Psychological and pedagogical course of teaching Russian as a foreign language: the stage of speech adaptation

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The topicality of the article is determined by the need for systemic analysis of the structure and content of the modern communicative field, which not only defines the character of functioning of literary Russian language as a subject of study, but also triggers the formation of new mechanisms of acquiring knowledge. The aims of research are to identify and provide a scientific description of psychological and pedagogical components of linguodidactic strategy in Russian universities as a basis for multidimensional model of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the beginner stage. The methodological concept of the work is based on combining methods of complex theoretical description as well as socio-pedagogical, observational and diagnostic research, extrapolated to real educational process at the preparatory faculty. The article identifies the topical features of the initial stage of teaching Russian as a foreign language, describes modern principles and basic conditions for effective teaching Russian as a foreign language at the initial stage, classifies basic factors determining linguistic and methodical vectors of pedagogical activity at the stage of speech adaptation , and denotes the vector of linguodidactic technologies and their components, focusing on students’ cognitive/communicative/axiological expectations. The results of the study and approbation of new methodological guidelines indicated that the proposed linguistic and methodical strategy ensures dynamic development of foreigners’ cognitive and creative abilities to self-education, which can form students’ multilingual and multicultural personalities.

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Introduction Current sociopolitical and socioeconomic processes naturally dictate the need to create a new linguistic educational paradigm, which is especially significant for the most important sphere of intercultural dialogical contact - the sphere of teaching Russian as a foreign language. It touches upon means and methods of forming both a multilingual and a multicultural personality, namely, a personality, capable of competently and effectively carrying out verbal statements with regard to cultural and national specifics of the country of the target language (Russia, in our case), extracting, processing, producing, transmitting and reproducing information in accordance with various communication needs, sociolinguistic and cultural features of the communication situation (Bozhenkova, Bozhenkova, 2017). One of the decisive factors which influence the formation of the personality is the change in the psycho-cognitive structure of the subjects of communication due to multidimensional transformations in social environment. The greatest impact on modern educational field and functioning of the literary Russian language (which is the subject of the study) is undoubtedly exerted by the change in the way information is transmitted due to the transformation of the Internet into a daily communication tool and further development of computer technologies. As a result, “the literary norm is being displaced by the norm of ‘information language’, in which the form itself is of secondary importance; pronunciation/lexical and grammar/stylistic mistakes are not taken into account” (Bozhenkova, Bozhenkova, Romanova, 2017: 69), while the principles of speech behavior and rules of speech aesthetics are being diffused. At the same time, Russian as a foreign language (as well as any other language) cannot be taught today in isolation of communication conditions, shaped by numerous factors (including technological, geopolitical and civilizational factors in general), and directly affect different levels of functioning of a language system. Furthermore, modern interdisciplinary understanding of the world of the real Russian language and linguistic variability in diverse sociolinguistic interactions assures the need to take extra-linguistic determinants into account. These factors lead to the emergence of new discursive practices and mechanisms of subject-subject interaction. In this regard, daily immersion into polysemic network communication determines the modification of students’ cognitive processes (the formation of indivisible gestalts, acceleration of analytic-synthetic and classification operations, expansion of the serialization field, etc.) and the clear accentuation of student’s personal traits (reflexivity, action planning, adequate assessment of one’s capabilities, speech enthusiasm, result expectancy and critical analysis), which are particularly significant for linguodidactic process as a whole. Considering all these factors, regarded by the researchers as psychological and pedagogical knowledge, is an indispensable condition (especially at the initial stage) for teaching a communicatively effective use of the system of language tools, which indicates student’s possession of necessary language skills, speech and linguocultural competence. It is commonly known that identification of language competence level is based on the concept of learning stage (in our case, learning Russian as a foreign language). To specify the issue in terms of terminology - and without any claims to provide a complete interpretation of these definitions - let us turn to its history. Thus, in the middle of the 20th century, two stages of studying a language were distinguished: the initial stage and the advanced stage. Given that the Russian language had acquired a status of an independent subject, the university program in Russian as a foreign language was structurally divided into two parts: training at the preparatory faculty (the initial stage), where Russian was the main academic subject, and training at major faculties (the advanced stage), where the functions of this subject were reduced to providing linguistic support to other academic subjects, and so the Russian language turned into the language of specialization. Early 1970s were marked by identifying three stages of learning Russian as a foreign language - primary, advanced and proficient; however, no unequivocal methodological justification for such a distinction was proposed. In the 1980s, G. Gorodilova and 2. Motina described the features of primary, intermediate (I и II terms of preparatory faculty, respectively), advanced (I-III years of university) and final (IV-V