Russian Language Village in Bemidji, Minn.
Village Pages
Concordia Language Villages Village Pages
Russian Language Village in Bemidji, Minn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to  Лесное Озеро (Lesnoe Ozero), the Concordia Russian Village!  If you (or your child) are planning to attend the village, please thoroughly review the Parent Handbook with your villager(s) before you arrive at the village. Read this carefully, even if you have been coming to Лесное озеро for many years, since there are often important changes in policy.

What happens upon arrival at the village? When you arrive, you will be greeted by staff speaking Russian. We do not expect that newly arrived, beginner villagers will be able to respond to us in Russian – we’ll help you understand what we say using gestures, maps, and pictures – and we will respond to your English! If you’d like to learn some handy phrases for the “customs” process, visit our village production page phrasebook at http://lesnoeozero.villagepages.org/about/useful-phrases/ . Villagers who do speak Russian should do so as much as possible at customs – it’s a great way to set the tone for your time at the village.

How am I going to learn? Will I be in class all day long? The premise of Concordia Language Villages is to “immerse” our villagers into language and culture.  Activities, meals, announcements, sports, music, waterfront activities, art, the village store—all reinforce language learning and cultural knowledge in the context of “real” situations and conversations. For more information on the types of activities offered and language use in the village, please email our dean, Lara Ravitch, at ravitch@cord.edu                                                 

What levels of Russian do you teach? Our curriculum accommodates all levels of language learners, from absolute beginner to native/heritage speaker. We rely on the information you provide us to form the initial learning groups.  If you are new to the Russian village and have had prior Russian language experience, speak Russian at home, or were adopted from a Russian-speaking country, please contact our dean, Lara Ravitch, at ravitch@cord.edu so that we can ensure proper placement.  With this information, we ensure that appropriate levels are available for your villager. When the villagers arrive, we place them into preliminary learning groups based on our conversations and the villagers’ backgrounds. We then rely on the observations of the teachers and the villagers’ own sense of comfort to fine-tune the placements. For more information on the village curricula, please feel free to contact us by email.

How are villagers housed? Our cabins are lovely, but without much shelf space, so pack accordingly.  Each cabin houses about 8-14 villagers and 2-4 staff.  Housing is determined by gender, session, and age.  Our cabins have bathrooms, in addition to sitting areas and sleeping areas.  Villagers take turns in helping to clean both the individual cabins and the common areas of the village. Parents of younger villager(s) should talk to them about the importance of shared cleaning tasks and the need to show flexibility while living communally.

How do I know if I (my child) would be successful villager?

Please note the description from the parent handbook:

Given our mission and the program that has been designed to support that mission,

a villager should be able to:

• Meet his/her personal needs such as getting dressed, showering, and eating;

• Move independently from place to place; and

• Effectively interact in our group-based and community-living environment.

These developmental markers, especially the third marker, are critical to the villager experience. Villagers share a bedroom with several other people and are expected to effectively interact with others to accomplish all kinds of quests, from establishing cabin rules to creating skits to maintaining emotional resilience in our language immersion setting. Please contact our Summer Programs or Health Services office if you’d like to discuss concerns with us. We are especially concerned about youth with a mental health diagnosis; our program may not be a good fit for some of these children.

For villagers with any specific needs (medical conditions, the need for learning accommodations, special personal circumstances, dietary needs, etc.), please give us as much information as you can on the health form.  The more information you give us, the easier it will be for us to help our villagers have a fun, educational, and healthy summer

What to pack? Please check our packing list for information on what to wear, what to bring, and what not to bring to your Lesnoe Ozero adventure.

What can people send to villagers?  Letters and postcards are very important—we give out the village mail every day that there is US postal service, although it takes a bit longer, since it comes through our distribution center and then must be sorted at the village. If you send a fax or e-mail, it will be distributed at the following mail time. You can also send books or stories in Russian or about Russia, and gifts like small stuffed animals, photos from home, stickers, and other small novelty items. Encourage your villager to think about fun, culturally-appropriate, or non-English-language items that would be exciting to get at camp. If you would like to write something to your villager in Russian, try our list of useful phrases: http://lesnoeozero.villagepages.org/about/useful-phrases/ .

What not to send? Although we strongly encourage care packages and letters, we cannot pass along food (store bought, homemade, Russian or American) sent to villagers, as we live in the woods and do not wish to attract our woodland friends to our living spaces or inadvertently cause a harmful situation for our villagers with allergy concerns.

How can I communicate with my child? Our villagers are best served by time in program, making new friends, and being immersed in language. Thus, villagers cannot send or receive phone calls or send emails & faxes; however, we realize how important it is for you to know how your villager is doing, and we are always available to answer your questions and concerns (office telephone: 218-586-8430).  We are often out in the program and may not be near the phone when you call, but our business manager or our voicemail will take your message, and a member of our leadership staff will return your phone calls promptly. Please note that the village phone will not be connected until our first day and that e-mail is the best way to reach us prior to that time.  Families may e-mail their villagers using the link that came with the welcome email.  These will be printed each day and delivered with the US mail.  This service is for family members only.

Our address at the Russian Village is:

YOUR VILLAGER’S NAME IN ENGLISH

Russian Language Village, SESSION_____.

