Mastering Russian in Belarus has distinct advantages
Studying a foreign language might be a hobby for one person, while it could be a professional necessity for another. In any case, learning another tongue invariably opens new world views for those who pursue the task. Within this information era, Winston Churchill’s assertion that “he who owns the information owns the world” has become ever more applicable to our daily lives. Indeed, the more languages you know, the more manifold your access to information will be.
The decision over what language to take up can produce a large amount of internal debate. Nevertheless, the choice made by a person who pursues a new language to expand personal perspective is determined more often than not by its presence. Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Bengali, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian are the top-seven most widely-spread languages of the world, and hence they are the most popular ones to study.
Every year more and more people choose to study the Russian language. This isn’t surprising as Russian is the most widespread Slavonic language, and is the seventh most spoken language in the world, both as a native tongue and as a second language. It is the lingua franca, or main language of international communication, in a wide stretch of lands that range from northern and Central Asia to Eastern Europe. It is the prevalent language of all the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, etc.), and it is one of the six official working languages of the United Nations.
Further, many people in many lands have something of an obsession with Russia’s uniquely exotic culture and rich artistic, historic, and literary heritage, which adds further to Russian’s popularity. After all, a person cannot wholly appreciate these intellectual treasures without delving into the mentality of the many great minds who have contributed to them, and without learning the Russian language, this simply isn’t possible.
The Russian-speaking community, including both native speakers and those who have learned it as a second language, is composed of 500 million people worldwide. Ten million of the 170 million native speakers of this language live in the Republic of Belarus. Because of the history that Russian shares with Belorussian language in the territory of Belarus, Russian has asserted itself into just about every aspect of everyday life, education, and culture of modern Belarusian society. Although the state acknowledges two official languages, Russian and Belorussian, the overwhelming majority of the population speaks Russian, even at home.
As a result, some 1,500 foreign students annually come to Belarus to study Russian at its institutes of higher learning. Indeed, to study anything else in this country where everyone speaks Russian, its required to develop a working command of the language through a course of study that most institutes here offer.
Naturally, one can make the deceptively easy leap of logic and object, “Well, why not just go to study Russian in Russia?” There are simple answers to this question. First, Belarus has a far more peaceful and safe reputation as a place of stay when compared to Russia. Second, Belarusian people are renowned for their hospitality and a strong history of tolerance toward people of different nationalities and religious backgrounds. Third, Belarus is a curious place to discover, with its unspoilt nature, green forests, and pure lakes. Add to this a unique cultural heritage, and the result is that Belarus mesmerizes foreigners with its delicate charm.
Programs to study Russian
As many who have tried it concur, traveling and learning a language can be combined into an effective and most pleasant experience. The student who comes here indulges in the everyday life of this very different Russian-speaking culture. Indeed, there isn’t much of a choice other than to self-immerse in Russian when trying to communicate 24/7 in shops and markets, in restaurants and cafes, or in theaters and cinemas. Still, there isn’t a better way to train for use of a new language.
However, before walking out among the Cyrillic-written street signs among people who understand only Russian, and maybe one or two other languages you might not know already, it’s still necessary to learn something from a formal course. In Minsk there are a number of programs to choose from. Official Russian language programs even provide certification that can be used in the application process for admission to just about any institute of higher learning in the CIS. There are two options for doing this, to study either in one of Belarus’ increasingly recognized universities, or in a private language school.
In practice, the choice to study Russian at Belarusian universities remains the most popular option. The universities offer courses that are flexible in duration and academic load. They also offer the choice between a less-costly standard course, or a more-tailored VIP course alternative. The VIP courses work well for those who need individual attention, either to focus on a specialization or to better ensure success in learning the language, while the standard courses are set up for larger groups (and hence are more economical). The majority of students choose the latter variant.
The two main Belarusian universities that are most actively involved in teaching Russian to foreigners are the Belarusian State University and the Minsk State Linguistic University, both located in Minsk. Their programs are, at the core, quite similar, and the prerequisites, tuition fee, and enrollment procedures don’t differ considerably from each other either.
Courses of Russian language
There are several types of courses to choose from:
- Long / short-term courses designed to provide students with basic vocabulary and grammar, speaking and comprehension skills necessary for fluent communication.
- Intensive / higher intensive courses that focus on professional vocabulary and speech.
- Short-term courses of Russian for Specific Purposes aimed at providing attendees with professional terminology and communication skills, usually in the following education profiles: Natural Sciences, Economics, Philology, Medicine-Biology and Technical Engineering. (These can be found at private language schools).
- Summer courses designed to equip students with the basics of Russian used in everyday life.
