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The Problem of Language Insecurity of Azerbaijani School Graduates Living in Russia: Methods of Overcoming it

Hasanov Mammadali Magsad Ogly

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8417-8599

PhD Student, Department Department of Foreign Languages, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, Moscow, Miklukho-Maklaya str., 15

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Abstract: The object of the study is the linguistic uncertainty of Azerbaijanis who live in Russia. The subject of the study is the causes of the phenomenon of language insecurity among graduates of Azerbaijani schools who received education in Russian in Azerbaijan, as well as the main reasons of a social and individual nature that contribute to its manifestation. The article describes the main reasons that have become the source of language insecurity among graduates of Azerbaijani schools who have received general secondary education in Russian in Azerbaijan. The authors of the article investigated the existing methods of teaching Russian in schools in Azerbaijan, the main problems that arise during the teaching of students, as well as obstacles that may affect the process of formation of language skills and knowledge of students. In order to study the causes of language insecurity among graduates of Azerbaijani schools in the course of communication while in the Russian Federation, we conducted a series of interviews with graduates of a number of schools in the capital of the country, in the city of Baku. The definition of the concept of language insecurity is given and the main reasons of both social and individual nature are shown, contributing to the manifestation of language insecurity in a number of students who have graduated from Azerbaijani schools with the Russian language of instruction.


sociolinguistics, language uncertainty, Azerbaijani language, language environment, multilingualism, russian language, Language adaptation, multiculturalism, linguistics, language situation

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

1. Introduction1.1. General indicators of Russian language proficiency of the population of the Republic of Azerbaijan

The population of the Republic of Azerbaijan (hereinafter referred to as AR) has always been distinguished by its multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual character.

According to the statistical data of the census conducted in 2009, there are about 15 peoples living in the country who actively use their language and have the right to receive education in the appropriate language. Most of the population speaks Azerbaijani, according to the 2009 census 98.6% of the population was fluent in it [1]. Russian is the second most common language in Azerbaijan. Since we are interested in the peoples living in Azerbaijan with the highest level of Russian language proficiency, we will highlight and show them in Table 1.

Table 1. Distribution of population and peoples by the highest indicator of Russian language proficiency in the Republic of Azerbaijan(According to the 2009 census) [1]

Russian Russian sector Some families, representatives of the peoples of Azerbaijan shown in Table 1, prefer to enroll their children in Russian schools or in schools where there are classes with instruction in Russian, the so–called Russian sector.

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The Russian language occupies a special place in the structure of education. Legally, it has the only status of a "foreign language in the education system". However, its functions are much broader. Russian Russian sector teaching is conducted exclusively in the Russian language. Russian Russian Russian Russian sector classes have all the information on the walls compiled in Russian, the students who graduated from the Russian sector are very familiar with famous Russian writers and their work in the original. Most of the schools with the Russian language of instruction are located in large cities of Azerbaijan, where not only Azerbaijanis, but also students of other peoples mentioned above can be present in the classes. As can be seen from Table 1, the peoples living in the north of the country, in the border zones with Russia, are fluent in Russian: Lezgins, Udins, Avars, Georgians, Tsakhurs and Jews. Despite studying in Russian and high rates of fluency in the language, when coming to Russia, some students show language insecurity in communication.

1.2. The situation of education in Russian in the ARFor successful growth in the era of globalization, operating in several languages is a prerequisite for successful human life.

Multilingualism, as a sociocultural phenomenon, does not cease to develop in A.R. The state language of A.R. is the de jure Azerbaijani language, and the free use of other languages is also ensured. Everyone has the right to receive upbringing and education in the desired language [2]. Any other language present in the country has no official status.

There are two major sectors in the field of A.R. education – the Azerbaijani and Russian sectors. There are schools in other foreign languages: Arabic-Persian, English and French and Turkish schools, the situation of these schools differs from the schools of Azerbaijani and Russian languages, in that they are not funded by the state A.R., it is also worth noting that getting an education in such schools requires a lot of money.

Russian Russian is the only language of instruction in 15 schools out of 4,472 secondary schools in Azerbaijan, and in 314 schools, along with Azerbaijani, there is also a Russian sector, which is 7.6 percent of all schools.

In these 329 schools, 90 thousand students receive education in Russian. This means that in the country as a whole, 6.3 percent of students receive education in Russian. In Baku, the capital of A.R., 141 out of 310 schools are mixed-type schools. This is 17 percent of the total number of students in Baku. Also, in higher educational institutions of the country, more than 70 percent of all specialties are taught in Russian [3].

