Why Study Russian?

The answers to this question are as varied as the people who study the language, from a straightforward wish to talk to friends or relatives who speak Russian, to interest in Russian contributions to art, literature and science, to long-term goals of using the language in a career such as international business or law. Of course, some students are just interested in learning a new, unique language, and they may answer "Why not??"

Below are a few links that will lead you to more reflections on Russian and reasons to study this beautiful and useful language.

Excerpt from Prof. Michael Makin's "Twenty Questions on Russian Language and Literature"

If you ask most Russianists (people who study the language and culture of Russia), they will tell you that they became fascinated with Russia, intrigued by the Russian language, and that they fell in love with Russia’s great literature, and that these are good enough reasons on their own to study Russian. And they are. But there are lots of other reasons, too. Russian is the primary language of the 150 million citizens of the Russian Federation, as the Russian state calls itself, and is the native language of approximately 30 million people living in the other states that were formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In many if not all of those states (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgystan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) Russian is widely spoken by people who are not themselves ethnic Russians, and it is also spoken – if sometimes reluctantly – by many people in the other countries of the former “Warsaw Pact.”  In other words, it offers a key to the parts of Europe which will be most changed by economic development in the coming century. … Russia itself … has enormous reserves of valuable natural resources and an extremely well-educated populace – in other words, it has great potential for economic growth.

Moreover, the last few years have seen a great improvement in the Russian business climate, and current indications are that it is becoming increasingly easy and more profitable for western companies to do business in Russia. Given these circumstances, knowing the country’s language and culture will certainly give graduates looking to work in international business a very important line in their résumé. Knowing any other country’s language and culture is both very useful and very appealing to employers and to professional schools, while knowing the language and culture of a major and very remarkable European country indicates that a person can handle all kinds of different and even difficult challenges (although the Russian language is really nowhere near as hard as people who have never learned it tend to think) and can acquire useful knowledge on a very significant part of the world. With the globalization of business, employers are often very interested in hiring people who show that they are familiar with a culture well beyond their own, and are comfortable handling the differences and even difficulties that working in a different culture brings. As Sally Adamson Taylor, in her book Culture Shock, puts it, “assigning home office personnel abroad is an expensive and complex proposition.” …She concludes, “multinational companies need leaders who are internationally adept.” (Sally Adamson Taylor, Culture Shock! France, revised edition, Portland, Oregon, 1999, p. 211).  So, yes, learning Russian could make a big difference to your career.

Michael Makin Twenty Questions on Russian Language and Literature http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mlmakin/BioMaterials/20Q.pdf