At Minsk State Linguistic University, the courses are usually organized in the following way:
|Period of study||Dates|
|1-month course||1st June – 30th June1st July – 31th July1st August – 31th August|
|2-month course||1st July – 31th August|
|3-month course||1st June – 31th August|
|5-month course||1st August – 31th December1st October – 28th February1st January – 31th May|
|10-month course||1st August – 31th May1st October – 31th July1st March – 31th December|
The minimal term of the Russian Language Course in Minsk State Linguistic University is one week.
Classes are formed on the basis of the level of language proficiency (in either Russian or Belarusian). As a result there are beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses that operate according to the earlier-mentioned fixed schedule.
Classes begin as soon as enough students have been gathered together. Such courses usually start within the first four days of any given month.
Individual (or VIP) courses are also available in MSLU. Individual students have the privilege to start their chosen course at any time they want.
At Belarusian State University, the schedule for language courses is run as follows below:
|Period of Study||Type of Class||Date|
|1 month||Individual||Throughout the year|
|3 months||Individual||Throughout the year|
|Group||1st October – 1st January|
|5 months||Individual||Throughout the year|
|Group||1st September – 1st February|
|10 months||Individual||Throughout the year|
Also Belarusian State University offers summer language courses of four, six, eight, and ten weeks long, all of which takes place during the summer vacation period. (July 1 – August 30).
Private language schools courses boast of more variety. In addition to group courses and individual courses, they normally also offer online courses and corporate training designed for an individual or a group of professionals who, on request of an employer, are administered courses to master specific terminology in a specific professional sphere.
The duration of courses generally coincides with that of university courses. However, any student who is serious about pursuing a language school is recommended to consult their school of choice personally, either by phone or email.
There are plenty of private language schools that offer Russian studies in Belarus. Streamline language school is the most popular and also the biggest private educational establishment in foreign language teaching in the country. There is also Leader language center, which a few years ago became accredited as a testing center for taking the TORFL (Test of Russian as a Foreign Language). It was created with the aim of standardizing the teaching system for foreign citizens in Russia and the inclusion of Russia in the unified educational sphere of Europe. The certificate given with successful completion of the exam has official status both in Russia and in the European Union.
Tuition fee for Russian Language courses
In the terms of tuition fees, the rule is that the more you study, the cheaper becomes the price.
The average price of a month-long group course at a university will be between 280 and 350 USD. A month-long individual course will cost around 1000 USD. Of course, these prices are subject to change, and contacting the university of choice before planning around these prices is highly recommended.
Private school fees are generally higher.
Accommodation in Minsk
If you enroll in a course at university, you might run a chance of getting a place in a students’ dormitory, which provides the following advantages:
a) the price will come cheaper than renting an apartment,
b) you’ll be among Russian-speaking students, which will give you an opportunity for non-formal language practice, as well as making friends locally.
Private language school offer a different situation. The school usually assists you in finding accommodation. For an additional fee, they will arrange stay in a rented apartment, hotel, hostel, or homestay with a family.
It’s important to note that accommodation fees are not included in the price of tuition, whether the school is private or public.
Required documents and application procedure
Unfortunately Belarus is still under visa-regime that can make it a bit annoying in the terms of rather unpleasant paperwork. However, coming to this country to study under a student visa helps simplify the procedure. An invitation issued by a school or university in Belarus will be the major document on grounds of which you’ll be issued a visa.
A university application procedure will generally involve the following steps.
To obtain an invitation, be prepared to submit the following documents:
- an application form
- a photocopy of the picture-page of the student’s passport
- a notarized translation into Russian of that passport photocopy
On arrival in Belarus applicants must personally submit the following documents to the university:
- the actual passport, which will be required for registration at the local citizenship and migration office of the Ministry of Interior Affairs of Belarus;
- the original certificate for any prerequisite levels of education or a notarized copy of the certificate of education and a copy of notarized translation of the certificate of education into Russian (or Belarusian) language;
- the original standard health certificate (certifying the absence of diseases that by regulation would prevent studies within the Republic of Belarus) or a notarized copy of it.
To make the enrollment complete, applicants also must:
- obtain obligatory medical insurance;
- sign a contract with the university and pay tuition fees;
- have a medical examination at the Students’ Hospital (fee required), even when joining a Russian (or Belarusian) Language Course lasting over 3 months.
To conclude, it’s important to say that despite the notorious reputation of Russian as a language that is impossible to study, there is every reason take the challenge. Your success will help break this ridiculous legend.
There’s no doubt that in Belarus you’ll find every condition to master Russian. Universities and schools provide highly-qualified teachers who use both classical and innovative tactics in teaching. All the necessary equipment and literature will be provided. What is more you’ll find yourself among native speakers. So we definitely recommend that you come to study Russian in Belarus! Contact The Minsk Herald if you have questions or need more information.