Tatyana Viktorovna Shustikova

Tatyana Viktorovna spoke about the birth of the University of Peoples’ Friendship and first professional steps, recognition and a sense of satisfaction with her work in an interview.

The joy I feel when I open a new world to a person, because for a foreigner the world of the Russian language is really a whole world!
Tatyana Viktorovna Shustikova
Doctor of Philology
— Please tell us how did your story begin at RUDN?

Everything was very simple. In the summer of 1960, I graduated from the Russian department of the philological faculty of Moscow State University. In  the same year, on February 5, the Peoples' Friendship University was opened. This event changed my plans. I was going to be a teacher at the school where I passed pedagogical practice. 20 students from the philological faculty of Moscow State University, among whom I was, were assigned to the Peoples' Friendship University. Ekaterina Ivanovna Motina, one of the founders of the university, the first head of the Russian language department, recruited teachers. Ekaterina Ivanovna created a new team. Therefore, she turned to the MSU at the Faculty of Philology, which she knew well.

— What feelings did you experience at the beginning of your work? Was it scary to go to a university where there was nothing so far?

It was a great occasion! In July and August we sorted letters from different countries, which went to the university in sacks. We suddenly saw the whole world before our eyes! This is an unforgettable experience! There was no fear at all. But, of course, we were worried ... For example, to go to the adult audience as a teacher. All my students were older than me, I was only 22, and my first students were 27-28. I also worried about the lack of conversational practice in a foreign language. I thought how we would speak, how it all would go together in the audience. But we were well taught in a regular school and at Moscow State University so everything worked out in the best way.

— Did you have any idea how to educate foreign students when you first started?

No. We all did practice at school, taught literature and Russian to children. I worked with eighth graders. But the first rector of the university, Sergei Vasilyevich Rumyantsev and the first head of the Russian language department, Ekaterina Ivanovna Motina, paid great attention to the training of young specialists.

— Was special training organized for you?

Yes, we were well taught. Lectures were given by very famous experts in the field of philology, linguistics, comparative studies. It was clear that a foreigner would have to learn Russian, starting from his mother tongue. We had wonderful lecturers and senior colleagues who asked us toughly. There were even such special tests, seminars where we showed how well we learned the material that was taught to us.

— What was your area of scientific interest?

The most interesting thing is that I sincerely loved literature and was going to teach it. When I came to RUDN and realized that I would be teaching the Russian language to foreigners and, in addition, from scratch, I very soon lapsed into depression and went to the energy institute. There were evening departments for workers who wanted to enter universities. I lectured and gave practical classes in literature.

— It is known that you have a lot of work in phonetics. When did you get interested in this topic?

There was such a system at the university that a young teacher must undergo phonetic training and learn to teach phonetics and teach Russian pronunciation. And that interested me. My first co-authored book is Introductory Phonetic Course, 1962. After that, every year we, phonetists, prepared new materials. We worked with students, analyzed their mistakes, compared the native languages ​​of students or intermediary languages ​​with the Russian language. Based on an analysis of students' mistakes, a comparative analysis of Russian and foreign languages, and just research on Russian phonetics, we created our exercises. These are the three whales on which the phonetic work, which carried away so many, is held. Over the years, the university has received recognition from phonetic specialists from other universities. The phonetic school of the university is very famous. It was on the basis of UDN, and then RUDN University, that three international symposiums on phonetics “Phonetics in the Language System” were held within the framework of MAPRYAL. This is evidence of professional recognition in our sphere.

— What contribution did you make to phonetics?

We had a strong advantage, since we could observe the phasing of the formation of Russian pronunciation in students with different native languages. We saw how the emphasis is removed in layers, what exercises should be offered to students in order to develop normative Russian speech. I have always had an interest in sounding speech, I generally like to listen to how people speak, how speech sounds. In those days, there were a lot of literary broadcasts on the radio. When the masters of the literary word, the artists read works, played some kind of scenes based on literary works, the sounding speech was the background on which the human culture, the culture of speech behavior was formed. In graduate school, my research was on sounding speech. I was lucky to work with a wonderful specialist - Elena Andreevna Bryzgunova. Elena Andreevna created her own unique system of intonation of Russian speech and training foreigners of Russian intonation.

