language practice

These days a lot of my time is dedicated to childcare and my dissertation, but since we are currently living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I’m also finding time to work on my German. I returned to LingQ, a website that I previously reviewed, and haven’t been disappointed. The site provides free content (text and audio) that is organized by your language skill level and is able to track the progress of your vocabulary in order to highlight only unknown words, based on your progress. Recent additions that I like are an automatic link for new words to google translator as well as a free iphone app that automatically creates flashcards for practice on the go.  The free membership level allows you to create 100 such cards, so you need to delete them as you go, unless you upgrade to a paid membership.  My only concern about upgrading is that once you do so, [EDIT: you can’t go back to the free membership without deleting your account, you have to be sure to delete your accumulated flashcards before you downgrade, because at the free membership level they can only be deleted one at a time–Thank you to Alex Ristich from LingQ for clarifying this.  There are certainly other benefits to the paid membership, which I haven’t explored.  One is an iphone app that allows you to read and listen to your lessons on the go.  Unfortunately the app is not compatible with my “old fashioned” first generation iphone.]  I look forward to seeing what kind of content for German is available as I advance, because the Russian materials were quite good.  There are a lot of other features of the site for those with more time, but as a basic resource for working through the eleven offered foreign language texts and improving your vocabulary, LingQ is excellent.  So far Russian is the only post-Soviet bloc language offered.

I also wanted to mention a site that might be interesting for intermediate and advanced Russian learners, or those with such students, as well as those who are fond of Russian pop culture. It is called RUSSIANCHAT, a videopodcast for learning Russian. The site uses a variety of audio-visual materials to introduce learners to a wide range of Russian language and culture. Each entry consists of a few introductory paragraphs and a clip of 3-10 minutes. Beginning with elementary language scenes, it includes a wide range of great clips from youtube, from a 1944 cartoon rendition of Kornei Chukovsky’s Telephone to a TV special about Yury Kuklachev’s cat circus. The most recent post presents an excerpt from Leonid Parfyonov’s take on the Chernobyl meltdown from his show Намеди. What will probably be most helpful for students and useful for teachers (as well as interesting for both) are the author’s terrific introductions that provide both linguistic and cultural context. In some cases these include key phrases or complete translations. The author of the site is Dr. Svitlana Malykina.


May 21, 2011. Language, Students, Teaching, Web tools. 1 comment.

illustrated history

I was recently faced with writing a lecture on the Russian Revolution, and so knowing that I would have the opportunity to use powerpoint, I spent some time reviewing the online troves of historical photographs that I’ve come across in recent years.

Google images is of course a natural place to start searching for pictures.  One useful feature is a setting on its Advanced Search page that lets you specify whether you want to find materials that is free to use or share, free to modify, or even free for commercial use.


February 5, 2010. Exhibits, Images, Primary Sources, Teaching. Leave a comment.


Yesterday, while reading the comments on Stanley Fish’s latest New York Times rant on university education in the United States, I came across an interesting website for language learners called LingQ.

The site currently facilitates self-guided instruction in ten languages, including Russian.

As an advanced student of Russian, what was most interesting to me was the library of various types of podcasts and other audio programs, which are presented along with the full text in Russian. The library includes a variety of materials, including newscasts from Ekho Moskvy and Voice of America, audio books such as Tolstoy’s Detstvo and excerpts from Anna Karenina, and original programming specific to language learning with topics ranging from travel to business etc. Moreover, it seems to be quite easy for any user to add content to the site, as long as both audio and text are included.

The most exciting technical function of the site, however, is that it tracks the progress of your learning. (more…)

August 26, 2009. Language, Students, Teaching. 2 comments.

Terry Martin’s primary source guide

Prof. Terry Martin has put together a collection of bibliographies of Russia/USSR related English-language primary sources , and he has generously made them available online on his web space at Harvard University.

Topics include: Document collections, writings of party leaders, biographies, foreign diplomatic sources, travelers’ accounts, and soviet publications.  When appropriate, the lists are divided between materials available at Harvard and those available elsewhere.  There is a link to a couple other general bibliographies, and it seems as if more bibliographies and links may be added in the future.  One thing that might be added to the site is a list of English subtitled Russian/Soviet films.

The site is intended specifically for serious students, but it should be useful for researchers as well.

July 3, 2009. Biography, Indexes, Journals, library catalogues, Primary Sources, Research, Students, Teaching. Leave a comment.

English-language Historical Online Exhibits

Ben’s Index has a list of links to exhibits on Russian and Soviet history.  Here is a selection of those that seemed up to date:

April 27, 2009. Exhibits, Interest & Entertain, Students, Teaching. Leave a comment.

Harvard University Refugee Interview Project

I learned today that this famous project has been fully digitized and most of the interviews as well as reference guides to the collection are available online.   Carried out from 1950-1951, it consists of “329 general ‘sociological’ interviews on the subjects’ life histories, which were known as Schedule A, and 435 topical ‘anthropological’ interviews with more focused lines of questioning, known as Schedule B,” as well as thousands of written questionnaires.   Although I could not find precise information, it seems as if most of the interview materials were included in the project.  More about the project can be found in the Summer 2008 issue of the Davis Center newsletter.

April 13, 2009. Archives, Primary Sources, Research, Stalin Era, Students, Teaching. 2 comments.

language online – Ukrainian

In spring 08  I spent two weeks carrying out research in Kiev.  Fortunately, most of the documents I needed were in Russian.  But not all of them.  Moreover, the chief of the reading room at the central Party archive of Ukraine only spoke to me in Ukrainian.  Each time I would answer haltingly in Russian – and without batting an eye she would continue on in Ukrainian, despite knowing Russian. Charming?

As a way to get started learning Ukrainian, I found an online course hosted at UCL in England called Read Ukrainian.

October 16, 2008. Language, Research, Students, Teaching, Ukraine. Leave a comment.