Russian Language Journal


Russian, foreign language, second language, cultural expression


Researchers in the domain of Russian as a foreign and a second language have paid relatively little attention to proverbs as units of linguistic and cultural expression. Due to this neglect and the overall scarcity of statistical data on current Russian proverbial language, many Russian textbooks and dictionaries offer at best some outdated proverbs that have fallen into disuse in contemporary Russia and at worst, disregard proverbial language altogether. However, this expressive language deserves much more serious consideration from both researchers and teachers of Russian. Russian native speakers take it for granted that their interlocutors share the assumptions behind proverbs, which constitute an important part of their cultural heritage. Moreover, proverbs constitute a functional component of spoken Russian. Native speakers use proverbs or allude to them to share certain subtleties of expression, such as humor, irony, erudition, etc. Thus, without understanding the underlying figurative meanings and cultural connotations of this expressive speech component, American students of Russian may experience certain linguistic and cultural misunderstandings that will impede their interactions with Russians.