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I’m totally bewildered. Today I opened the Russian most popular newspaper “Arguments and Facts” and read “West is going to crash… the USA is at the sundown… Europe has gone crazy… Clowns in a cheap circus”. Anti-Western sentiment (and American in particular) is rising among many people here in Russia (among some of my acquaintances too). I don’t share the sentiment in any form and understand that it’s the result of powerful government brainwashing propaganda.
But quite a different thing surprises me. Despite everything above, Russia is the first country in the world considering the amount of learners of English. At least the Internet shows that Russia with its 143 million citizens has more EFL learners than China, and much much more than Brazil, Thailand or Turkey. Not to be unfound I’ll state several figures that I’ve collected when I was studying pages of popular English teachers here on Italki.
Among 104 mondaytuesday’s students there are: 10 Japanese, 14 Chinese, 7 natives of the Spanish language, 7 of Portuguese, 2 Turks, 1 Korean, and 35 Russians and Ukranians.
Teacher Douglass Lee’s conducted 261 lessons of communicative English for 34 people. Among them there are: 3 Italians, 2 Thais, 7 Chinese, 13 Russian speakers.
Statistics from a different similar site shows that: 30378 Russians are looking for English language partners, 28503 Chinese, 11399 Spanish speakers, 2070 Japanese, 367 Germans are doing the same. (and only 61 English native speakers are looking for Russian native partners :(
The statistics is fascinating (at least for me). So many Russians learn English… Or maybe it just shows the unpopularity of the subject in such countries as Mexico, Korea, Italy, Brazil, China? No, it can’t be. Maybe there are more potential Russian immigrants to the English world than in those countries? Nope. Maybe Russia is the biggest business partner to the USA, the UK, Australia? Nay. Maybe the stronger Anti-American propaganda the more people learn the language? Perhaps, but it’s strange. (I know one girl who blames the USA and UK heavily, but is studying English at the faculty of foreign languages 0_o). It definitely IS a trend and interesting cultural phenomenon.
Any thoughts about the matter?
When I was writing the title, of course, I didn't mean that learning English is a bad thing to do :)
Mikhail, as a native english speaker I first have to say that your English is phenomenal. If I hadn't looked at your profile, I wouldn't have known you aren't a native speaker.
As for my thoughts on your proposed topic, I can attest that here in America there is plenty of anti-Chinese sentiment .We owe them an incredible amount of debt, 1.4 trillion US $ I believe, and many working-class Americans view the Chinese as stealing American manufacturing jobs while wantonly polluting the global environment and abusing human rights. The reality is far more complicated than that, but the world is always more complicated than an average populace cares to understand.
At the same time, mandarin immersion programs are popping up all over the country, the number of students from mainland China coming to American Universities is growing exponentially, and as you may know Presidents Xi Jinping and Obama recently spent a weekend together trying to build a friendship.
I think economic necessity and inate curiousty about the rest of the world trumps hatred and stereotypes, even if it's occuring subconsciously.
An extension of Cold War politics? A love hate relationship?
Thanks for adding this up!
I think that anti-American sentiment in Russia is largely based on the constant drumbeat of anti-American sentiment that today’s Russians are exposed to in the state-controlled and state-influenced media, and in the case of older Russians, perhaps on resentment and chagrin over the collapse of the USSR. Happily, most of the Russians I’ve encountered, albeit over the internet, have been friendly towards me, with knowledge that I’m an American. And I try to reciprocate in kind.
Lastly, your post is written in excellent English. Congratulations to you on your achievement.
"I think economic necessity and innate curiousity about the rest of the world trumps hatred and stereotypes, ..." <<BRILLIANT OBSERVATION, IMHO.
A lot has to do with which language learning platform / community is spending their marketing budget where ... there are other sites (who shall remain unnamed :-) who have more market share in Spanish and Portugese-speaking markets. There are 'many' Russian-speaking people italki.com. Based on that alone, I don't know that we can infer anything from this about the percentage of Russian-speakers viz a viz the total global number of English language learners. It might simply mean that italki.com has focused this year's marketing dollars on what they saw as an under-serviced market for their very particular model of 'a social language learning destination and marketplace.'
My parents don't like the U.S.A., because they think that there nobody works and everybody's rich. But I don't.
mondaytuesday, I wholeheartedly hope that I didn’t offend you by counting your students. It wasn’t my intention ^-^. And I think what you said is a big piece of the truth. Italki indeed has done an excellent job by providing very comfortable service and allowing their Russian users to pay by Webmoney. It seems to me that that the popularity of Italki has spread by word of mouth here in Russia. I myself learned about the site from a glossy educational magazine’s laudatory review. I hope that in 5 years Italki will be the biggest table for people from all around the world to sit at and chat in English.
P.S. Thanks so much for your comments and opinions (^o^).
P.S. As to myself, I try interpreting it as follows. Today Russians are distinctly divided into two parts. The first are the young liberals who aren’t afraid of Western culture and influence (as well as any other culture), they are mostly residents of big cities, but their real dwelling place is the Internet. Our Internet is relatively free and liberal, and they feel quite cozy there. I’m one of them, and I think here on Italki the absolute majority of Russian users wouldn’t support the article in the mentioned newspaper and aren’t influenced by the anti-American hysteria. I think that those who are influenced don’t really learn English (aside from rare peculiar cases), or visit sites like Italki, but nevertheless they constitute a significant percentage of the populace.
And even more, English may serve as a form of protest for a young liberal: “You blame the USA for all of our ills? You ban American families to adopt Russian orphans? You call the most prosperous and humane countries in the world tainted? Well, I don’t give a damn what you say, but in order to argue you back I’m going to be adjusted to whatever words you use to call it.”
Are you serious? English is a must nowadays. It doesn’t depend whether I like or don’t like Western countries. I can use English everywhere. Unfortunately I can understand their mass media as well. Western countries are like whores they can speak about honour, piety and other stuff but it is spoken by a whore.
Are Russians bad guys and Americans good guys in your opinion? My former classmate spent four months in the USA, he had always dreamt to live there, he returned and he hates this country, is the Russian propaganda to blame for this?