Dr. Alla Kourova


In accordance with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, goals for foreign language learning include communities, communication, comparisons, connections, and cultures. Each teaching goal is interlinked and serves an essential component in language development. However, culture has been largely limited by stereotypical biases, which misrepresent the culture studied, and the native culture's sociological roles and perceptions of that target culture. The experiments and theories of Vygotsky (1934; 1956), and Leontyev (1978) indicate that second language learning can reconstruct self-identity and redevelop behaviors appropriate to the second language's respective culture. Personal investment and openness to a foreign language encourage learning beyond classroom objectives while xenophobia limits it. To encourage meaningful culture and content application, cross-cultural programs such as Connecting Classrooms and study abroad opportunities deepen students' investment in language learning. With these cultural theories as a critical perspective, this study analyzes a group of 67 student Canvas Web posting responses from Beginning Russian Language classes in the Fall 2011 and 2012 semesters, which asked students why they chose to learn Russian. Responses were then analyzed to determine how often culture/history, degree requirements, and other factors played a role in language choice. Students' study abroad journals from Summer 2013 were also analyzed. Together, these cultural tools were evaluated to determine how they enhanced language learning and the pedagogical field.

About the Author

Irina Pidberejna is an artist, lover of languages and global citizen. She is a heritage speaker of Ukrainian and a native speaker of English, in addition to formally learning Russian and Spanish. Her research focuses on culture and second language acquisition, cross cultural communication programs, and humanitarian work. She will be graduating this year with a Bachelors Degree of Arts (Visual Arts and Emerging Media Management), a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate, Substitute Teaching Certificate, and a Russian Minor. Irina has worked on multiple grants and projects including Connecting Classrooms, and the Department of State U.S. Peer to Peer Dialogue Program. She has also assisted in launching the STARTALK Program with her mentor Dr. Alla Kourova. Irina has presented at multiple conferences including Central Florida TESOL, Sunshine TESOL, Florida Foreign Language and the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. She will be pursuing her Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the University of Central Florida and ultimately plans to pursue a PhD in linguistics.



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