Put the fun into functional

November 29, 2002

RUS' is a new comprehensive Russian course for beginners. It is intended for classroom teaching and is aimed primarily at university and college students. It can be used for those language programmes where students are prepared to spend a sufficient amount of time on self-study. The course provides all the materials required to reach a higher intermediate level of language proficiency.

The central objective of the RUS' course is communication. It assists in the development of all language skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking), all within up-to-date settings and contexts. One of its most prominent features is its emphasis on cultural awareness. Numerous sections on Russian humour, historical, bibliographical and sociological references help students to understand the particularities of Russian culture and, therefore, to communicate their ideas properly and in the most appropriate register.

RUS' consists of 20 units, each of which is divided into two parts: the first is designed for class work, the second for self-study. When creating the course the authors adopted a functional approach to language teaching (and to grammar, in particular). The classroom work has been designed to help students learn how to use the language in various social situations. The obvious advantage of this approach is that learners do not get too hung up on the forms and are encouraged to express themselves freely, using the structures available at their level of proficiency.

RUS' provides a vast amount of material for text analysis, oral and aural practice. It is accompanied by four audiocassettes, recorded by native Russian speakers. These are indispensable for developing pronunciation and listening skills. The content of each unit is reflected in the "Teachers' guidelines" (part two of the book), which is intended to enhance the practical application of the course.

The homework sections are designed to consolidate students' knowledge acquired in the classroom through a variety of exercises that reinforce their linguistic skills. These progress from mechanical "fill-in" questions to more open-ended ones that require creativity and reflection (guided writing, summarising a text). Great emphasis is paid to lexical work, which is often based on crosswords and puzzles, the sort of things students always enjoy doing.

RUS' strongly contributes to the development of students' autonomy as learners. The great advantage of the course is that the reference tools and the study resources are easily accessible: an online answer-key can be obtained from the internet; in part three of the book there is a comprehensive grammar summary and a very useful "Language awareness" section. The latter is rarely found in other textbooks and is intended to stimulate learners' reflection on their studies by relating their knowledge of Russian to other linguistic systems.

The "Vocabulary checklist" and "Summary of functions" sections are also indispensable in this respect. They help students to monitor their progress and to gain a sense of achievement, which in turn will motivate them to further learning.

Finally, one should say that one of the best features of the RUS' course is that it does not need to be supplemented by any other language resources - it is a course that has been designed to make the study of the Russian language an enjoyable and enriching experience.

Olga Y. Sobolev is Russian coordinator, London School of Economics.

RUS': A Comprehensive Course in Russian. First edition

Author - Sarah Smyth and Elena V. Crosbie
ISBN - 0 521 64206 X and 64555; 0 521 01074 8 (7 audio cassettes)
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £95.00 and £34.95; £16.95 (7 audio cassettes)
Pages - 697

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