years of university) stages (Gorodilova, 1980; Motina, 1988). It is noteworthy that this four-level division, which was first proposed by G. Gorodilova in 1979, is supported by many methodologists today, since this stage differentiation largely corresponds to the program and conditions of university education. At the same time, a threelevel taxonomy appeared in methodological literature, envisaging primary (preparatory faculty), basic (I-III years of university) and advanced (IV-V years of university) stages of training. The 1990s, together with the first steps towards integrating Russian universities into the European educational space, brought new terminology: the stage of pre-university training and the stage of university education itself. Thus, the unified process of teaching Russian as a foreign language was delimited by the criteria that essentially did not identify the level of foreigners’ proficiency in Russian. The temporal principle in this respect turned out to be highly controversial, since the learning stage as a category of didactics was a much wider category and included many other typical features (however, all the learning stages, obviously, were partially defined by the criteria, based on acquired knowledge/language skills). This fact became a starting point for elaborating Russian state system of testing foreign citizens in the Russian language, and further led to introducing a competence-based strategy of teaching Russian as a foreign language. In the XXI century, the system of university education in Russian as a foreign language is described in three stages: primary, basic and advanced, with a certain level of language proficiency achieved at each of them. The primary stage is defined as “a cycle or an education period that ensures the achievement of ultimate goals at the most elementary level” (Azimov, Shchukin, 2009: 272), such as ability to communicate in a limited range of topics and situations. This stage is characterized by the openness and incompleteness of content, forms, methods, learning objectives, and its duration is determined by “the level of formation of speech skills in accordance with the requirements set by the training program” (Azimov, Shchukin, 2009: 272) rather than by formal temporal characteristics (preparatory faculty, first term, etc.). A peculiarity of the primary stage of learning Russian as a foreign language (which, according to A. Shchukin, covers the period between the start of education and the achievement of elementary level) is the immersion into another language environment, which requires the dominance of classwork performed under teacher’s guidance over independent extracurricular work. “Educational material here is strictly limited, and the selection of lexical and grammar tools as well as the sequence of material presentation are determined by their necessity for solving a particular communicative task” (Shchukin, 2011: 201). From our point of view, the primary stage of learning Russian as a foreign language is the period between learning Russian from scratch and reaching the basic level. Within this stage, it is necessary to single out the stage of speech adaptation, which comprises the introductory phonetic and grammar course and the achievement of elementary level/“level of survival” (A1 in the European system of language proficiency). Nonetheless, the status and the actual presence of elementary level of Russian language competence in the system of Testing in Russian as a Foreign Language (despite the presence of relevant test materials) turns out to be vague today. However, the goal of this stage, which, in authors’ opinion, can be achieved after 100-120 hours of classwork, has a pragmatic focus on the formation of students’ speech and language competence to an extent that will enable them to communicate in Russian in regularly replicated situations within educational, social and cultural spheres. This also allows students to create a “safety margin” for a successful pre-vocational training (in institutions implementing programs of pre-university education) and subsequent mastering of the necessary communicative, linguo-professional (our term), social and linguocultural competences. We regard the stage of speech adaptation as the most important period in the process of teaching foreign speakers as it is deeply connected with all the subsequent stages of education and prepares the ground for further mastering of the language. Being significantly restricted by time (both in terms of in-class hours and total duration of the course), the stage of speech adaptation is characterized by relative completeness implied in its purpose, content and pedagogical technologies. A comprehensive analysis of the relevant regulatory documents and scientific literature suggests that there is a number of publications devoted to teaching of certain types of speech activity at the primary stage of education (Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation No. 463, 2009; Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation No. 1304, 2014; State standards in Russian as a foreign language. Basic level. General proficiency, 2001; Bukin, 2013; Chukanova, Chernaya, 2015; Gerbik, 2011; Kapitonova, Moskovkin, 2005; Khavronina, Balykhina, 2008; Prokhorov, 2006; Shchukin, 2011; Smolyakova, 2011; Strebul, Kassina, 2013, etc.). Nonetheless, there is no holistic methodology of linguodidactic work, which would take into account the changed paradigm in teaching foreign languages, the pragmatics of its study, the diversity of modern educational technologies, as well as the diversity of students’ ethnocultural, professional, psycho-cognitive and indi- vidual characteristics. In this regard, we assume that the choice of educational content, methods, techniques, technologies and, therefore, the effectiveness of the educational process at the stage of speech adaptation is determined by achieving interrelated psychological and pedagogical goals (apart from methodological and linguistic goals as such). Among these goals we can highlight the following: “defining strategies and tactics of language use in speech perception and speech generation; creating a holistic cognitive model of personal speech development and identifying its formation stages from lower to higher levels in learning foreign languages” (Bozhenkova, Bozhenkova, Mirzaeva, 2014: 401); “detecting pedagogically reasonable ways of teaching an academic subject, encouraging a pro-active personal position, creative and independent approach to