August 6, 2015

The first UCF Russian intensive summer language program, STARTALK, launched from July 6-24. Over one hundred students applied to participate in the free program, however due to the grant’s budget, only eighty were admitted to attend – a number that remained well over the original grant budget plan. The program was sponsored by a grant received by Dr. Alla Kourova.

The mission of STARTALK, which means “Start Talking,” is to increase the number of Americans learning and speaking critically-needed foreign languages; this is achieved by offering students creative and engaging summer experiences that strive to exemplify the best practices in language education development, forming an extensive community of practice that seeks continuous improvement in such criteria as outcomes-driven program design, standards-based curriculum planning, learner-centered approaches, excellence in selection and development of materials, and meaningful assessment of outcomes.

Preparation for a Business Trip to Russia

The theme of the program is “Preparation for a Business Trip to Russia”. The program was based on fostering language acquisition, intercultural understanding, and a desire for international travel. The major goal of this program was to give students the necessary skills for a successful business trip to Russia by providing learner-centered language instruction using topics and situations that students will be able to relate to real life.

The eighty students were divided into three group placements to attain the benefits offered by small classroom sizes in language learning environments. The groups were instructed by Dr. Alla Kourova, Dr. Tatiana Norman, and Natalia Reilly; UCF students Anna Ramires, Jake Cranmer, Rebecca Kaiser, Gabriela Wolk, Alex Wolstenholm and Amanda Ans were selected from the UCF Russian language course and served as teaching assistants to provide further instruction and support, which included presentations on topics such as Russian literature and art.

Additionally, UCF students who participated in the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program during the 2014-2015 academic year were an important part of this program and were invited to give presentations on topics relating to Russian culture, such as the history of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the history of Russian names, and Russian Orthodoxy.

Program Activities

For three weeks, students met from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, for a total of ninety hours of instruction, which included extra-curricular activities and field trips. The morning lessons focused on Russian language learning, while the afternoon lessons focused on various facets of Russian culture. Each day lunches were prepared by the Russian café Lacomka, which gave the students a taste of Russia.

The program was organized into weekly topics, with an emphasis on communication in various situations. Each week was focused on interpretive and interpersonal communication skills. Unique tasks like skits, Russian games, songs, and mock business interviews formed part of the program. Language was reinforced through role playing activities, cultural games, music, and technology. The LingualFolio can-do’s indicated what students are able to do in novice and intermediate-low levels. Learning outcomes were assessed via conversations, self-assessment, and a final exam culminating in a Russian oral showcase for classmates, family, and community members.


On the graduation day, Dean Jose Fernandez congratulated the students and presented each of them with certificates and a small Russian souvenir. Each of the students who participated, as well as the wider UCF community, including high school students, are invited back to participate in the program next year to continue their studies in Russian business language and culture.

The Russian language program at UCF was integral to the success of the STARTALK program. The Russian language program at UCF is an important asset to the nation’s strategic language reserve and teaches one of the critical languages targeted in the National Security Language Initiative program. In today’s global community, doing business with other cultures has become inevitable. The program focuses on Russian language and cultural understanding in the business world for future business leaders.

You can read more about the program in our past highlight about STARTALK. and the past event announcement.

STARTALK program participants