Learning the Lingo

How do you learn Russian in Russia? The answer for French postgraduate history students Felix Chartreux and Anna Kropotkine is simple -- just mix with the locals.

Although they were doing just that at a weekend dacha party near Moscow, it's not really the full story of how they attained fluency: Both studied Russian in France before coming to Moscow.

Some, like 61-year-old Kaika V?xby, need a bit more help, however. The wife of a Methodist pastor from Finland who plans to stay a while, V?xby needs a Russian-language school.

V?xby, who studies two times a week for three or four hours, said she was satisfied with her course and the fee charged -- although she could not remember exactly how much it was.

Other class-hunting foreigners might well wonder about the going rate, as prices vary wildly -- from less than 300 rubles to more than 2,240 rubles for 45 minutes of tutoring, depending on course length and group size.

To get the lowest rate, you may need to sign up for a several months-long class in a group of up to 10 people, while a weeklong one-on-one crash course may cost more than 1,300 euros.

All Moscow's major language schools offer both the lower-priced long-term study programs as well as individual classes, including weeklong intensive courses consisting of 20 to 40 45-minute lessons. Not every student can cope with such an intensive study regime, however.

Maria Kriusheva, director of the Moscow Linguistic Center, said "only students from Germany are persistent enough" to cope with 40 individual classes a week.

At the less intensive end of the scale, Maria Blauberg, director of the Center for Russian, English and French studies, said it made sense to have 90-minute classes at least twice a week.

Most schools say that a relatively long intensive course is the best way to learn Russian. Yekaterina Denisova, director of studies at the school Liden & Denz, said one of the most common patterns is to study four hours a day for six months.

People with busy work schedules rarely have time for this, however.

Francesca Scalpello, an English teacher from Britain, said she did well in Russian language classes at first but could not sustain it.

"After a few months of studies, I realized I just didn't have enough time to do homework and be ready for the next lesson," she said. "It was not really faster. Private lessons allow me to do it at my own pace."

Scalpello pays 700 rubles for 90 minutes of private tuition a week, which she said is no different from what language schools charge for group lessons.

While many students prefer private lessons for their flexibility, customized content and often cheaper prices, the language schools -- not surprisingly -- warn against them.

"Private lessons always have some quality risks even though they can be cheaper," said Blauberg of CREF. "At a school there is a set curriculum, but at our school we can be flexible."

Russian Language Schools in Moscow

Yevgeny Filonov / For MT
A Russian-language class at Moscow Linguistic Center. Most schools keep group sizes at no more than five or six students.
BKC, several locations, 258-0004, 737-5225, www.bkc.ru.

British Moscow Company (BMC), 16 Teterinsky Per., bldg. 1, 103-3825, britmos@mail.ru.

Center for Russian, English and French Studies (CREF), 36/13 Bolshoi Afanasyevsky Per., 637-5690/5796/05, 203-0254, 291-8483, www.cref.ru.

Globus International, 40/16, Myasnitskaya Ul., office 415, 621-1588/9932, info@globus-int.ru, www.globus-int.ru, www.globus-abroad.ru.

Inlingua, 16 Ul. Spiridonovka, bldg. 1, office 3, 202-3730, 970-1658, info@inlingua.ru, www.inlingua.com.

Language Link, 8/12 Sushchyovskaya Ul., 258-0804/9959/9944, info@language.ru, www.languagelink.ru/e/

Liden & Denz Language Centre Moscow, 3-181 Gruzinsky Per., 254-4991, moscow@lidenz.ru, www.russiancourses.com.

Moscow Linguistic Center, 11A Seleznyovskaya Ul., bldg. 2, office 804, 221-2172, (8 499) 972-302, course@language-learning.ru, www.language-learning.ru

Ruslingua, 290-6193, info@ruslingua.com, www.ruslingua.com.