Interview with Frank Althaus

Frank Althaus, the head of the Russian Language Centre in London, joined Russia Today to comment on the situation with the Russian language in Britain.

Russia Today: What is the situation with the Russian language in Great Britain? Is it a popular language among the British population?

Frank Althaus: I do not think it is quite as popular as it was ten year ago. It is not as fashionable now. There was a period in the early 1990s when it was very fashionable. And I think now it is probably being taken over by Chinese in that sense. But the interest in Russian has, perhaps, broadened a bit now. There are more personal contacts with Russia than there were 15 or 20 years ago. So, more people study it because of personal relationship or family histories. And the other great difference that we have here in London is the enormous numbers of Russians who have come to London, so people are beginning to study Russian in order to be able to cater to that market as well. 

RT: Why do think there is such a change, what are the reasons of this decline?

F.A.: I think it was fashionable. Russia in the early 1990s was an extraordinary, exciting country from the western point of view, as it was opening up. And now it is a bit more familiar, and I think that people are slightly less excited by Russia than perhaps they were in the early 1990s.

RT: Do you think that the situation is likely to change?

F.A.: Not greatly, no. I think that there is a problem with Russian language teaching in schools in Britain. As many other slightly unusual or exotic subjects, it tends them to become the first to be cut when schools are short of finance, and, certainly, a lot of university departments have been reduced or closed over the last 20 years. That is not really a reflection on Russia so much as a reflection on funding for state education in Britain. So, I think the situation is not going to change very dramatically.  And I certainly do not think that the interest in Russian language is greatly affected by short-term political problems, if we say, between Russia and Great Britain at the moment.

RT: So, you would say that lack of funding is one of the reasons?

F.A.: Certainly, as far as university and school education is concerned, that is right.