solving tasks in learning a language” (Shulgina, 2014: 429). Thus, the synergistic description of modern psychological and pedagogical factors, which foster the effectiveness of the Russian language training program at the stage of speech adaptation, can become a basis for expanding/refining further linguistic and methodical vectors on the whole. Objective The objective of the study, determined by an active search for innovative approaches to teaching Russian as a foreign language, is to identify and provide a scientific description of psychological and pedagogical bases promoting changes in linguodidactic technologies in Russian universities. They could help create a multidimensional model of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the initial stage. Materials and methods The methodological concept of the research was based on both empirical methods (a method of integrated theoretical analysis, socio-pedagogical, observational and diagnostic methods) and methods of general and particular psychology (observational method in test situations, psychological modelling and natural experiment). Particular attention was paid to the continuous observation of forming the students’ linguistic and sociocultural competence at the stage of speech adaptation and detecting the most common language difficulties, caused by students’ ethnomental peculiarities. Likewise, a special focus was put on a survey among teachers. The methods of general/special psychology were actualized during the research of students’ individual psycho-cognitive characteristics, backed by inspecting their verbal/non-verbal behavior within their academic and extracurricular activities, in everyday situations and sociocultural spheres of communication. The factors which later allowed to describe a national group and personal characteristics of foreign citizens at the stage of speech adaptation were considered as significant. The research material contains video recordings of in-class and extracurricular activities, the scripts of students’ dialogues, teachers’ questionnaires, the texts of educational tasks, textbooks and teacher’s books on Russian as a foreign language for beginners, relevant scientific and methodical literature. Findings Dynamic innovations in teaching languages are conditioned by diverse factors, including the changing status of the Russian language in current geopolitical conditions, the expansion of students’ ethnical diversity and the formation of new axiological dominants and ways of communication in the society. It is no less important that methodology of teaching Russian as a foreign language implies and requires a synthetic unity of theoretical and practical experience in order to set standards of effective training. Considering the history of the issue, mainly comparative analysis of the terms “learning stage”/“primary learning stage”, allowed us not only to propose our own interpretation of this definition, but also to formulate a general conclusion for this study. In modern linguo-pedagogical paradigm it is sensible to single out the stage of speech adaptation, aimed at the formation of students’ speech and language competence to an extent that enables them to communicate in Russian in regularly replicated situations in educational, social and cultural spheres and determines the subsequent mastering of the necessary communicative, linguo-professional, social and linguo-cultural competences. Relying on psychological and pedagogical knowledge, as the first decisive factor for the effectiveness of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the stage of speech adaptation, the authors regard hyper-motivation, which promotes interest in studying Russian, as a means to embody students’ cognitive potential rather than means of social interaction. A substantial component of hyper-motivation is the emergence of new mechanisms of knowledge acquisition, determined, on the one hand, by transformation of the communicant’s psycho-cognitive structure and by the stability of students’ ethnic and mental organization, on the other. Another indispensable factor for the success of educational process at the stage of speech adaptation is a compulsory immersion into an integrative communication environment. Nowadays, communication and technical databases of the Internet do not only provide an opportunity to receive any information and listen to the lectures of the best specialists in a particular area, but also allow to arrange work procedures and build educational systems for distance learning. Consequently, the teacher’s goal is, on the one hand, to transfer knowledge and form students’ professional skills, and to introduce foreign students into educational, communicative and intercultural interaction, on the other. So, a modern teacher, apart from professional competence, should also possess general cultural, educational, sociolinguistic and other relevant competences. Accordingly, teacher’s “repertoire” should include roles, related to educational activities and requiring innovations in the professional sphere, such as a tutor, a moderator, a start-up mentor, etc. (Bykova, Martynova, Siromakha, 2017). With the emergence of online pedagogics, all these traditional and new concepts largely correlate with the mission of shaping and developing students’ cognitive skills and productive thinking, while the use of up-to-date technologies, diverse work methods (Zaretskaya, Simms, 2017) and different linguistic means in expressing thoughts, based on creativity, provide a brand new result of the educational process. Systemic analysis of the components of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the stage of speech adaptation and approbation of new methodological guidelines allow us to denote core principles in arranging the educational process, while the question of its further refinement and expansion remains open and can serve as a subject for future studies. At the same time, the outlined linguo-methodological strategy appears to enable dynamic development of students’ cognitive and creative potential for self-education, which, in turn, can create equal partnership between the teacher and students, promote an opportunity to successfully build verbal interaction and serve as a basis for a multilingual and multicultural personality. Discussion The possibility of realizing personal potential in the unity of thinking, memory, imagination and speech activity was first demonstrated by L. Shcherba. Calling the process of learning a foreign language “a