Living abroad has required us to re-evaluate how we can effectively teach our children the Russian language, and maintain and grow those skills over time in a non-immersive environment. Having observed our surroundings, we realized that many other families have found themselves in a similar predicament. Children in Russian-speaking or bilingual families living abroad often speak very little in their parents’ native language. As they grow up and spend more time with their peers, they communicate more and more in other languages, use Russian less and quickly forget it.
Many parents would like their children to be as proficient in Russian as they are in the language of the country they live in, and, in time, start looking for resources to support their children’s Russian-speaking skills.
Frequently, local Russian language schools – typically taught on weekends — approach the teaching process very formally, using standard “Russian as a second language” programs. Kids tend to get overwhelmed with the formal approach and get bored quickly. As a result, the learning process isn’t as effective — as kids become reluctant to go to school on weekends, and the parents find it emotionally draining to force the issue. Additionally, time spent with “pick ups and drop offs” can become overwhelming and limit other activities on the weekends.
Informal communication in the Russian-speaking community is often more effective, but there can also be pitfalls. Kids model their speech after adults, and adults often switch to another language that’s more comfortable for others, such as the child or the second parent. They may also insert words in another language into Russian speech, which may cause the child to perceive the language incorrectly. As children get older and continue to communicate with others in the local language, they tend to view their need to speak Russian as diminished.
The idea of creating an innovative online school for bilingual kids immediately appealed to us, with the promise of fulfilling our dream of raising children fluent in several languages.
After having observed how our children behaved in formal Russian-language classrooms, and how they interact with their peers (local and Russian-speaking), we developed our own approach to teaching bilingual children:
Teaching our kids using the principles mentioned above has led to RuKidsClub having students from all over the world who WANT to communicate in Russian. And their DESIRE develops into the ABILITY to speak correctly and beautifully!