Russian as a Second Language (RSL)

The main objective of the Russian as a Second Language (RSL) program is to boost and balance the development of students’ speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills. The program also aims to facilitate students' adjustment to everyday life in Russia, and to the Smolny academic environment.

We encourage students who are attending Smolny for the fall semester to enroll in our Summer Language Intensive (SLI).  The program is designed to provide the equivalent of one year of Russian language study, and it offers a comprehensive introduction to Smolny as an academic institution.  There is usually a two-week break between the SLI program and the start of the fall semester.

RSL and Academics

RSL and Academics
Smolny’s RSL faculty members are experts in working with international students. Most students find that our instructors command a teaching style that blends grammar-based methods (most commonly found in the classrooms of Europe and the former Soviet Union) with the more communicative methods popular in the United States. The RSL program at Smolny offers many unique features, some of which are listed below.

Two week Intensive

Prior to the start of the semester, students are required to participate in a two-week Russian Language Intensive which is composed of 20 academic hours of language instruction per week. The intensive has the dual focus of improving students’ conversational skills, and preparing them for exposure to academic Russian.

Basic Structure

During the semester, students take three 3-credit Russian language courses which meet twice per week for one and one-half hours per session. Students will also enroll in an additional one and one-half hours per week of phonetics. The RSL course of study includes a wide variety of language components, such as grammar, phonetics, conversational Russian, academic reading, and composition. Specific courses will vary depending on students’ language skills.

A Supplement to Academics

In addition to the RSL program, North American students are directly enrolled in academic courses at Smolny, the majority of which are taught in Russian. Students taking courses for credit can expect to read 100-200 pages per week in Russian for each class, to contribute to class discussion in Russian, and to write academic papers in Russian.

As this is often no easy task for students in their first few weeks, RSL at Smolny is designed to closely correspond with the academic courses in which individual students are enrolled. The program will support students' Russian language coursework, and all instructors have regular office hours for individual consultations in academic reading and writing. Students are encouraged to use these individual meetings to review content and homework from any of their classes.

Individualized Attention

The RSL program employs Smolny students as peer tutors to help North American students prepare their reading and written assignments for academic courses. Generally, each student has the option of meeting with a tutor for up to two hours a week. Tutors are available to help go over points of particular difficulty, including grammar and linguistic questions.

Heritage speakers of Russian may also find components of the RSL program beneficial. We offer a special language course for heritage speakers and the RSL team is happy to help them choose the best mixture of Russian language and other Smolny courses.

RSL Faculty Members

Smolny's RSL faculty members are experts in working with international students. Most North American students find that the teaching style is a blend of the grammar-based methods common in Europe and the former Soviet Union and the more communicative methods popular in the United States.
  • Ludmila Petrovna Kozhevnikova Ph.D. in Philology, Herzen State Pedagogical University.

Sample RSL Course Plans

Here are several examples of actual RSL course plans of North American students from recent semesters. Unless otherwise specified, all components are worth two credits and all classes are in Russian.

Sample RSL Course Plans Example 1

Lee came to Smolny with two years of Russian plus an intensive summer program. Her RSL program included:

  • Conversation and Composition: Dialogue of Cultures
  • Grammar: Difficult Topics
  • Lexicon and Word Formation
  • Audiovisual and Phonetics Course

Sample RSL Course Plans Example 2

Vince had two years of college-level Russian before coming to Smolny. His RSL Program included:

  • Grammar (4 credits)
  • Conversation and Composition: Speaking Russian
  • Audiovisual and Phonetics Course

Heritage Speakers

Heritage speakers, or those students who have a fluent or near-fluent level of Russian through exposure at a young age, often find the Bard-Smolny program to be an attractive study abroad option. Heritage speakers frequently test out of all or part of the nine-credit Russian as a Second Language requirement (RSL), but may choose to take a Russian language course specifically designed for them in addition to a full Russian course load. Individual Russian language courses focus on the aspects of language acquisition that heritage speakers need the most help with; in the past, such courses have treated difficult aspects of punctuation, spelling, and academic Russian. Heritage speakers often choose this unique opportunity as a way to improve their academic and professional knowledge of the Russian language.

If you are a heritage speaker and have any questions about the Bard-Smolny program, please feel free to contact us in English or Russian at