I am the intern at the Russian Language Academy Durbe (RLA Durbe), located in Latvia, Riga. Because I am aware that it can be a bit tricky to pick a course without knowing what actually happens in the classroom, I attended an advanced (B2) Russian class at the Russian Language Academy Durbe in order to give you feedback based on my experience as a linguist. So let me tell you more about the most important part of your learning experience: the teaching of Russian.
The course aims at developing all Russian language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), but the focus is definitely on the oral part of the language, which I deeply value. The class is constructed as a series of debates and discussions where everyone has the chance to both take part in dialogues and live interaction and to speak Russian for longer periods of time and develop an argument in depth. That being said, we also practiced listening comprehension a lot, which is great because it is my weak point when it comes to watching movies or Russian TV!
We were 4 students! It was brilliant to work in such a small group. I really got to know my classmates because the class is really about interacting with each other and speaking Russian. I liked studying with people of different ages and backgrounds: the discussions ended up being deeper and richer. It was nice to experience something different from what I am used to – language classes with students of roughly the same age and interests.
The second most striking point in many schools is the ability of the teacher to provide you with interesting and stimulating material. In my experience, language classes often lack quality content and, as a result, there is no incentive to speak Russian. During this class at Russian Language Academy Durbe, on the contrary, I felt engaged and hooked by pretty much all the topics. I really noticed that good textbook, exercises and videos make a huge difference: this 3h30 class passed extremely quickly and I did not have time to look at my watch!
This class is designed to allow you to speak Russian, and not just to say a couple of sentences on a random topic. Your teacher gives you space and freedom to develop your ideas, respond to your classmates, and have meaningful discussions and interactions. At the same time, the teacher manages the class effectively: it was structured, the right amount of time was dedicated to each task and the various parts of the lesson were related and followed each other in a logical way. I enjoyed the fact that there was no awkward transition and that the whole felt extremely natural. Great way of teaching Russian indeed!
I also felt very free to ask questions. And this is far from being common: in the past, I often had the impression that I was either bothering everyone or that my question was not legitimate. The teacher took all my questions into consideration, managed to see from where my doubts arose and discussed the issue in depth. I asked for instance for an explanation of the word жаль, because it seemed to me that it was polysemous. The teacher took the time to understand my question and my position as a non-native speaker and explained the various meanings and usage of the word (it can mean pity, or regrets, or even sadness), providing me with examples and including the rest of the class in the explanation process.
During the completion of the exercises, the teacher also always checked that we were not struggling with vocabulary and made everything clear. The teaching ends up being very individualised and adapted to each and every one of us. I really enjoyed my „private lesson” with three other persons! It allows combining the benefits of private teaching Russian with the benefits of studying in a group.
The first 30min were spent on „checking homework”. Sounds boring? Absolutely not. It was even one of my favourite part! The homework consisted of writing a 200-word essay on a philosophical/social question. I chose to write about the following topic: should youngsters listen to older people in order to avoid unnecessary problems? We all presented our written task orally and then talked about everyone’s opinion on the matter or asked for further explanation on part of our classmate. It struck me that the homework is also a part of the class’ logic and fits its topic instead of being a mere task to practice grammar.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight again the quality of the content and the fact that these classes provide you with a great opportunity to speak Russian. The RLA Durbe’s approach to teaching is both peculiar and meaningful: all the teachers resort to the communicative method which is the best way to obtain an active knowledge of the language. I was able to compare the teaching here at the RLA Durbe with the great number of language classes I attended in my life, and I definitely recommend it. I would attend classes again at the RLA Durbe (www.russian-academy.com) .