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How do foreigners learn Russian?

Russian as a foreign language (RFL) is a special method for teaching Russian to foreigners which aims to allow them to master the language effectively. There are general teaching resources and grammar books available for this purpose, which describe Russian from the point of view of another language.
A marked difference can be seen between the Russian grammar rules in textbooks aimed at Russian schoolchildren and those designed for foreigners. For example, verbal aspect is explained at school by comparing the questions "что делать?" (what can be done?) and "что сделать?" (what is there to do?). In textbooks for foreigners, meanwhile, this chapter consists of a thorough list of the numerous rules governing the use of one verbal aspect or the other.
The history of teaching Russian as a foreign language goes back over 1000 years. The periods and phases of development of the teaching method reflect the changes which have taken place in the social, political and socio-economic life of Russia, which significantly affect the processes of education, upbringing and learning.
Studying Russian abroad started soon after the formation of Kievan Rus and the Russian state's arrival on the world scene. Orthodox Slavonic countries used similar teaching methods and resources throughout the whole region, due to the influence of the Orthodox Church on their national languages and the similarity of their cultures and educational traditions. Between the 12th and 17th centuries in Western Europe, individual study of Russian prevailed, with bilingual phrasebooks and dictionaries used widely. There were even trips to Rus with the aim of mastering the language whilst living with a Russian family. The majority of those learning Russian belonged to the merchant classes. Russian first began to be taught in the universities and schools of Western Europe at the beginning of the 18th century. Russian and foreign authors compiled grammar books and practical resources in Russian for foreigners. The textbooks included texts about Russia - describing its geography, climate and customs, and the tourist attractions in Russian towns.
In the 19th century and the early 20th century Russian was taught in the majority of European countries and in several countries in Asia and Africa. The study reader was introduced, a new type of resource which took advantage of the increased interest in Russian literature from foreigners.
Today the most common method for teaching Russian as a foreign language is known as the communicative method. It aims to give students the capacity to solve communicative tasks using the foreign language, and to talk fluently with Russian speakers. The language is therefore mastered during natural discussion, with the teacher as organiser and participant. The student is included in the discussion and should be constantly involved. Another method has been developed in connection with this - inter-cultural communication.
In 1999 Russian teaching specialists, based on research by the European Council, developed the National Educational Standards of Russian as a Foreign Language, proposing six levels of language mastery (elementary, basic, and certificate levels 1-4) relating to teaching in Russian institutes of higher education.
Communicative tasks are used to test students’ language level. Students must solve these problems using their knowledge of the language, topic and context, with their level of linguistic accuracy also assessed.
As a rule, the RFL departments are made up of a mixture of foreign students and Russian students who want to become Russian language teachers, studying for a 4-year Bachelor's degree. To get a place on the first year of the Bachelor's degree foreign students must pass the Level 1 RFL test. Those who want to can continue their studies to Master's level (the course lasts 2 years). Foreign students who have received a Bachelor's degree in their native country can also join the Master's course if they pass the relevant RFL test.
Russia has hosted the International Online Festival of Friendship for undergraduate, postgraduate and exchange students who study Russian as a foreign language since 2010, organised by the Department of Philology at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. In the first round the participants must write a creative work on one of twelve topics connected to Russia, the Russian language or Russian culture. The second round involves preparing a video presentation dedicated to the culture of their home country. All students currently studying at any Russian higher education institute can take part.