practical school of dialectics”, the scientist pointed out that this academic subject synergistically combined acts of abstract thinking and linguistic reality, since “it allows us to see the dynamic and conventional connection between a concept and its symbol” (Shcherba, 1964: 37). It is no coincidence that L. Shcherba, without denying the importance of involuntary memorization and speech imitation, put forward the thesis about the need to take into account “the creative essence of speech activity and the increase of an intellectual strain in foreign language classes” (Shcherba, 1964: 37). The idea of personal development through verbal and cognitive activity received a fundamental psychological substantiation in L. Vygotsky’s works: “If the environment does not set corresponding tasks, does not put forward new requirements, does not induce and does not stimulate intellectual development by setting new goals, thinking does not realize its potential, does not reach its highest form, or reaches it with extreme delay” (Vygotsky, 1982: 15). Extremely important for linguodidactics were the writings of A. Leontiev, who revealed “the importance of national and cultural peculiarities in communication, expressed in the language, thinking and in various processes and means of communication” (Leontiev, 2007: 389). Later he continued with considering language as “a basic component of national culture and means to study it, since a person, who masters a foreign language, forms an image of the world typical of a particular nation in his mind; and it is with similar pictures of reality in the minds of interacting individuals that language becomes a means of achieving mutual understanding” (Leontiev, 1997: 143). Nowadays, having been confirmed by numerous studies within modern fields of linguistic research, these ideas are referred to as axioms. Apparently, “mastering a foreign language is only possible with the immersion into a foreign culture, including the culture of a society, speaking and thinking in this language, embodied in language signs and actualized in language processes” (Krasnykh, 2014: 14). Speaking Russian, a foreign speaker absorbs Russian ethnical culture and thus socializes and appears as a multilingual and multicultural personality in communication (Bozhenkova, Bozhenkova, 2017: 55). Thereby we can come to a conclusion that entering a new linguistic reality, especially at the stage of speech adaptation, requires the most comfortable conditions possible. Thus, cultural peculiarities of the audience and orientation on students’ cognitive abilities and individual features come to the forefront. Obviously, the above-mentioned factors should not be regarded among basic principles of teaching Russian as a foreign language (including communication, consciousness, consistency, functionality, concentricity, etc.), but are to be considered as determinants of pedagogical technologies. Given that teaching Russian as a foreign language should mainly focus on students’ ethnic origin (Balykhina, Chzhao, 2010; Pugachev, 2011, etc.), the authors suppose that globalization of communication space, new technologies in education and changes in psycho-cognitive structure of student’s personality necessitate a revision of both the content of numerous categories and methodological guidelines for educating a specific audience. Relying on psychological and pedagogical principles, we consider motivation as a decisive factor for the effectiveness of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the stage of speech adaptation. It is a common knowledge that one of the first scientists to research personal motivation (in terms of personal needs) was H. Murray, who - in a vast number of behavior motivators - distinguished four basic needs: for independence, for achievement, for domination, and for affiliation (Murray, 1938). M. Argyle regarded these needs in a wider context and included them into a general motivation structure (Argyle, 1957). Other interpretations of motivation and its structure were offered by D. McClelland, J. Atkinson, K. Lewin, H. Kelley, H. Heckhausen, C. Rogers, J. Rotter, L. Festinger, etc. However, it was A. Maslow’s theory presented as a hierarchical needs pyramid that received worldwide recognition. Its structure emphasizes, on the one hand, “human social and interactive dependency”, and, on the other hand, “cognitive nature connected with human selfrealization” (Maslow, 2003: 68-75). The concept of motivational sphere, described by L. Vygotsky and A. Leontiev and integrating both hierarchy of needs and the affective and volitional sphere of a personality (i.e. satisfaction of need), became a scientific conclusion of the study (Zimnyaya, 1997). During his research of motivation, A. Leontiev considered a motive as “an object that meets a specific need, encourages and directs human activity” (Leontiev, 2007: 286) and singled out its two basic functions: the function of inducement, which plays a role of a positive/negative stimulating factor, and the function of sense formation, which shapes an individual assessment of an activity. If both functions are carried out, every human activity appears consciously regulated, but if the semantic function is weakened, a motive can only become comprehensible”. Likewise, “if a motive is only comprehensible, its semantic function is weakened, too” (Chukanova, Chernaya, 2015: 36). From our point of view, this definition of a motive, where energetic, dynamic and substantive aspects are combined, eliminates many contradictions in its interpretation and is basic for educational process organization, including teaching Russian as a foreign language. The analysis of motives to study Russian as a foreign language, offered in psychology and pedagogy (E. Vertogradskaya, I. Zimnyaya, O. Kanarskaya, V. Mol- chanovsky, J. Nefyodova, N. Simonova, etc.), and reliance on A. Leontiev’s idea that “mastering a foreign language is oriented not only at the worldview and communication with the interlocutor, but also at the personality of a student (namely, at such personal aspects as student’s attitude to the language and internal speech settings in it, issues of self-identification and many other)” (Leontiev, 1997: 6), determine students’ desire to use Russian as a means to actualize personal potential rather than a means to communicate as a basic learning motive at the stage of speech adaptation. In this connection, internal motivational specificity due to peculiarities, interests and goals of the audience, from solution