Russian Language Journal


Richard Robin


Russian reading requirements, scholarly disciplines, online machine translation


For many graduate students in areas such as history, economics, sociology, security policy studies, and arms control, the Russian reading requirement represents a significant barrier in terms of required coursework or reading proficiency, since Advanced-level reading proficiency at a minimum is necessary for reading in these disciplines. The question is, must that barrier be maintained? In a time when online machine translation (MT) is available on smartphones, is requiring a demonstration of L2 reading proficiency as part of the path to an advanced degree any more meaningful than requiring that statisticians be able to add up a column of figures in their heads? The answer revolves around another question: can those with little or no reading proficiency in Russian be taught to make use of Google Translate to extract information from Russian-language texts?