moving across the screen. After the last dot in the bottom row turns green (which means that your ;ast recording has been submitted), select the next exercise. For detailed directions, see the links About WAL and WAL Login under On-line course materials.
Beginning Russian Quizzes
Log in to COLLT, select Beginning Russian Quizzes, click Start (or Resume if this is not your first login) and go 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. For detailed directions, see the links About COLLT and COLLT Login under On-line course materials. Even though these are self-tests and are not graded, you are required to complete them when assigned.
Write
Do all written exercises after reading the entire lesson and doing the self-test quizzes. Always write complete sentences. Leave room for the teacher's comments.
Listen, record, and submit
Do this after the written assignment, if any. Use Web Audio Lab (in Noyes Lodge or on your own computer) to listen and record. A complete lesson takes 12 to 15 minutes to record; very often, only one or two exercises from a lesson are assigned. Recordings are automatically submitted to our server, where they are reviewed by your teacher. This required homework will prepare you to take full advantage of class time.
Read aloud, practice orally
Do these after making the sound recordings. If you can, do this with a friend: act out the conversations together. Otherwise, prepare these exercises by yourself. It is important to pronounce every sentence, even if there is no one to listen.
Memorize
Make sure that you can repeat the dialog from memory just as it sounds in the recording.
Interactive Video
Use a computer with a fast network connection--your own or one of the Windows or Mac OS X stations in the language lab in Noyes Lodge. Click an appropriate link in the Syllabus for Russian 1121. When the opening screen is displayed, be sure to select "large video" under "What's best for your connection?" The "small video" option is better for slow Internet connections. The syllabus links lead directly to the week's film assignments, but you can also click BRTF under On-line course materials.

As you watch the clips, read the dialog transcripts aloud, and 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.

In most scenes you will see additional tabs next to the Transcript tab. These may be Role Playing, Exercises, and Discussion. If the episode consists of more than one scene the Discussion tab accompanies the part called "Entire episode."

The syllabus indicates which of the tabs you should look at for each episode and scene. When you click a tab, its text replaces the dialog transcript in the window. You can use the Print button next to the tabs to print the text that is currently displayed. You will usually find it useful to bring the printout to class so you can glance at it as you speak.

When you read the text of Role Playing, Exercises, or Discussion, look up the words you don't know in the glossary window, and practice performing the dialog, or doing the grammatical substitutions, or discussing the scene so you can do the same in class.

If you have trouble using the software, consult the on-screen Help or ask your teacher for a demonstration.

When assigned in the Syllabus, write or type an English translation of the video episodes. Several film days are designated in the Syllabus as review days; the assignment for these classes is different, please see the Syllabus.

Reading What I Saw is not assigned as homework; all reading will be done in class, but if you have time to look through the next paragraph or so, you may find that you will get more out of your next class.

Notes on language learning

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

How is 1122 different from 1121?

Materials

Note: These materials cover Russian 1121 and Russian 1122

Books:
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, (BRTF under On-line course materials in the navigation bar on the left). These Lessons, based on authentic Russian movies, were created by Slava Paperno and Viktoria Tsimberov, with editorial assistance from Matthew Huss. They can be used on the multimedia computers in the language lab in Noyes Lodge. You may also be able to use your own computer (Windows or Macintosh) from your room.

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.

Google Translation links:
Provided in the Syllabus

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.

Grading
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.

Homework
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 about an hour and a half each day. 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.

Write
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.

Google Translation Exercise
Click the two links in the Syllabus. This will open, in new browser tabs or windows, the automatic translator at Google and the article (usually news or journalistic comments) assigned for analysis. Copy the assigned portion of the article to the left window in the Google page and click Translate. Compare the Russian text to the generated English translation and figure out where and why the machine translation has not done a good job. In class, we will discuss your observations. You may take notes if you like, and occasionally, if you have the time, it may be a useful exercise to write your own English translation, but this is optional, and you will not be asked to submit anything for this work. The purpose of this exercise (in addition to intellectual satisfaction) is to practice using modern tools for achieving a practical goal.

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 site. If you're on a very slow Internet connection, select "small video" in the left-hand panel of the screen that is displayed after you have chosen the film. Consult the "About this film" section in the film lesson for comments, explanations, or relevant historical and cultural information.

As you watch the clips, read the dialog transcripts and consult the on-screen glosses. Make sure you understand the dialog and the events. 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 it in at the end of the class. 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).

Practice Exercises, Role Playing, and Discussion
The grammar exercises that are assigned for practice on film days are displayed when you click the Exercises tab below the Transcript window. Listen to the audio recordings of the assigned exercises (click the green speaker icon to start the RealAudio player). Read the text of the exercises, look up the words you don't know in the glossary window, and practice using the substitutions. Be prepared to do them in class, more or less the way the substitution exercises from Beginning Russian are done.

In the last scene of every episode you will see additional tabs next to the Transcript tab: Role Playing and Discussion. When you click a tab, its text replaces the dialog transcript in the window. You can use the Print button next to the tabs to print the text that is currently displayed. You may find it useful to bring the printout to class so you can glance at it as you speak.

The syllabus indicates an assignment for Role Playing and Discussion for each class. When practicing Role Playing, imitate the dialog (repeat after the actors while reading on the screen). When doing the Discussion part, read the assigned Discussion and use it as a model for preparing for a similar discussion in class. Make up three questions about the assigned video that you will ask other students in class.

If you have trouble using the software, consult the on-screen Help or ask your teacher for a demonstration. If you have a multimedia computer in your dorm room or apartment, you can do this work from there. If the connection is not fast enough, use the "small video" option.

Attendance
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.

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

Notes on language learning

Read this 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 rules 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 evolves like a living, breathing system and 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.
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.