of purely pragmatic problems (a necessity to obtain skills of business and scientific communication with Russian-speaking partners and colleagues or to learn at a Russian university) to the desire to discover Russian culture and national traditions (as a rule, these intentions concern the second and third generations of former Russian emigrants raised in a foreign cultural environment, but interested in their historical roots), becomes a critical psychopedagogical condition of teaching Russian as a foreign language. The absence of idiomatic and axiological elements from the first lesson can ruin the most methodically accurate education program, whereas including components, corresponding to students’ emotional and volitional sphere and containing preferable topics (which undoubtedly demands a certain division of students’ audience and teacher’s active preparatory work), induce students to express personal attitude to this or that issue; thus, a desire to verbalize a statement in a foreign language increases. In the light of educational tasks at the stage of speech adaptation, real and virtual language environments, coexisting in modern communicative space, are of particular interest. Real language environment is referred to as natural, historically specified linguo-cultural system, that acts as “sphere of the Russian language functioning in all its forms, styles and means of expression” (Orekhova, 2003: 52), characterized by a number of objective and subjective attributes. Objective attributes of language environment include “natural and authentic video material, natural and authentic audio material, a wide range of natural situations, solid background knowledge, teaching elements” (Orekhova, 2003: 53-54). Subjective attributes stand for an opportunity to use it for cognitive purposes and a motivational sphere, which combine external and internal factors. By virtual language environment the authors mean Russian online space (or the Russian-speaking segment of the Internet, frequently called Runet in Russia), which is a polysemiotic reflection of an ethnocultural reality, maintaining mostly original, authentic speech patterns. Using the term “Runet”, the authors are definitely aware that the Internet is a global phenomenon and breaks the borders between states and ethnic groups. Nonetheless, there is a certain partition of the World Wide Web into national segments, so we consider Runet as a specific environment of the Russian language functioning, as well as a set of sources popular among Russian users. In this occasion, the term “virtual language environment” includes a wide range of materials on various gadgets. The essential feature of a virtual language environment, or online reality, is the diversity of untypical forms and methods of information transmission. This leads to new monoand polycode communication systems, significantly different from verbal and creolized texts and defining structural and semantic transformations in the natural lexical environment. Furthermore, in a real language environment a communicant has an opportunity to become familiar with up-to-date language samples mainly synchronically (here and now, as a rule), whereas virtual environment allows to receive these sample both synchronically (more recent materials) and diachronically (archive materials). This interdependence enables us to speak about an integrative communicative space, characterized by, on the one hand, its universality due to the global nature of Internet sources and, on the other hand, its diffusivity, determined by simultaneous incorporation and synergy of real and virtual language environments, which together have a special impact on the personality. When a foreign speaker (as well as a native speaker) finds himself in an integrative communicative space, he absorbs authentic texts not only form messages which he is interested in, but also from other users’ commentaries to these messages, political or ideological guidelines, notifications, instructions, advertisements (in a polycode framework), etc. In general, the quantitative diversity of texts (in a broader semiotic interpretation), their lexical, semantic, grammar and stylistic presentation, as well as a wide range of their functioning can be called the most important feature of an integrative language environment. Developing computer technologies have enabled online access to political speeches (which largely define the semantic field of linguistic universe), classical and modern literature, magazines and newspapers, interactive description of country life, etc., which greatly influence accumulation of background knowledge (Bozhenkova, Bozhenkova, 2013). The range of audio and video content containing sociocultural speech stereotypes is growing substantially, including video blogs, reviews, blogger challenges, video reports, interviews, rap battles, music tracks with commentaries (we do not assess the artistic value of these materials, however, we should not underestimate their influence “here and now”). The uniqueness of verbal “live” communication is reinforced by audio and video calls through special programs: Skype, video chats in messengers (Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, Facebook, etc.). Other speech situations, presented in a written form, such as posts and reposts on forums, in social networks, blogs, online communities, Instagram, assign the roles both for interlocutors and observers. Along with authentic video files (movies, series, educational programs, online popular science lectures, programs on culture and art, etc.), audio files (radio broadcasts, radio archive) and verbal texts (news reports, journals and blogs), they shape a brand new trustworthy video and audio content. In all these situations, communication is carried out in a target language, in the area of its actual functioning and according to its rules and norms. Thus, a foreigner acquires the samples of national communicative behavior: etiquette examples, topics, intonation patterns, etc. (Prokhorov, 2006). Moreover, a certain universality of an integrative communicative space (as a result of overlapping features of real and virtual language environments combined with the global nature of the Internet) determines the supranational nature of many semiotic units and their ability to support intercultural interaction, especially at the stage of speech adaptation. As a result, the very character of an integrative communication environment naturally determines the transformation of foreign