New Ukrainian language course caters to a “multilevel, multicultural, multinational” audience

Starting this September, UBC students will have the opportunity to take UKRN 125, the brand new six-credit course in Ukrainian language and culture.

The course will cover foundations of the language, beginning with the Cyrillic script and some basic rules of reading and pronunciation. Beyond foundational grammar rules and vocabulary, the course will explore a variety of cultural elements, such as Ukrainian music, film and folk dance.

As a language-based course, UKRN 125 fulfills the new “Ways of Knowing” Arts breadth requirement under the category “Language as Meaning.” According to instructor Dr. Olena Morozova, the course will also meet the “Place and Power” breadth requirement next year, after its pilot run.

The course is designed with a diverse, “multilevel, multicultural, [and] multinational” audience in mind, from absolute beginners to heritage students. Native Ukrainian speakers, however, are encouraged to take the language proficiency test before enrolling to determine eligibility. Morozova is confident that her teaching will offer “a new angle, perspective, and approach” for everyone, even for those who may already have some grasp of the language.

In order to innovate her approach to teaching languages, Morozova is leveraging resources such as ChatGPT and Anki flashcards in the classroom. While the former is controversial among educators, Morozova has a renewed perspective of its recent usage.

“Two years ago, I was terrified at the very thought that my students might be cheating, and me not knowing what to do with [it]. But when I learned more about it, I decided that in teaching students of different levels, ChatGPT might be beneficial, especially to beginners,” said Morozova.

As a believer in inclusive and equitable pedagogy, Morozova always strives to ensure that her learning materials are affordable to all. As such, the course will require an electronic textbook written by a Ukrainian author, priced at $6 per copy, and will utilize shareable Anki flashcards in the second term, costing students $19.

In keeping with her inclusive vision, UKRN 125 will not include “midterms or end-of term exams, or any high-stakes assessments.” There will instead be a multitude of small but creative assignments designed to allow every student to succeed equally while stimulating learning.

Her teaching practices are informed by what she calls “the inductive method to language teaching.” Since Ukrainian has a complex grammar system, its rules are elaborate, with many exceptions. The inductive method, therefore, encourages students to notice and pick up new concepts as they encounter them, rather than attempt to memorize every intricate detail.

Morozova’s primary goal in her teaching is to reduce learning anxiety while empowering students to become more autonomous over what they learn. This includes helping students maintain their individuality through speech by not trying to rid students of their accents.

“The accent is some kind of fingerprint,” said Morozova. “If you have no fingerprints on your fingers, where do you belong? What is your national identity?”

Given the events happening in Ukraine right now, Morozova sees ever-greater importance to promote the Ukrainian language and keep it alive. When she launches UKRN 125 in September, she hopes the Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies (CENS) will finance and amplify her program moving forward. She also hopes UBC will continue to stand in solidarity with and lend its support to the Ukrainian people.

After all, there is still much more to be done to support Ukraine. Keeping the language alive is only one part of it.