Russian teacher joins Modern Languages faculty

Marcus Clem | editor in chief

From southeastern Siberia to Pittsburg, Kan., is something of a transition, but Yulia Senkiv says she’s fitting in well. That’s even though the town is not at all what the Fulbright Program selectee expected.

Pittsburg a surprise

“I thought it would just be a small town where nothing ever happened,” she said with a look of surprise. “I saw that the population is so small, and it was in the middle of America … I did not expect to find people from all over the world.”

Yulia Senkiv

Yulia Senkiv

That cultural diversity, Senkiv says, may prove to be a key professional resource.
Senkiv is a linguist who beyond her native Russian has mastered English and Spanish.
She had started Portuguese studies before her trip here and was somewhat disappointed that she had to interrupt that.
“But here, there are Brazilians and, of course, Portuguese speakers everywhere,” she said.
She says she expected a colder reception than she has received.
“People are so polite,” she said. “Everyone always says, ‘I’m sorry’ for minor things. In Russia, you would never see this. People don’t usually smile.”
Some of her stereotyped notions about America were confirmed, though, in particular those about the food.
“There’s lots of fast food, pizza and hamburgers,” she said with a playfully scolding expression. “We (Russians) prefer hot meals and soup. And tea, we drink tea after every meal. I can’t find hot tea anywhere.”

Language teaching her forte

Senkiv is effectively filling in for fellow Fulbright scholar Ilnur Khuzin, who returned to Russia in June.
She started teaching Russian Language and Culture I and II, and says that she is impressed by the extent that everything she needs for her lessons is provided for her.
“I don’t need to worry about computers or video resources and I can just contact someone if there are problems.”
While she has worked with Russian learners before back home, that was mainly to improve her skills.
With most of her American students, she is starting from scratch, and she says she knows that native English speakers consider Russian to be one of the hardest languages to learn.
The Russian alphabet, Cyrillic script, has a few common characters with the Latin script used in English.
However, some of those common characters represent significantly different sounds, and some of the many characters unique to Cyrillic represent sounds that few Americans use.
The headline for this story, “Хорошо!” is pronounced “hara-sho” and means “good” as in a compliment.
During Senkiv’s Russian classes, she uses it frequently to show her students that they are doing well.
One of her favorite techniques involves the use of matryoshka, commonly known as Russian nesting dolls.
These small figurines are placed around the classroom to help students learn directions and vocabulary.
“I try to combine cultural aspects of Russia with the language aspect,” she said.
Senkiv says although she’s been her for a short while, she already misses home.
“I have a boyfriend in Russia,” she said. “I met him three months before coming here and was preparing to leave all at the same time. I miss my boyfriend and my parents, too.”

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