speakers’ motivational field. First, there is a dramatic expansion of the range of foreign interlocutors. The recipient starts being influenced not only by the teacher, other students and friends (which are not native speakers of the target language commonly), but also by a wide range of native speakers, who are able to provide language models and necessary linguistic and cultural information. Secondly, this fact increases the quantity and quality of communicative tasks solved for everyday/educational/cognitive purposes, and provides additional potential for their successful implementation, since an integrative communication environment becomes an ultimate factor stimulating speaker’s linguo-cognitive activity due to the need to solve various kinds of communicative problems. For example, interest in Russian ballet or other kinds of sports may motivate him to study Russian. Thirdly, a new stimulating factor (such as meeting famous people, participating in online games, taking popular psychological tests, etc.) appears. This intellectual/entertaining factor determines a subjective use of an integrative communicative space for personal cognitive purposes. The combination of various information channels, communities, sources and hypertextual technologies build a holistic coordinated system, and, as a result, a comprehensive image of an object being explored. Thus, from our perspective, today we may speak about students’ hyper-motivation and the formation of new mechanisms of knowledge acquisition in an integrative environment. The language, together with other attributes listed above, functions regardless of the recipient’s will and desire. A foreign speaker acquires new information unconsciously, by methodically unorganized observation, while watching, listening and reproducing information (this mechanism also works during formation of a primary linguistic personality). A multifaceted language worldview, diverse communication models, new language units, independent mastering of complex elements of the language system, etc., effectively erase linguistic and cultural barriers in communication, which is essential at the stage of speech adaptation. An absolute representativeness of an integrative communicative space defines a wide social context and forms a student’s idea of the real sphere of language use, makes “smooth”, normative, standardized and impersonal language constructs vivid and communicatively significant. Moreover, direct involvement in a cultural reality of a foreign country determines the perception of its language system as a means to discover national specifics of Russian culture rather than just a semiotic construct (here we can highlight a foreign tendency to carry out a comparative analysis of Russian and their domestic traditions at the stage of speech adaptation). Consequently, pedagogical projects in the framework of Russian as a foreign language at the stage of speech adaptation require rearrangement of educational technologies. On the one hand, these technologies must be immersed into informational communicative tools and sources (including printed and electronic dictionaries, online translators, spell check software, search engines, systems of text identification, etc.) to the highest extent possible. On the other hand, they must provide an opportunity to organize educational process in natural (or as natural as possible) communication conditions. In this connection, the role of a teacher of Russian as a foreign language can hardly be overestimated, since he does not only act as an important source of educational information, but also as a communicative leader and a transmitter of Russian culture and its system of values. Professional skills of a teacher define the “range of linguistic and verbal tools, the principles of their usage, different ways to structure and transform verbal material into speech products with different stylistic and functional qualities, presentation forms, and of various genres” (Bozhenkova, Bozhenkova, Romanova, 2017: 71). It is a teacher who can “edit” the facts of students’ perception of personal or dialect pronunciation as standardized, of colloquial or slang expressions as normative, of provocating non-verbal means as etiquette, etc. No less important for the process of educational intercultural communication is a teacher-student cognitive empathy that can evoke responsive emotional reaction from students, their interest and desire to collaborate. This fact becomes decisive for shifting the focus in learning a foreign language from pragmatic goals to aesthetic ones, and “helps to make Russian as a foreign language students’ favorite subject, because it is the language itself that becomes a basis for emotional competence” (Bykova, Martynova, Siromakha, 2017: 124). Theoretical provisions, based on fundamental concepts and basic principles of teaching, considering psycho-cognitive laws of language competence acquisition, conscious choice of means and practical teaching methods along with critical analysis of pedagogical activity were extrapolated to the modern approach to teaching Russian as a foreign language at the preparatory faculty at Southwestern State University (Kursk) and served as a starting point for elaborating a scientific methodology for teaching Russian to foreign speakers at the stage of speech adaptation. Teaching Russian was carried out in cross-national (with representatives of Arab and African countries, and China) and specialized (uniting students with the same professional specialization) teams. In this regard, organizing the educational process had to address a number of study-related issues. How can we single out the stage of speech adaptation when teaching Russian as a foreign language? What are the peculiarities of teaching students at this stage considering their national differences and the unity of their professional interests? How should a teacher consider students’ individual psycho-cognitive traits? What educational technologies are the most effective? To answer these questions, we carried out a research, which resulted in an observation program based on the list of essential elements within the observational method. Each construct of the observation program included four sections: description of the team (the quantity of participants in the situation, their nationality, sociodemographic structure of the team); description of the situation being observed (academic and extracurricular activities, their content, academic tasks); social behavior (team’s and its members’ activities, psychological atmosphere in the team, individual behavior in everyday social and cultural sphere); verbal behavior (ethnomental and personal peculiarities and priorities in speech activity, desire for communication, etc.). The observation program included following stages: 1) setting the goal of the study; 2) specifying the subject and the object of study; 3) planning the situation for observation; 4) selecting observation methods to provide material being gathered; 1. selecting ways to record the material being gathered; 6) observation; 7) processing and interpreting the received information. The results of the observation were registered with the help of photos and video/audio recordings of students’ speech. The study detected a substantial divergence in students’ psycho-cognitive features which should be taken into account at the stage of speech adaptation. For instance, Chinese students in a Russian-speaking environment mostly use their mother tongue for social interaction and narrow their social circle to their fellow citizens. Thus, perception and analysis of the reviewed material (they need a lot of time to process new information) determines their specific in-class behavior: they are shy and are not willing to express their opinion. For them, the main goal is to receive and memorize information, so retelling a text in their understanding means learning the text by heart. Their extremely limited vocabulary is growing slowly, therefore a translating programme on their phone becomes an essential attribute of the lesson, which slows the lesson down. Therefore, educational tasks in active listening pose an extraordinary challenge for them. Chinese students are accustomed to Chinese words consisting of syllables, which have a specific meaning, and perceive Russian speech with great difficulty and poorly understand what native speakers say; if the speech is pronounced quickly, the comprehension is generally reduced. Speaking, consequently, is no less difficult than listening for Chinese students. They do not prefer to speak much, mostly use simplified syntactic constructions and are afraid of uttering Russian phrases (except stories about their national traditions and history). At the same time, Chinese students, both during their in-class and out-of-class activities, markedly demonstrate their respect for others, especially when communicating with people of a higher social status; students listen very attentively and are never eager to express and especially justify their point of view. Reading and writing are the most successful activities for Chinese students. Reading texts in Russian, they carefully pronounce every word, enjoy writing Russian words with a neat handwriting and take tests with pleasure. Chinese students are particularly active in sociocultural sphere, they are interested in Russian traditions, “enjoy visiting Russian cities, museums and exhibitions”, and “share the rich cultural heritage of their homeland” (Strelchuk, 2014: 241). Students from African countries, opposed to students from China, feel very confident in everyday life. Despite being sociable, active in communication with native speakers of other languages, dominant in speech behavior, defensive about their personal position in conflict situations and enthusiastic about participating in cultural events, representatives of the African continent often become constrained in educational and professional spheres. At the same time, Russian intonation does not pose difficulties for African students. They quickly single out separate words from a speech flow, including new words, comprehend Russian speech well, and consequently effectively work with Russian video and audio content. Starting from the first class, they eagerly learn clichés and try to speak spontaneously (they make mistakes, but it is more important for them, that they speak). “The most ‘scary’ word, as they say, is the Russian ‘zdravstvuite’ ” (which means “hello”), as it includes a combination of consonants and is frequently used in class (Strelchuk, 2015: 22). Due to phonetic difficulties African students read slowly. Nevertheless, writing poses the greatest challenge for them. Thus, at the stage of speech adaptation the teacher should pay special attention to this type of speech activity. Representatives of the Arab world behave actively and feel confident both in everyday life and in sociocultural speech situations. As a rule, they carefully follow the rules of speech etiquette. Arab students are extraverted: they easily make a communicative contact with speakers of other languages and talk about their personal lives; they like to be in the spotlight, “talk (and even debate) about the culture and traditions of their homeland”, and “do not feel confused when making speech errors (phonetic or grammar)” (Strelchuk, 2016: 91). Arab students enjoy participating in festivals, demonstrating their national clothes, performing songs and dances, and at the same time, express pure interest in Russian songs and films. They do not meet difficulties when listening or speaking and master Russian intonation and accent easily. They read fast with no regard for minor inaccuracies in pronuncing certain lexical units. However, writing as a speech activity is challenging for them. The greatest difficulty is lies in the Russian grammar, its morphological specificity. Students’ typical psycho-cognitive and ethnic characteristics, derived on the basis of empirical data, along with the results of a comprehensive analysis of real communicative needs of foreign citizens studying Russian at the preparatory faculty, allowed us to adequately determine final and intermediate learning goals, select rules and ways of presenting language and speech material (here the authors took into account other researchers’ recommendations, see Gerbic, 2011; Smolyakova, 2011; Bukin, 2013, etc.). Accordingly, the following substantial educational components at the stage of speech adaptation were identified and minimized: speech material (thematic situational fragments and communicative tasks); language material (basic grammar and phonetic rules, elementary vocabulary); informative ethnocultural material (preferably with a polysemiotic structure). The approbation of substantive elements of pedagogical process, in turn, made it possible to explicitly formulate the principles of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the stage of speech adaptation: o considering psycho-cognitive structure and ethnic specificity of education