Senior Airman Jessica Mihalik and Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Hollis test their basic Russian language knowledge April 3, 2012, during a basic Russian language class at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz)
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan (April 10, 2012) — The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Theater Security Cooperation division here hosts a basic Russian language class twice a week to enable service members to engage in a basic Russian conversation.
“I started this class to give some of the folks at the Transit Center the ability to speak some basic phrases and have a working vocabulary for their time here,” said 2nd Lt. Justin Miller, 376th AEW TSC host nation liaison branch chief.
Miller, who is deployed here from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., studied Russian for two years at the U.S Air Force Academy then moved to Moscow where he taught English and studied abroad for nine months.
The class here is free for service members and runs two months. The first three weeks focus on the recognition and pronunciation of the Russian alphabet, which has 33 letters compared with English, which has 26.
“It involves some letters that we have in English but are pronounced completely different,” Miller said. “The upper case (B) in English makes the ‘buh’ sound; however, in Russian, it makes the ‘vuh’ sound. So those first couple of classes were designed to get students to understand the differences.”
Class participants were taught conversation starters, then verbally tested on the Russian phrases they learned and how well they were able to pronounce and comprehend what they were taught.
“Learning Russian wasn’t as hard as I originally thought,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Hollis, 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oil and lubrications distribution supervisor deployed here from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “The grammar seems impossible at times, but speaking it is not as challenging as I feared.”
Hollis started practicing Russian with Kyrgyz citizens with whom he works. He helps them with English and they help him with Russian.
“It was something unusual [to have Hollis speak Russian], but it was good,” said Shamenov Taalaibek, POL Kyrgyz nationals section chief. “I like it that he is trying to learn Russian. If he asks me to help him I will definitely help him. I think it’s good that people of other nationalities try to speak Russian; it will help them in the future.”
The objective of the two month-long class, as described by Miller, is for service members to be able to go into a restaurant, order a meal and carry on a short conversation in Russian and hopefully leave a lasting impression here in Kyrgyzstan.