From September 2016 Russian will feature as one of the languages in the MIV discovery course, allowing girls to access a new alphabet and a taste of Slavonic culture. Russian is then offered as an optional second modern language from the UIV. Pupils may study Russian for two years and then opt into a further two years up to GCSE. English and Russian have the same Indo-European linguistic origins and behind the exotic-looking alphabet there is a simple system of pronunciation and large number of familiar words. We make the learning of the new language fun and within the first five lessons pupils learn the Cyrillic script and acquire reading and writing skills. Right from the start of the course, a lot of emphasis is placed on the development of the oral skills necessary for communicating in a foreign country. Within the first two years a firm and solid basis has been laid for the further study of Russian to GCSE level and beyond.

An equally important part of language acquisition is the study of the customs and traditions of the largest country in the world and the mentality of its people. Pupils prepare and deliver a project on ‘Russia on the Map’ in the UIV and are encouraged to attend the Russian Club, Kirillitsa, which takes place every other week. Furthermore, once a week students are invited to attend a literary club run in English where they discuss the various literary works of Russian classical and contemporary writers.

At St Paul’s, we study Pearson Edexcel GCSE Russian, which retains the traditional format of papers testing all four linguistic skills. All students have a lesson a week with the oral teacher. In the Senior School, we study the Cambridge Pre-U for Russian. The Pre-U qualification is accessible to any student who has taken the language to GCSE. In the VII the students deepen their grammatical knowledge and significantly extend their active vocabulary to explore issues touching on the position of the young person in society. They have to be able to offer opinions on relevant topics ranging from the positive and negative effects of popular trends to the environmental impact of mass tourism. From the summer of the VII they will embark on study of a literary work which they will write about in English.

The second year of Pre-U asks the student to consider their position as a member of the global society and interestingly, is one of the few senior school subjects which insists that students explore ethical issues, such as euthanasia, globalisation and nuclear energy in depth. The discursive essay prepares them well for many higher education courses which require such skills whilst the use of language paper hones their linguistic awareness and rigour. The cultural paper includes the essay in English mentioned above and a comparative study of two or more texts and/or films.

Trips and cultural opportunities

A six-day cultural trip runs every year in December to St Petersburg and Moscow and the Senior School have been volunteering at the Orion Project in Kitezh for the last three years in the summer holidays. We regularly attend London theatre, ballet and film productions in Russian and in translation. The new venture of a mutual Orthodox Easter celebration at Harrow School was introduced in 2013. Girls have participated with great success in Russian poetry speaking competitions.