Why Study Russian and Czech?

Every year, many of our undergraduates come with little or no previous experience of either language. Four years later, they speak fluently, having spent at least half a year in RussianĀ­ or Czech-speaking environments. Study Russian or Czech and you'll find it often becomes a favourite subject, and has the potential to be a core element of a future career.

Every year, many of our undergraduates come with little or no previous experience of either language. Four years later, they speak Russian fluently, having spent at least half a year in a Russian-speaking environment, while those who studied Czech for three years will have gained functional proficiency in it. Study Russian or Czech and you'll find it often becomes a favourite subject that has the potential to be a core element of a future career.

Our courses are tailored to different language abilities, with advanced units on offer for those who already have an A-level, or equivalent, in Russian. Our former beginners in Russian are among those who graduate with First Class degrees, with most students securing at least an Upper Second Class degree.

There are plenty more reasons why you should consider a degree in these languages: 

A major international presence

Russia is an enormous potential market, a crucial source of natural resources, and a major diplomatic, economic and military power demanding a central role on the international stage. Russia’s devastating war against Ukraine has shown the extent to which it will go to strengthen its geopolitical position in the world. Russia is determined to follow its own path and to project its power across the world, fundamentally changing world affairs. It has also embarked on a crackdown on minorities within its borders.

In this context, specialists familiar with Russia’s language, politics, history, and culture who are able to provide context and interpret its actions are more needed than ever. Russia’s stance on world issues, from the environment to terrorism to human rights, needs constant analysis, and its minorities need us to continue to draw attention to their plight. Key roles where this knowledge can be used include law, the media, national and international diplomacy and civil services, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the army, commercial and state intelligence, and charities.

The Russian language is spoken across the world. Significant Russian-speaking minorities live outside the borders of the Russian Federation, while diasporic communities reside from Australia to the West Coast of the USA and Canada. The Russian language is also spoken as a lingua franca in many countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, where significant business and trade opportunities have emerged in recent years.

Important roles in Europe's expansion

The Czech Republic was the second largest of the ten countries that joined the EU in May 2004. It has since held the rotating EU presidency twice: in 2009 and in 2022. Since the fall of Communism, Prague, now at the heart of the expanded European Union, has established itself as the dominant regional centre for banking, finance, media, diplomacy and tourism. The Czech Republic is a very close ally and trading partner of the U.K., making Czech expertise a great asset in a wide variety of professions, especially when combined with other languages.

Attractive languages for employers

When beginning the study of modern languages, students often believe that their future lies in translation and interpreting. However, this is a highly specialised career, usually requiring further postgraduate training.

Most of our graduates go on to careers with a very different central focus, but in the pursuit of that focus they regularly use their language skills for a variety of purposes: analysis, translation, interpreting, negotiation, giving presentations or in day-to-day communication. Our alumni are very happy to come back for career events and to share their experiences and contacts.

Transferable skills

Languages are seen as a crucial asset by many employers looking for the range of transferable skills, including communication and leadership, that Bristol graduates tend to possess at a very high level. Recent Bristol graduates from the Department of Russian and Czech have gone into careers as diverse as accounting and finance, industry, the media, publishing, law, travel and tourism, British and international civil services, the police, the army, non-governmental organisations, teaching, translating and interpreting, and academia.

Even if you decide not to use Russian or Czech directly in your future career, they attract attention on any CV as a relatively unusual, highly respected humanities degree. They suggest individuality, originality, intelligence and a willingness to take on something different and succeed.

Fascinating countries and cultures

Russian

Studying Russian opens up a world of amazing cultural diversity, with a dramatic past full of colourful, larger-than-life figures. One of Europe’s most influential and admired ‘big’ cultures, Russian society shares much with the rest of Europe, but at the same time seems fundamentally different. Historically, Russian culture has had a profound impact on world cultures, from the international Avant-garde to cultural self-affirmation in Latin America or Africa.

Russian culture constantly worries about its relationship with the West and the influence of the West in Russia, and tries to make sense of its role and place in the world. At Bristol you can study Russia’s development from the eighteenth century to the present day through its history, thinkers, literature, art, cinema, current affairs, religion and popular culture.

Czech 

Often we study the languages of once dominant, empire-building nations. By contrast, the Czechs have fought merely to preserve their independent language, culture and identity through Europe’s turbulent history.

Bristol offers optional modules in Czech language from beginners’ level upwards. Czech history, literature and culture (taught in English) also feature in comparative optional modules. These units are all open to students studying Russian, as well as to those taking other degrees within the School of Modern Languages. Students of German are often drawn to Czech because of the geographical position of the Czech Republic and its centuries-long history as part of the Austrian Empire, while those studying for French degrees will find much of interest in the historically fertile relationship between Czech and French literature and visual culture.

A sense of achievement

Russian and Czech may seem very daunting. They are Slavonic languages and, with the Cyrillic alphabet or numerous diacritics, look and sound complex and alien. Yet they have been influenced by other European languages and you will recognise some vocabulary and grammatical structures. And learning the alphabet is very quick!

Once you understand the grammar of one of the Slavonic languages, you can easily pick up the others.

Russian and Czech are hardest at the beginning, requiring a lot of discipline and systematic learning, but students always comment on their sense of progress in both spoken and written language. Your commitment to the subject will be richly rewarded with wonderful experiences, valuable skills and broadened horizons.

Surrounded by supportive groups of teachers and fellow students, our beginners graduate with very good marks and considerable self-confidence in Russian, and those who do Czech gain functional proficiency in the language.

Find out why Bristol is the right place to study Russian and Czech

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