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Bilingual Land of Soul2010-11-24 12:33
It would seem the Russian language has the most solid position in Abkhazia as compared with other post-Soviet countries. It is more than a lingua franca here. Even various ethnic communities deal with each other in Russian. But the gap in learning that took place in the 1990s manifests itself. Probably, the Russian Language Week currently held in Abkhazia will help to answer the question how to improve quality of education.
"Come to have tea - the baby is sleeping, take sugar along" - were SMS in poor Russian I received from my neighbor inviting us to evening tea. She is a young woman who went to a Russian school. Besides, Russian is the only conversational language for her. Still, she was not taught to write correctly.
Speaking to her about "life matters" for a quarter of an hour would give an illusion that her Russian is ok. Nonetheless, when discussing abstract things she reveals huge vocabulary gaps. She speaks Russian as if there is another language she speaks as a native one. But her native Abkhaz is even worse.
"Our big trouble is that there is a generation that basically can speak no language at all. Young people, 15-30 years old, particularly in rural areas, switched over to Russian losing the habit of speaking their native language, - an employee at the Foundation of Abkhaz Language Development admits. - Still their knowledge of the Russian language is primitive, only one third of the language resources are used. At home elders don't speak Russian at all while schools have never made a point of learning Russian".
The training gap appeared in 1990s when Abkhaz education system collapsed as a result of the post-war blockade. The situation has changed but the problems remain.
November 20 was the start of the Russian Language Week. A group of Russian scholars will hold trainings and workshops to share state-of-the-art methods and technologies of teaching. Their task is to vector Russian language teaching in the right direction.
But there is one more problem: soon there will be no Russian language teachers working in schools of Abkhazia. For the time being it's old Soviet teachers that work, but they gradually retire. State University of Abkhazia had 7 persons entering the Russian language department of the teaching faculty with only 5 graduates this year.