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Globalization in Ukrainian Culture

Yuliya Melnik

Yuliya Melnyk from Ukraine

Yuliya Melnyk is Professor of Linguistics at the School of Ukrainian and Russian Languages at the Kirovohrad State Pedagogical University in Kirovograd, Ukraine.


This article is about a project I carried out in Ukraine with my second-year students. The students’ major is Ukrainian language and the minor is English. The project was devoted to the impact of globalization on Ukrainian and Russian cultures (as far as Russian language is still common in Eastern Ukraine and is mother tongue for the majority of the students).

The assignment was to write essays about the influence of American culture on certain aspects of Ukrainian life. The students were offered to write about the language, music, fashion, food, family relationships, technology, etc. The students were given a choice; that’s why some of them described the same side of life and some issues were not represented in the final papers. The objective of the project was to “pilot” the part of “globalization project” planned for the next academic year as a mutual research of Ukrainian and American students and to send a publication to this on-line magazine in order to share the writing with a genuine, worldwide audience.

It is necessary to say that the word globalization is not so well-known in Ukraine as in Western countries. It goes without saying that Ukrainians feel the huge influence of the process, but do not know the word. The majority of the students needed general information about x globalization to be clarified.

They were also advised on the structure of the essay (introduction, body of three parts, conclusion). However, they did not always follow the advised structure exactly. In Slavic writing traditions formal structure seems to be the same at the first glance, but there are a lot of details that are different. For example, Ukrainian or Russian essays often begin from the details which are not closely connected with the theme. Besides that, at the university we do not pay much attention on writing, only in high school, and the experience of students in writing often depends on a certain school. In this way, the students needed pre-writing discussion and explanations of the teacher.

The writing was begun in class in order to give the teacher an opportunity to look through the beginning of work during the class. At the next class the first draft was revised; each student received different advice (grammar, some new points of view). And the final papers were handed in by the students at the third class. After this there was a short discussion about this experience, difficulties. At the American universities, often there is a discussion in small groups before the writing process; but in Ukraine we have students with the same mother tongue (in EFL classes in the U.S. mother tongues are different), so such discussions were not offered in order to avoid using the native language. The final discussion was not in small groups, but led by the teacher with the whole group.

After the papers were written, the pictures were taken and some students offered to wear the national Ukrainian embroidery in order to promote their culture. After that the essays were sent to TOPICS Online Magazine by the teacher. Some of the students who participated in the project have their e-mail accounts and have been using ICQ for several months, so they have experience with the Internet. But using the Internet is not the common thing in Ukraine. In order not to embarrass the other students who are not so well aqcuainted with the Internet it was decided not to overload each student with opening e-mail account and scanning.

It is possible to scan a page of A 4 format for about US $ 0.15 (average salary in Ukraine is $ 60 per month) at the Internet cafe or post-office. The Internet still remains a sort of luxury here: one pays in the Internet cafe $ 1 per hour or at home $ 50 per month plus there is a charge for each minute for telephone connection. However, there are discounts on Sundays, and many people have free Internet at work and many students say that they use the Internet at work, but “not mine” (they go to the place where their friends work). In the survey in the fall semester (2001/2002) many students wrote that they had been using the Internet for 1-2 months, so there is a big interest to the Internet and a strong tendency for growth.

At our university we have several computer labs, but only one (15 computers) with the Internet connection. However, it is planned to have more computers with the Internet next academic year. Our university had a collaboration with Montclaire State University (USA) for three years which was sponsored by the US government. This collaboration gave us computers, seminars on critical thinking, and several mutual conferences.

Internet-based activities in the classroom became a part of my curriculum 4 years ago and were integrated with language learning (they provide a basis for authentic and purposeful communication). Before the beginning of the globalization project all the students used the Internet in class for 1) reading news and 2) virtual travel. We used in class a free web site of the Washington Post and the students retold the news and discussed them. First of all, the Washington Post is a good source of news and the paper version is unavailable in Ukraine because of its high price, and it was also a good help to learn about other parts of the world. We have Ukrainian newspapers in English, but the angle to news is very different from authentic materials. In this way, free web sites of American newspapers are very useful for us. I shared my own experience from my stay in the U.S., and the Internet also helped me.

We used the Internet for virtual travel, to get cross-cultural insights and to integrate it with language learning. There was active, collaborative learning in the classroom. We used <www.wmata.com>, which allows students to travel from one real address in Washington, D.C. to another. As a result, they could produce a monologue about the trip to explain why just this route was chosen, how much they spent, what was the time of the day was (it influences the fare in D.C.). Also, we used different Washington guides on the web, for example, <washington.dc.hotelguide.net>. It shows hotels in the Washington, D.C. metro area, restaurants, various links to entertainment available only in D.C. (the Christmas tree near the White House, Cherry Blossom time, the Easter celebration, etc.). After searching the web, the students produced dialogues, for example, a dialogue between a travel agent and a customer. They discussed accomodations, restaurants, and entertainment in D.C.

Many students do not have e-mail accounts yet, and even those who have do not use them on a regular basis. In the academic year 2000/2001, I was a visiting scholar at the George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) and learned there how to use e-mail in a single class. Unfortunately, we, Ukrainians, are not so rich to give every student such an opportunity.

I gave two presentations in the United States (Maryland TESOL 2000, and IALL 2001, Houston, Texas). At IALL, I met Sandy Peters and learned about her online magazine, TOPICS. I was ready to participate and began to work with my students on the globalization issue. This is a very new issue for my country—American influence on our Slavic world. My students liked the project and wrote several essays.

After the essays were ready to be published on the web, we discussed with the students which visuals to create to illustrate their articles in the online publication. Some of them decided to take pictures in Ukrainian national clothes with Ukrainian embroidery, famous all over the world. Unfortunately, only one student observed the process of scanning (scanners are not available to students at the university). Technology is still very expensive and the students are not allowed to use it at any time.

This writing project is only the beginning of a broader project about globalization, a mutual Ukrainian-American research of globalization and its influence on languages, cuisine, music, family relationships and other sides of life. Ukrainian group will be divided into small ones (3-4 students) and each will do research on a certain aspect of life; after that they will exchange the results with American students and create the final paper. The students are highly motivated because it will give them more information about the U.S. and other countries, they will be able to compare what they see in American movies (the main source of knowledge about this country) and the information from students in the U.S. It will be a new experience and a big challenge for them.


View the students' writing project.

See Professor Yuliya Melnyk's own page.

Contact Yuliya Melnyk:ymelnyk@yahoo.com

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