subjects; o transferring informative educational components into an integrative communicative space using various methodological tactics of polysemiotic texts; o revealing students’ linguistic and cognitive potential by expanding their motivational sphere, hyper-motivation and implementing a student-oriented approach to education; o communicative orientation of education, which determines the explication of a new vocabulary as a fragment of reality, reflected in communicants’ linguo-cultural consciousness; o heuristic linguodidactic technologies and at the same time strict limitation of the educational material to intensify learning. Аrom our point of view, the above list of principles and components of educational process at the stage of speech adaptation, based on psychological and pedagogical knowledge, undoubtedly make it possible to optimize the linguodidactic strategy and thereby increase the effectiveness of teaching Russian as a foreign language in general. Conclusion The issue of intensifying educational process at the initial stage of learning Russian as a foreign language place an important role in the modern linguodidactic paradigm. In this regard, the research was aimed at providing answers to the following questions: what is the initial stage of studying Russian as a foreign language in terms structure and importance? What aspects of psychological and pedagogical knowledge can be considered as factors enhancing the effectiveness of teaching Russian as a foreign language at the initial stage? What methodological base would provide the higher effectiveness at this stage of learning Russian as a foreign language? We assume, the most important aspect for the linguodidactic process as a whole is communicative field transformation, rearrangement of students’ psychocognitive structure with the increase of analytic-synthetic and classification operations and the expansion of serialization field to a significant activation of the visual analyzer, the emergence of new dynamic stereotypes, the formation of indivisible gestalts, etc. At the same time (if students’ ethno-mental characteristics remain unchanged), many of them demonstrate actualized socially significant personal qualities: reflexivity, result anticipation and correction, an adequate assessment of their abilities, their critical analysis, etc. Accordingly, considering these factors, regarded as psychological and pedagogical knowledge, is a mandatory condition (especially at the stage of speech adaptation, studied in this research) of teaching a communicatively effective use of language means system. No less important is the fact that an integrative communication environment, which absorbs and simultaneously explicates native speakers’ verbal behavior, acts not only as a stimulus for communication, but also as an example. This is precisely how foreign speakers perceive national communication models, which forms the concept of national sociocultural speech behavior stereotype. In the past, these stereotypes were mostly found in fiction (and partially in the cinema/theatre), while today there is media interpretation of the situational communication model and its types that should be recognized as the main tool forming a presupposition field of a communicant (especially a foreign one). By processing information and transmitting it to the reader, commenting or ranking events, the global network and media define aesthetic tastes, assessments and moral norms, create a necessary ideological background, build a hierarchy of values, and often even impose upon the reader the samples of precepting sociopolitical, historical, psychological facts, etc. with the help of certain language means. Formed in this way highly complex in structure language (text) units have not only significant expressive and emotional potential, a multilayer semantic meaning, but also a clichés form. This determines both their wide distribution in social interaction and frequent actualization in foreign speakers’ verbal activity from the first days of their training. The linguocultural element of the integrative communication environment significantly intensifies the formation of a secondary linguistic personality. Accordingly, linguodidactic technologies at the stage of speech adaptation should have a heuristic nature, be focused on students’ cognitive/communicative/axiological expectations and combine various forms of material presentation. At the same time, the synchronization of all types and aspects of speech activity should be correlated with a specific learning objective. Thus, listening, speaking, reading and writing can be both a goal and a means of learning, whereas lexical, grammar and phonetic material is presented in all types of speech activities. Relevant educational content, systemic and comprehensive approach to selecting topics, intensive in-class work mobilizing the students’ inner psychological capabilities, sequence of stages in speech skills formation, planned organization and control of students’ independent work aimed at developing an ability to incorporate speech control mechanisms and providing potential for further language mastering, are integral elements of success in teaching Russian as a foreign language. From our point of view, the above conditions, which determine the linguistic and methodical vectors of the educational process at the stage of speech adaptation, allow students - along with foreign language mastering - to elaborate and develop skills, which provide an ability to integrate the gained knowledge, contextually apply and acquire the competences in interpersonal and ethnocultural dialogue, as well as in the future profession.

About the authors

Natalia Aleksandrovna Bozhenkova

Pushkin State Russian Language Institute

Author for correspondence.
6 Akademika Volgina St., Moscow, 117489, Russian Federation

Ph.D. in Philology, Distinguished Professor, Professor at the Department of General and Russian Linguistics

Raisa Konstantinovna Bozhenkova

Bauman Moscow State Technical University

5 2nd Baumanskaya St., bldg. 1, Moscow, 105005, Russian Federation

Ph.D. in Philology, Distinguished Professor, Professor at the Department of the Russian Language

Nadezhda Petrovna Shulgina

Nadezhda Petrovna

94 50 Let Oktyabrya St., Kursk, 305040, Russian Federation

Candidate of Pedagogy, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of the Department of the Russian Language and General Subjects for Foreign Citizens


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