by Don  

The Russian word for lecture is:


Лекция is a на word; that is, you must use the preposition на with it if you are attending a lecture or going to a lecture:

Я вчера была на очень интересной лекции. Yesterday I was at a very interesting lecture.
Я вчера ходила на очень интересную лекцию. Yesterday I went to a very interesting lecture.

If you go to a place using на, you come back from it using с + genitive:

— Откуда ты идёшь?
— С очень интересной лекции.
“Where are you coming from?”
“From a really interesting lecture.”

There is a BIG difference between Russian and American lectures. If you attend a lecture in Russia, the lecturer often just sits there in front of the listeners and reads his notes. In the US that would be a recipe or failure. In the US a good lecturer must stand up, and either lecture entirely without notes or with just occasional references to his notes. In the US the lecturer must be emotionally engaging, or else he won't be given an honorarium again to speak. In Russia, no.

Now to American readers those comments immediately condemn the Russian system. That's because they are lazy-ass Americans. Generally the Russian system has produced better educated people than the American system over the last sixty years (though I think the Russian system is now decaying). The truth is this: if you are addicted to entertainment, you will probably be less productive in terms of scientific production than the people from less ‘friendly’ systems. So get off your tush and go do your homework!

Shady_arc responds:

As one of those studied in Moscow State University, I actively object your impression of Russian lectures. It is just that there is a lot of bad lecturers who, well, do what they can for the laughable increase in payment they get (I heard, no more than $1000 for a semester of weekly/twice a week course of lectures). A failure is still a failure, US or Russia, though in my 6 years I have never seen a sitting lecturer, not even once. Russian students, even the most promising ones, don't think twice before skipping a class or two (or half of them). Bad lecturers just make things easier for you: you simply sleep at home instead of sleeping at his lecture. And hope the lecturer isn't too pround of himself to get even with you on exam. Good students know very well that they WILL get away with skipping most of the classes they find bad: a rare professor will treat a student badly for missing classes if that student is obviously above the level of 90% of the others and knows the subject.

The tests and exams are (were?) usually held twice a year, at the end of the semester, so for decades the students had become used to living a joyful life from September through December and from February till May. This is changing now, as institutes and professors try to introduce more often, smaller tests over the course of the semester, and also control attendance. However, 5 years ago when I was in late years, still many did not attend regularly. I'd say... of all ~180 people that were in our stream (half of the students of our year: they share rougly the same lectures on common disciplines) about 40-80 were found on good lectures. For bad lectures it may fall to as low as 10-25 - basically, just a senior student (more often girl than not :) ) of each group.

There are always several good lecturers who make even quantum theory quite engaging and understandable. Also, there were many professional, though a bit boring lecturers. Still, they covered their subject, so you didn't even need the textbook much if you had carefully noted their, er, performance. Worst of all, there were indeed lecturers who are in this, probably, just for an increase to their salary. Students don't choose their teachers, so it is a matter of luck.

Personally, I did encounter a lecturer who knew what he did, yet made his subject pretty confusing. I did encounter a lecturer who was the authour of the book we used in out studies, and his lectures were so much more boring and primitive than his textbook: he even used slides instead of writing on the blackboard on his own. I attended classes of a teacher who, given the opinions I heard, was pretty good in the past; but, hell, by the time being he was so old he could barely speak intelligibly. That was the only time I was really ashamed for my university.

Note also, that in Russia (don't know how it is in US) the important general courses come in two parts, lectures by lecturers (~180 students in a large auditorium... theoretically) and classes (seminars) for small groups covering more practical skills, like discussing philosophy in more detail or soving some matrix equations. A group is 15-25 students. As a rule, these two types of classes are taught by different people, unless you are lucky/unlucky enough to be in the group whose classes are conducted by the same person who gives lectures. This also gives a different perspective, as, well... think of mathematics: solving equations is different from proving why they are solved this way, but still, the material for theoretical lectures and classes partially intersects. You may get bad lectures but good classes or vice versa. And when you prepare for the exam, you'll most probably need textbooks, anyway.

Don responds: Shady, thanks for your most excellent response to my blog entry. I'm adding your commentary to the main entry of the blog article instead of to the comment section so that others can see it promptly.

I have to agree with you, partially at least. My only study time in Russia proper was in 1986 at МГУ, and indeed the lecturers there were both competent and interesting. Of them I have no complaint.

On the other hand, the first class I had in Russian literature that was actually taught in Russian (as opposed to English language lectures on Russian literature) was taught by a Russian in the US, and he used precisely that methodology I have described. He sat in class, read his notes, and had us copy them down in our notebooks. I'm sure that the other students despised that approach. Myself, I took the lecture for what it was and in fact memorized the notes word for word, which made the instructor quite happy with my final exam of the first semester. By current US standards the class was an abomination in terms of methodology. In terms of my personal learning, I still remember his definition of литературный язык, still appreciate Krylov's fables and Lomonosov's poem on the use of glass.

Nowadays the greatest pedagogical abomination in the United States has got to be the misuse of PowerPoint. For a student-side discussion of this see Carolyn Works's blog entry (mirror)


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Since this is a feminine noun, shouldn’t the singular accusative end in -ю?

Don responds: Thanks! Typo and formatting corrected.

02/23/12 @ 11:04
Comment from: Joke [Visitor]

Shouldn’t the acc be лекцию? This form is in the second sample sentence, but not in the scheme.

And is the case difference between the first and the second sentence because of ‘location’ vs ‘direction’?

Don responds: Thanks! Typo and formatting corrected. And yes, the location/motion distinction is precisely the issue.

02/23/12 @ 00:54

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