—You mentioned your love of literature. Has it somehow reflected in your field of activity in the future or just remained as a hobby?

I have always believed that foreigners must be introduced into the world of Russian literature, Russian words, Russian culture, and artistic speech. Therefore, in my textbooks I always tried to include some texts of literary works.

— You practically used your knowledge from literature. Let's distract oneself a little. What psychological portrait of a foreign student of the 60-ies did you have?

I would say that in the early years of the university they were completely different. Firstly, those who came in the early years were sent by progressive organizations of their countries. That is, they were people with a tremendous sense of responsibility, a sense of duty, awareness of their role in the development of their country, and this affected their entire work. Foreigners had a tremendous interest in our country. Therefore, foreign students who came to us in the early years, had a great desire not only to learn, but also to get involved in this life. It was organized not just the adaptation of students to a new reality, but their integration into a new life. The university has always been at the forefront in this area. We have had student units for a very long time. Foreign students were involved in the life familiar to students of Russian and Soviet. It’s great that the university strives to maintain these traditions.

— What are some of the most interesting student stories to remember?

Each teacher had his own notebook, where he professionally not only recorded errors, but also funny moments. For example, a mixture of closure and gap, hissing and whistling consonants. A student, instead of saying, for example, "Dima," says "zima" (winter). He introduces his friend: "This is my Russian friend, Winter." A lot of fun happens. On this basis, there were a lot of jokes. Ekaterina Ivanovna Motina and her colleagues organized annual teaching amateur concert parties where funny mistakes were played out, situations in which the teachers themselves fell. It was a lot of fun and very interesting.

As for the funny mistakes - to a foreign student our system - first name, middle name and last name - at first seems completely incomprehensible. Therefore, very often student congratulations in postcards sounded like this: “Dear Viktorovna!” (Laughs). And further congratulations. After such letters it was clear that it had not been worked out, what should be paid attention to. What are the mistakes  after all the teacher himself needs to learn all the time.

— When did you first feel proud of your student?

I can’t answer this question, because every time a teacher starts to teach a student from scratch, and when a student leaves the sub-faculty, all the teachers feel great pride, a sense of satisfaction from their work. No teacher sees the results of his work so clearly as a teacher of the preparatory faculty. The student comes languageless, he does not know how to speak, he does not know anything, and you learn it step by step. And you know that three months later, after the November holidays, a student will come and tell that he was in the streets on holidays, talking with Russian people. This is pride!

This year, one of the residents, he is from Congo, asked me: “Tatyana Viktorovna, here you are the author of textbooks, I read your articles, please, tell me if you are not bored to start every year from the alphabet with new foreigners?” I told him: “I had the opportunity to teach Russian at our university, but at a different, non-preparatory faculty. But the joy I feel when I open a new world for a man, because for a foreigner the world of the Russian language is really a whole world, this joy cannot be compared with anything! ”

— How do your students address you? Were there cases that they called you mom?

No, never in my life. Only with “you”. I categorically always opposed the appeal to the student on first-name terms and they must appeal to the teacher only by name and patronymic. As the head of the department, I demanded that the teacher contact the student only by name and only to “You”. There is no word “you” in relation to the student, this is a violation of Russian speech etiquette.

Do you keep in touch with any of the graduates?

Last year, the door suddenly opened and a completely gray-haired, adult man appeared. This was not my student, but from a neighboring group. It turned out that he came to Moscow for a very limited time and came to the sub-faculty to see his teachers. It was wonderful! And at the last anniversary, we, teachers, were at the department, and suddenly our graduate from Mexico, one of the very first, entered with the words: “I loved you, there may still be love ...” (laughs). All the teachers were numb, because you do not often see this.

And there were no cases where graduates brought their children?

Of course. A few years ago a boy came and said that he wanted to study in my group, I asked: “Why?” - “My dad studied with you.” Imagine. But now, not children, but grandchildren are coming to us. Such is the authority of the university and such a love for the university of the first graduates!

