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Professor reflects on Russian program’s success

Naomi Galindo

Lantern Staff

Studying Russian has always been a language that people want to learn. There are many universities that offer a bachelor’s and master’s programs; however, it is not very common to see community colleges offer these programs. Butler Community College is one of those few schools, especially in the state of Kansas.  

A year of Russian was offered before, but this year, the two-year program began, and students can now earn a foreign language degree in Russian. Elena Allen, who is the department chair of the developmental Reading program, is a native Russian speaker. Allen is from Krasnoyarsk, Russia.  

“After graduating from college with a BA in English and German,” Allen said. “I taught high school students for 11 years. I got a scholarship to continue my education in the US and lived and worked in NC for 20 years before moving to Kansas to teach at Butler.” 

The Russian program was started about four years ago. Unfortunately, there are no other colleges in the state of Kansas that offer a four-year degree, except for the University of Kansas.  

“The only thriving program is offered by KU,” Allen said. “They offer BA [bachelor of arts] in Russian, as well as MA [master’s] and PhD [doctorate]. The students who want to continue should not be discouraged because there are many open educational resources available online. A good way to continue is to watch movies, listen to the music, and dive into Russian classical literature.”  

The Russian program consists of four classes. The introductory class is Beginning Russian I, Beginning Russian II. For the second year, the courses consist of Intermediate Russian and Conversational Russian. Students get to learn about the grammar, culture and Russia.  

Allen works on different projects that suit student’s learning styles. She has projects where students can create their own dream homes, make a reservation going to Russia, order food and even learn a few Russian recipes, and of course, all in Russian.  

“I am a big fan of multiple intelligences, so I try to include a variety of activities to allow students learn through their preferred learning style,” Allen said. “The students like singing, using color to draw their ideas, color code grammar rules, and the absolute favorite are the projects-creating and describing one’s dream home, exploring the weather in a Russian city and packing a suitcase for a trip, writing an email to request reservations for a hotel in Moscow.” 

One of Dr. Allen’s highlights about the program is that students want to learn a difficult language out sheer curiosity. She explains that the alphabet is different than English and that the grammar is challenging.  

Two students, Raul Rangel and Nathaniel Arnold, from the two-year Russian program share their experience with the program.   

“I was wanting to look into learning a language, so I looked into the courses offered at Butler,” Arnold said. “I looked through the class options and saw Russian as an option. This was a less expected option than Spanish or French, and it piqued my interest. I further grew curious about this language in part due to how different it sounded to me when compared to other foreign languages, such as Spanish or French, so I gave it a try. I am glad that I did.”  

Raul Rangel is also a student at Wichita State University but has previously attended Butler to study different Foreign Languages he says that  

“I had always wanted to take Russian because I wanted to see how Russian culture, food, lifestyle and overall people who speak this language were,” Rangel, a Wichita State student, added.  

Rangel also mentioned that Wichita State used to offer Russian classes in the past, but they do not offer them anymore.  

“The highlight of this program for me was the desire of the students (some of whom never took a foreign language before) to try their best in such a difficult language out of sheer curiosity,” Allen said. “The alphabet is very different from English, grammar is quite difficult, the whole structure of the language is unlike any other. Those who had a brush with another language have an opportunity at comparative linguistics. I am proud of all the students who took Russian in the last four years. I am sure that if they learned only one thing from this class that would be that though people of all the countries speak different languages, they are very similar in their dreams and aspirations.” 

Allen thanked Susan Bradley, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, for allowing her to develop the program and giving students the opportunity to experience the language.  

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