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Educators fear decline in student interest in Russian language

  • March 19, 2022
  • , Jiji Press , 6:27 pm.
  • English Press

Tokyo, March 19 (Jiji Press)–University educators in Japan are concerned about a possible decline in new students taking up Russian language and literature as a result of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine ahead of the start of a new school year next month.

Meanwhile, the conflict has raised the interest of some students in the language.

The Japan Association for the Study of Russian Language and Literature said in a statement that “some may be worried and regretful of learning the language and culture of a country that does such a thing.”

Studying Russia “does not mean approval of the Russian government’s military aggression,” the association said, stressing the importance of dialogue with those who speak Russian and are part of Russian culture.

Hibi Watanabe, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Tokyo who teaches Russian, stressed the significance of learning the language in an article online aimed at new students.

The article emphasized that a language and a state are not equal, and that Russian language is important for listening to the voices of people in war zones and refugees.

“The number of people who become interested in Japan-Russia relations and want to build bridges may increase, but the number of people who choose to study Russian for economic and pragmatic reasons will likely decrease,” Watanabe said.

Students currently studying Russian may lose their interest in the language, he said, pointing out the need to support such students.

A 19-year-old from Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan, who plans to enter the University of Tokyo and begin studying Russian as a second foreign language this spring, said that the Ukraine conflict has given him interest in learning Russian.

“I became interested in Communist bloc languages because I wanted to learn about what the opponents (to Japan and the United States) are thinking,” he said. “My motivation to study Russian increased because of this war.”

“Russians probably have their own way of thinking,” he said. “I may be able to gain accurate information about the Ukraine situation by understanding the language even a little bit.”

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