Concordia Language Villages

11380 Turtle River Lake Rd. NE

Bemidji, MN 56601

How many hours per day are the heritage learners challenged at their own (or higher) levels?
All of our villagers have three hours of language class. However, they have the opportunity to work at their level (whatever that is) all day long. Because we are a small program, our counselors know who the heritage learners are and seek them out for leadership activities, give them speaking roles in cultural activities, etc. We practice differentiated instruction, so from the lunch table to cleaning time to campfire, our heritage kids are addressed with more complex Russian and engaged in conversation at greater length than our beginner or even intermediate second language learners.
How much are villagers exposed to native speakers and made to speak themselves?
Our villagers are all exposed to native speakers all day long. We do not force anyone to speak the target language, but we encourage all villagers to speak Russian as much as they can, and there is a lot of positive peer pressure to encourage language use as well. Even heritage villagers, who often reject their parents’ language at home, realize shortly after arrival that their language makes them ‘cool’ at camp, and happily engage in language use throughout the day. We also have a variety of incentive programs to increase language use, such as русский стол, where villagers can choose to speak only Russian at mealtimes, and герой русского языка, where villagers can commit to a day of only Russian and receive a награда upon completion. Our heritage and advanced villagers often choose to do many days of герой русского языка.
What percentage of your staff are native speakers or highly proficient heritage speakers, and what are their qualifications to teach?   Roughly half of our staff are native or strong heritage speakers.  Often, several staff do not speak English at all, and they are a huge motivation for kids to stay in the target language. Of the US-based staff, some are adult native speakers who are temporarily in the US pursuing graduate studies, others are adult heritage speakers who immigrated as children but have continued to study the language intensely and, except for some spelling issues and occasional Americanisms are almost  indistinguishable from natives. In addition, we have highly competent heritage speakers who are still young college students and so are not perhaps yet on the level of an educated native speaker. However, they are continuing to improve their skills and are working hard to achieve that level.
The remaining staff are Americans, like myself, almost all of whom have lived in Russia for extended periods, and some of whom are professional teachers of Russian. While our non-native staff generally don’t have completely error-free Russian, we can speak well enough to comfortably tell you whether we prefer Tolstoy to Dostoevskii and why, explain the difference between причастие and деепричастие, and debate the existence (or not) of a Russian preference for authoritarian rule to democracy.
In our high school credit program, all of our staff are certified or experienced language teachers. This benefits even our youngest children, as the high school teachers also work as cabin counselors, activity leaders, etc., in addition to their credit program teaching.
In the two-week program, we have excellent camp counselors: college students or recent college graduates who love Russian language and culture and want to share it with kids. We give them training every year, and often, many of the staff in this program are long-time returning staff with very strong teaching skills.
*Please note that all information about staff is subject to change, depending on circumstances.*
What percentage of the two-week campers are heritage speakers able to talk or read in Russian?
The percentage of heritage speakers varies dramatically from session to session. Some years, in some sessions, we have 6-10 out of 30 kids in the heritage program. Sometimes we have 2-3. It is completely impossible to predict. Our heritage kids do tend to return, but some end up fading out of the heritage program as they get older, if their families don’t maintain the language in the off-season, and others move into the high school credit program (which also has a heritage track) as soon as possible.
Could you tell me more about the type of instruction that would be given to a child that speaks Russian in the home?  In the heritage language classes, we watch/read Russian children’s cartoons/stories, discuss them, learn the vocabulary, act them out, play games related to the vocabulary, etc. We also take advantage of technology to do international research projects, so the children might investigate a question of interest to them and then, as a class, Skype with an informant in Russia to find the answers. Correction of grammar in oral production is on an as-needs basis. In the non-credit programs, we focus on raising awareness of the gap between a villager’s production and the expected native speaker utterance.  In language class, if the grammar point is one that the teacher has recognized as an issue for a particular learner, she usually would model it, have the learner repeat it correctly, and explain if needed. We do not do grammar drills or correct every error that is made. In writing, we do spend more time on grammar, for our literate learners. So, if your child already writes in Russian, we would, for example, watch Cheburashka (the classic Soviet cartoon) and Luntik (a modern cartoon) and ask the kids to write a scenario for a cartoon in which Cheburashka and Luntik meet. We would want the kids to focus primarily on making a creative story and learning new vocabulary because of their desire to express themselves. However, we would also pick some particular grammatical structures to focus on in that writing – mostly errors that interfere with comprehension, but also perhaps errors that we have noticed are particularly pervasive. We may do some practice then with communication that requires the use of those structures. So, for example, if Cheburashka invites Luntik to take a ride on his голобой вагон, but the villager uses идти instead of ехать to describe their travel, and that seems to be a consistent problem, tomorrow’s activity might be a game of charades in which they pick from a deck of cards depicting means of transport and another deck depicting destinations, act out the travel on the cards, and the others in the class have to guess ты едешь в Москву etc. Again, incorrect utterances would be corrected if they were part of the target structure. (So if we’re really working on идти vs ехать we might not always make the villager repeat “в Москву” if they had incorrectly said “в Москва” or “в Москве.”)
Outside of language class, there is very little explicit focus on grammar.  So if for example a villager is doing a design for her хохломская роспись in art class and says “можно красная ручка,’ the teacher would hand it to her and say ‘КрасНУЮ ручКУ хочешь? Бери красную ручку.” But depending on the situation, since grammar is not the focus of that lesson (art is), the teacher might not explain the difference between the two structures without being asked and might not require that the student repeat the correct version.

What if I still have questions? Our Dean Lara Ravitch is happy to answer any questions you have – before, during, or after the session – by email at ravitch@cord.edu . You can also contact the Moorhead office at 1-800-222-4750 or CLV@cord.edu