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UCF students with the need for a challenge and taste for foreign food have taken on the new, free, government-sponsored Russian-language program this summer.

The program, which began July 6 and ends Friday, received 122 participants on its first trial, and is sponsored by the STARTALK grant from the National Security Language Initiative, which awards a certificate of achievement to those who finish the program in its entirety.

The program was made possible by its director Alla Kourova, the same professor who developed UCF's Russian minor. With a doctorate in cross-cultural studies from Moscow State University, she has been teaching at UCF for eight years as an assistant professor of Russian and TESOL.

Kourova submitted two curriculum proposals to the NSLI that were rejected before she completely redid the curriculum and tried again. It wasn't until this year that her program was finally approved and received praise from independent evaluators from the NSLI encouraging her to apply for the STARTALK grant again next year.

Katherine Moses, a junior international and global studies major, took the course while also studying French and Arabic. With her dream to work for a U.S. embassy when she graduates, Moses requested a month off of work just to enroll in the Russian program this summer. She said she believes knowing two designated critical languages and a popular European language would make her a valuable asset.

"I've learned so much in these three weeks, more than I've learned in an entire semester of language study," she said. "I think it's because of all the repetition and the focus on the conversational aspect."

The program has exceeded Moses' initial expectations because she assumed the class would simply go through a workbook and learn a couple of words and phrases. However, she admits she's actually disappointed the program couldn't be longer.

"It took me two years to get the French accent, so I can only imagine how long it will take to get the Russian accent down. That's been really difficult for me. I'm pretty sure it took me like three or four days just to pronounce 'Zdravstvweete' [formal manner of saying hello in Russian]," she said.

Colin Howell, a senior international and global studies major, said he felt the program was slightly lacking organization, but hopes it goes up from here.

"Some days and activities do seem a bit unorganized, but I believe that can be attributed to the newness of the program and the need to simply try things out and see how they work," he said. "The second time around, things will hopefully be a little more structured."

Kourova has decided to include a cultural aspect to specific activities because she feels it is a deliberate move to ensure that students don't feel burned out and weary by the end of the day.

"We do a lot of tongue twisters, and tongue twisters in Russian are very, very difficult to pronounce, but they're doing a great job," she said. "It's just funny to hear how they pronounce it in the beginning compared to the sixth or tenth time."

Howell said he appreciates the program's efforts to break the traditional monotony of lectures and note-taking with extracurricular activities, such as skits, songs and a deep focus on Russian culture.

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Gabby Baquero is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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