Would you believe that as many as half a million Russian immigrants are now estimated to be living in the UK? You may not, but I do… With so much Russian I hear in the streets and so many personal Russian certificates we have been translating, the figure does sound very realistic.
One of the problems these Russians face is that even if their children, born and bred here, do speak fluent Russian, they often can’t read or write in Russian. Russian is not exactly in the curriculum of every school or every University Department of Modern Languages here in the UK… Russian is competing with both traditional languages (French, German and Spanish) and oriental languages (Japanese and Chinese).
Historically, Russian in the UK has always had its ups and downs. During World War I Britain needed to cooperate with its allies, Russia was one of them, so quite a few serving officers were trained Russian interpreters. The revolution in 1917 meant any cooperation, military or trade, declined. Russian revived again during WWII thanks to the importance of military intelligence. Lots of schools and universities continued teaching Russian well into the 1970s until the introduction of the national curriculum in the 1980s when it became somewhat hard for schools to offer a second foreign language.
Now with such a large Russian population in the UK, there is a demand for Russian yet again. Some of the Russians I know already teach Russian here and are willing to continue the tradition. Some universities have large Russian Student Communities, such as Russian Society at Cambridge University. Hopefully colleagues will pick up the trend too. So long live Russian!
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