Sunday, March 30, 2014

Now, Will America Return to Teaching Russian Language in Schools ?

              I don't often recycle my own posts, but this one, which appeared a year ago, was oddly prophetic.  Not only do we need to take responsibility for monitoring radicalized Muslims within the Russian Federation, but we need to have our fingers on the pulses on the mood and news of "Mother Russia" and Mr. Putin, as well, for other reasons.
Perhaps more people would agree now that Russian language studies needs to return to American high school, college and university curricula as an offering.

Russia, with superimposed Russian flag.

    Just after 9-11, there was a big push in American colleges, universities and even high schools, to make Arabic classes available to students.  Our country knew that we needed to better understand people who spoke Arabic.  We also knew that an entire generation of really fluent Arabic speakers would be needed in order to better pour over the huge amount of information available in Arabic in magazines, and on the internet, which might portend future attacks and concerns for homeland security.  The newest generation of intelligence analysts needed to be started today.  As intelligence analysts we need people who understand the true nuances of a particular language, not someone who received a crash course.  Ideally, those analysts should be trained in Arabic over a period of time.
               This was an excellent idea given what had happened, and some universities also gave money to beef up the programs in Farsi  (spoken in Iran, or the former Persia)
              The problem with this, is that in order to fund these programs, Russian was cut in the high schools in which it had been taught.  Less money was appropriated on the university level for the study of Russian language. Students who had planned trips to study in Russia found their funding cut, and fewer exchange professors from Russia were slated to come here.   This was a terrible mistake, and I said so at the time.
               Russia is the largest country in the world, as calculated by land mass.    According to the 2011 census, there are at least  141,930,000 who were in urban enough areas to be counted.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, they have taken to capitalism like the proverbial duck to water.  In fact, Moscow now has the largest number of millionaires of any city in the world.  There is an incredible potential for us to sell consumer goods to Russia.  This is why Coca-cola, Benetton, Burger King, and many other companies are already there now.  As their economy changes from state owned housing one rents according to income, to a primarily personally owned home economy, there are incredible opportunities economically for us.  Unfortunately, if none of us speak Russian, we are going to miss those opportunities.  This is without even considering the vast cultural and scientific opportunities that are possible if some of our finest minds speak Russian fluently enough to communicate well with Russia.
                 There are not a lot of Americans who speak Russian well.  You may remember Hilary Clinton's blunder during the first days of the Obama Regime when she wished to send a "Reset" button to the Russians to say that she would like to turn a new page with regard to the US relationship with them. The button said peregruzka which does not mean reset, it means overload.   Sergei Lavrov, the diplomat involved told Mrs. Clinton that they had gotten it wrong.  Perezagruzka, a different word,means reset.  Perhaps if we had a larger body of Russian speakers and translators we would be less prone to serious language errors, particularly on the highest levels of diplomacy, where it really matters.

                 When I was in Russia, I  learned that in Moscow, schoolchildren do have learning English as an option.  However, when we were in Vladivostok, Russia, 5000 miles East of Moscow, that schoolchildren have the option of learning to speak French, not English.  Consequently, when I ran out of Russian vocabulary there, I dropped into French, to be more precisely understood.  I could not expect to find those who spoke English, or Angliski as the Russians call it.

                  The bitter civil war in Chechnya, and the known connections which exist between Al Qaeda in the rest of the world, and their Muslim brothers in Chechnya mean that in the US, we need to be better monitoring the Russian and Chechen communications via phone and via internet.  Perhaps if we had more analysts who were Russian fluent, we would have had more of a heads up on the Tsarnaev brothers, the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombings.  We might not have detected these radicalized individuals, or stopped this particular bombing, but it should serve as a wake up call that we are depending upon the Russians to do their own analyses of potential world terror, and to tell us about it, rather than having our own Russian speaking analysts on staff.

These are Muslim Chechen rebels.

                   Like it or not, Russia, and its outer regions figure prominently on the world stage, and deserve our attention, if not our concern.  In Moscow, Radical Chechen Muslims took over the Dubrovka Theatre  in October, 2002  One hundred and thirty hostages died, many of them children. Seven hundred people were injured.  Eventually, all forty terrorists died also. 

                 This is America's wake up call to pay attention to Russian Muslims as a potential source of US terrorism, as well as radicalized Muslims in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Click on this:
Documentary on the Moscow Theatre Seige

                                       Bolshoe spasiba !


Linda said...

From my experience all schools are dumbing down requirements for graduation. No one is required to have any language classes. So, why should a school bother to hire a language teacher and not require students to study a language? Many countries require students to study English. Maybe we should begin to require two years credit in a language again. But, thw whiny baby students would have their helicopter parents complain and get them off the hook. I wanted to study Latin, Spanish, Greek, and Japanese when I was in school. But, few did. The combination of Russian and Muslim terrorists really frightens me.

JaneofVirginia said...

Sadly, while the US allows its schools to slip into furthur mediocity, Japan, China, Brazil, India, Russia and many other nations gear up educationally with the realization that in a global economy and global world, those who aren't multi-lingual will be left with menial work. Without evolving to a better educational standard than the US has now, our nation is doomed to Third World status.

BBC said...

I'm too old to give a shit..