Language Tandem, a new project at HSE in Nizhny Novgorod, has been launched. The project involves 15 international exchange students, who came to Nizhny Novgorod from France and Italy, master’s students of Global Business from Austria and Italy, who have just started learning Russian, and 15 Russian students from various faculties who are studying foreign languages. The participants shared their impressions of the first meetings.
Milena Balasnyan, Faculty of Economics, fourth year of study, and Doris Straub, Global Business, 1st year
The meeting went very well, with a warm friendly atmosphere! We talked mostly in German and a little in English. It was too difficult to talk in Russian. But we reviewed the numbers in Russian; I counted in German, and Doris made a Russian translation, so it was a lot of fun! We learned a lot about each other. Doris told me about her family, her home town, and about her life in Russia. She also said that she’s leaving in December, and it’s very sad. We agreed to meet again soon. Doris said that everything is very cheap in Russia, and she likes it. We mostly talked about languages and differences between the. She is very confused by letters Ы, Ш, Щ, Ц, Ч in Russian. She said that she can’t feel the difference between them. Doris also asked me for a recipe for borsht – she likes it a lot.
Anastasia Nikolaicheva, Faculty of Economics, 2nd year, and Léa Moulin, exchange student from The University of Franche-Comté, France
Léa : We’ve only met once so far and now we are planning our next meeting. We wanted to go in Moloko cafe but finally went to Volkonski cafe. As for our topic of discussion, we did not arrange it beforehand, it was instinctive and natural, we spoke spontaneously. Our first meeting was rather a chance to get acquainted with each other, we talked about our lives and our interests. As for me, I didn't feel any barrier, we are on the same wavelength and we got on well immediately! Before going to the cafe we spoke Russian, and after, for the first meeting, we spoke English, and people in the cafe seemed to be surprised, some of the waiters watched at us and also some people. For me the funniest, and greatest thing I learnt, was more about the start of my relationship with Anastasia, because we realised that we are as "crazy" as each other, and laugh at the same thing. About the language, the funniest thing was the fact that, according to Anastasia, I ‘speak Russian very well!’ Because I don't think it's true, I need more and more practice, and I was really surprised to hear this opinion, thank you once again Anastasia!
Nina Zdorova, Faculty of Humanities, 4th year, and Juliane Gasser, Verena Rehrl, and Johannes Schobesberger (Global Business, 1st year)
On November 19th, 2015, a photo exhibition ‘Russia in VOGUE’ opened at the Arsenal, and we went there with our Austrian friends, since this was a great occasion to have a good time and to learn more about Russian culture by means of art forms that are understandable for us. The photos portrayed many people important for our country, such as Evtushenko, Akhmadulina, Shalyapin, and contemporaries including Vodyanova and others. I hope that my little comments about them were useful. It turned out that Natalia Vodyanova looks very similar to Romy Schneider, an Austrian actress known for her role of Princess Sissi. We spent one more hour after the exhibition discussing our plans, studies, families, Nizhny Novgorod, and many other things. I learnt some new Russian vocabulary including: снег, снег идет, дождь, солнце, and I added ‘Milchshake’ to my German vocabulary.
Alessandra Marabini and Margarita Galkina
We study Russian and Italian together with Margarita. We had already met in the university during a speaking club, where a group of Russian students wanted to learn Italian. Anastasja Tvestkova invited us to take a tandem together to improve our language skills. We spoke for half an hour in Russian and half an hour in Italian, even if we don’t have the same language level. One of us has been studying Russian for 5 years and the other one for 2 months. We both think it is better to know the cultural and social background in order to understand the phraseology and the construction of sentences. Moreover, if we don’t know understand the culture, we run the risk of offending our partner and his/her culture.
Interaction in the tandem differs from a lecture class because in a tandem we are just two people, it’s a kind of face-to-face communication, while in a lecture class there are too many people and there’s no opportunity and not enough time to ask questions. This was more interesting and productive because we are friends and it seems better to learn a language with friends instead of teachers. We usually discuss topics which we are interested in.
It is difficult to explain the theory and phonetics for both of us because there are some phonetic sounds that don’t match. Anyway, we try to do the best, by listening and reading as much as possible.
We don’t use any social or online platforms and we think it’s more productive to have face-to-face interaction because your partner can correct you immediately and because in online chats we cannot improve our pronunciation.
We usually meet on Minin square, because it's easy to get there for both of us and then go to somewhere nearby. I look for some unusual events and then invite Verena to join me. We’re lucky because there're a lot of nice places to visit in Nizhniy Novgorod. For example, we went to the market and a restaurant some days ago. And Verena tried yoga yesterday! It was her first experience. I do yoga twice a week and I really love it, so I decided to invite Verena too (she said she enjoyed it). Our topics for conversations are not pre-arranged, we just meet and talk about anything we want, like we have known each other for ages. Fortunately, we have a lot in common, so it's quite easy to find something to discuss. We usually speak in English, however we do try to chat in Russian and German as well. Sometimes I ask Verena to give me a short talk in German and then I retell her information, I've understand in English. As for me, I feel very comfortable with Verena, because, as I've said before, sometimes I can forget, that we’ve only known each other for a couple of weeks. She's friendly, open-minded and not afraid of trying something new! People are usually don't care about our speech. However, sometimes they try to ask us where are we from but we heard another group of people, sitting behind us, when we were at the restaurant's day. They spoke Russian as well, but they started practicing French when we came. That was funny, because then the room looked like a small language club.