— What are your achievements in scientific activity?

I am an active doctor of science. I have over three hundred and fifty works. My work is devoted not only to teaching methods. For example, my Ph.D. thesis was “Correlation of syntactic, intonational and communicative completeness and incompleteness in narrative sentences in Russian”. To write it, I listened to Russian sounding speech both on a tape recorder and on records, for almost thirty hours of continuous sounding.

— How do you get students interested?

I always know what interesting things I’ll tell students today, I have a plan. Be sure to build the lesson so that, for example, if I have a grammatical theme related to the verbs of movement, I will definitely tell them the story of how I went somewhere, how often I go there, why I go there. Then students see the functioning of the language in speech, the language introduces them into real communication.

A well-prepared lesson is from different perspectives the evaluated material that you give. What value it has - grammatical, communicative and human. So, in the textbook “Russian language for you” there is a text based on Paustovsky’s story “Snow”. I always work very carefully with this text. I teach students to read, recognize, understand, feel. There was not a single year for students to remain indifferent to this work. The text contains a letter from the son to his father: “My dear old man ...” and the second letter from the hero of the story to the woman he loved. I ask to memorize one of the letters or an excerpt from a text that seems interesting and close. Many guys, most, choose a letter to their father. They understand and feel everything: communication with parents, hometown. In the same story there is the theme of a “miracle in life” in a person. Paustovsky has so many humanly valuable and interesting things from the point of view of language learning in this story! And I want to read the story to them myself, so that they remember it! Once, one student told me: “You are an artist!”, And I answered: “Of course, didn’t you know?” (Laughs)

— What do you consider the most important thing in your work as the head of the department?

I headed the Department of Russian Language No. 2 of the PF UDN (now the Faculty of the Russian Language and General Disciplines of the Federal Law and Education) for 30 years - from 1987 to 2017. Two unique groups of authors were created at the department. One of them has written two textbooks on teaching general language proficiency “Russian is my friend” and “Russian is for you”. Each of the textbooks was attended by 11-12 people. The books had the prestigious UMO signature stamp on classical university education and were reprinted 6-7 times. The second educational complex for teaching medical students the language of the future specialty consists of 14 components. It also has 2 fingerboards and is reprinted. It was written mainly by 6 teachers. It is important for me that we have summarized the results of our work in the collective monograph “Teaching the Russian language to foreign applicants”. My principles are common work for the common good, the formation of professionalism, respect for each other. It should be interesting to work at the department; we "should" want to come here.

The second thing that I consider significant in the department’s work is the annual holding of the Victory Day lesson and concert for the entire sub-faculty for more than 30 years. For me and for all the teachers of the department, it was fundamentally significant that it took place until 2018 in the assembly hall of the RUDN University. 60-70 students of our department acted as artists, and about 200 in total. All performed in good Russian. The second rector of the university, Vladimir Frantsevich Stanis, attended our concerts. The department perfectly performed this educational work, for which it was awarded the Certificate of Honor of the Scientific Council of the RUDN University.

— What is recognition for you?

hey are University anniversary medals, titles, thanks. The biggest for me is the title of an Honorary Worker of the Higher School. Quite unexpectedly for me, an American magazine included me on the list of women who achieved professional success. But for me, the most valuable thing is the “Catherine Ivanovna Motina Medal,” which I received in 2017. This medal is for the distribution in the world of the Russian language and Russian literature.

It’s also so touching when students suddenly bring flowers for no reason. Two years ago I had residents, when I received a closed envelope from them at a lesson. And there was their common photo and wishes to me from each student. I absolutely did not expect that I would get this. It is very dear.

— Has your family always supported you in your endeavors?

Yes, I really appreciate my family. The way I was raised, how my family was later created, what wonderful children and grandchildren I have.

— What do you wish the university on its anniversary?

I really want the university to preserve everything wonderful that has been accumulated by more than one generation of teachers and staff. I want deep respect for what has been done, because you can only move forward if you are deeply aware and value what has been achieved. I wish the university great achievements with a good memory of the past.