Purdue News

August 30, 2005

Post 9/11, students are studying Russian again

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Russian language studies are rebounding even as current events attract more students to Arabic and Spanish, says a Purdue University language expert.

"Learning languages, especially Russian, is often motivated by what is happening politically and economically around the world," says Zinaida Breschinsky (zen-AY-dah brah-CHEN-ske), associate professor of Russian who has been teaching at Purdue for 30 years.

That's why Arabic language programs are seeing their enrollments increase since 9/11, and interest in Spanish continues with the growing native-speaking population in the United States, she says.

"In the 1990s, as the fall of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War, followed by the chaotic years of President Boris Yeltsin, the number of students learning Russian was the lowest I had ever seen," Breschinsky says. "In the last eight years, that number has been increasing."

Breschinsky says there are two reasons students today learn Russian: fascination with the culture and language and as a career strategy.

Many of her students are from engineering programs, especially aeronautical and astronautical. Other students are majoring in agriculture, political science and sociology.

"Russia is geographically the largest country in the world and home to a vast amount of natural resources, such as gas and oil reserves, and minerals, such as diamonds and nickel," Breschinsky says. "The country may not be dominating the news now, but employers and big businesses see potential in Russia's changing economy and political structure.

"Plus, a student who studies Russian, which has its own alphabet, just stands out in a job interview."

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Zinaida Breschinsky, (765) 494-3864, zab@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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