July 2016 marked the second year in a row of an intensive Russian language program at UCF. (Program director Alla Kourova). The program, STARTALK, meaning “Start Talking” lasted for 3 weeks, starting Monday, July 11th. It consisted of 60 students, both beginner and advanced, who had the opportunity to participate in this program for free. There were a total of 3 different classes (two beginner and one advanced). Over the course of three weeks, students of varying levels of Russian attended Monday thru Friday classes from 9 am to 12 pm, where they learned everything from the alphabet and basic introductory phrases to more complicated conversations that one might encounter in Russian daily life. After classes, students were treated to an hour long free lunch from the Russian store/bakery Lacomka, which prepared multiple course meals every day that the program ran. The food was of Russian origin and contributed to the knowledge obtained by the students about Russian culture.
The part of the daily schedule included cultural education that did not focus solely on the business language. Presentations on various aspects of Russia were given. For example, one teaching assistant gave a presentation on the history and culture of the city of St. Petersburg in Russia, while also tying in her personal experiences when she went to visit Russia this summer with the Study Abroad. Two other teaching assistants did the same with the city of Moscow. The rest of the presentations included a collection of subculture topics and informative topics regarding ways to continue learning about the Russian language and business culture. In addition to learning the language and culture, the students attended two field trips as part of the program. One was an excursion to the town of St. Petersburg, Florida, where they visited a Russian Orthodox Church founded by Russian immigrants, and another was to the Russian- American Culture Center in Orlando, where they learned of various opportunities to become involved in the Russian community businesses and had a business interview.
The purpose of this program was to instill interest in the Russian language, as part of the National Security Language Initiative. It focused on language structure, pronunciation, business-related knowledge, and cultural foundations. This program provided the opportunity to learn the language for those who may not have had the time or money to learn it through other means. The program is continuing at the Russian/American community center of Florida and are working on the digital stories for using them on the Russian classes.