Better than Borscht
Langley's Russian program achieves new success
March 9, 2017
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Nearly every student at Langley High School takes a language. The Spanish, French, German, and Japanese programs all have been recognized for their success and are held in high esteem nationwide. But perhaps no program is more revered, successful, more interesting, than Langley’s Russian program. The Russian language department reached new heights this year, after the National Russian Essay Contest (NREC), where of the 50 participants from Langley, 46 won metals, 20 of which were gold.
“The contest is a great way to test your capability for writing in Russian. Too often we do not feel as though we are learning Russian in a practical way, but this essay serves to provide us with confidence that convinces us of just how much we all have actually learned,” said senior Dominic Aulisi who is involved in the program.
Aulisi attributed much of Langley’s success to the ability of his teacher, Valentin Cukierman, who most students call “Kapitan”. Cukierman, who has been teaching at Langley for over a decade, was born into a native Slavic speaking family, and thus, has a very strong understanding of the language and culture.
“[Kapitan] does an excellent job of getting us comfortable with writing essays that are logical and meaningful…he understands the culture behind the language and does his best to make us understand the culture as well,” said Aulisi.
Many in the Russian program hope that greater success will encourage more students to switch into the Russian program. The reputation of Kapitan as a eccentric, yet talented teacher, is well known throughout the school and the unique content of the course, which includes videos songs, and poetry in Russian, has also attracted interest from the student body. Russian, a language that greatly enhances any student’s resume, is taught at only 3 schools in Fairfax County including Langley, so many are inclined to take advantage of the unique program. However, Russian is a language that seems difficult to many and starkly different from many of the Germanic and Romance languages that are more commonly taught.
“It just seems so hard,” said junior Miranda Fletcher. “While the teacher seems funny, I heard you have to learn a whole new alphabet, and all the kids in Russian I know seem stressed all the time.”
But Aulisi hopes to combat this mindset. “Of the many decisions I have made in my four years at Langley High School, the one that I have never truly regretted or doubted is choosing to take Russian. No presentation from Kapitan could adequately capture the magic of learning Russian, and I would implore any student who is searching for an ever-changing course to at least give Russian a chance.”