Russian Russian Sector's curriculum includes all subjects taught in Russian. The history of Azerbaijan, the geography of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani literature are included as compulsory subjects for study, which are held in Russian. The Azerbaijani language is studied in all classes of the Russian sector, the subject itself is referred to as "Azerbaijani as the state language" see Table 2.  


Table 2. Curriculum for grades I-XI of secondary schools for the 2019-2020 academic year

(training in Russian) [4]

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Recently, there has been an increase in the flow of parents' interest in the Russian sector, which as a result there is an acute shortage of places among beginners in schools. Russian Russian-speaking families' appeal to the Russian section, in particular, caused a large influx of students in the Russian sections of the capital's schools. Considering the interests of such parents, so that their children receive education in the Russian sector, leads to a violation of the balance in the classroom, a language imbalance. There is such a picture that half of the class does not speak Russian. In order to prevent this problem, it was decided to accept students based on an assessment of oral skills in this language [5]. Russian Russian education Despite the interest of parents in the Russian sector, some education experts were dissatisfied with such a large flow and interest in the Russian sector and even demanded the termination of sponsorship of schools with Russian language of instruction from the state budget. This was explained by the fact that graduates of the Russian sector are less patriotic and loosely tied to the foundations of national values [3]. Some scientists see the solution to this problem in the introduction of a bilingual model into the curriculum of the Russian sector. This issue was not regulated or commented on by the Ministry of Education of A.R..  

In the A.R. for applicants (a high school graduate who is going to continue his education at a higher educational institution) of the Russian department, a separate exam on the subject "Azerbaijani language" is conducted. At the exam, applicants are given 30 test tasks. Each correct answer is estimated at one point. Incorrect answers do not affect the result of correct answers. The result of the exam is assessed as "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory", and those who have received a grade of "satisfactory" are admitted to the entrance exams. In order for an applicant to receive a "satisfactory" grade, his score must be at least 15 correct answers.

4. Methodology 4.1. The concept of language confidence

Linguistic (linguistic) uncertainty is manifested in speaking or writing people who experience uncertainty or anxiety when using the language, who consider their knowledge and subtleties of language proficiency insufficient, believing that their use of the language does not comply with the norms and usus of proficiency in a standard language.

Bucci Wilma and Milton Baxter define linguistic insecurity as a speaker's negative view of their own speech and language skills. This can happen if the speaker compares his phonetic and syntactic characteristics of speech with the characteristics of what is perceived as the "correct" form of spoken language [6]. The definition of linguistic uncertainty given by Michel Francard describes native speakers' awareness of the distance between their idiolect (or sociolect) and the language they recognize as authoritative (prestigious) because it belongs to the ruling class or other prestigious communities where they use a "pure" language, and not a variant distorted by interference processes [7].

Studying Russian-speaking graduates from Azerbaijani schools, one cannot disagree with Owens, Thompson V. and Paul M. Baker, who note that linguistic uncertainty can also be a characteristic feature of the entire speech community, especially in how it relates to other speech communities of the same language that use a more standardized form [8].

Vaitsekauskene Loreta believes that in some cases, a conflict of linguistic values and open resistance may be detected, and in the worst case, a sign of linguistic uncertainty may develop even among well-educated, professional and experienced members of the speech community [9].

4.2. Methodological principles and stages of the studyA sociolinguistic study was conducted in Baku in March 2021 at school No. 212 of Narimanov district in order to study the language insecurity manifested in some Azerbaijani school students.

There are Azerbaijani and Russian sectors in this city school, where the researcher of the article himself studied. The number of students interviewed was 20. Russian Russian schools In order to increase the usefulness and validity of the results obtained, we decided to conduct a study not only in "purely" Russian schools, but also in mixed-type schools, where there are classes in the Azerbaijani and Russian sectors.

At the first stage, to determine the factors that manifest language uncertainty in students of the Russian sector and to study this phenomenon, we conducted an empirical study, also included observation, where the researcher acted as a full observer.  The assessment was carried out on the basis of the empirical cycle indicated in Figure 1.



Figure 1. Empirical cycle taken from Groot's empirical cycle [10]


To achieve a better result and qualitative research of the issues under study, the method of open interviewing was used, which gave access to the views of the participants and the method of introspection.

To establish the fact of language uncertainty, the researcher performed a convergent parallel design. Russian Russian-speaking student in a family whose members all speak only Russian and were conditionally designated as L1, and a second student in a family whose members all speak only Azerbaijani (or another language other than Russian) and were conditionally designated as L2, all data were collected simultaneously and independently, and then the results were analyzed.

5. Research results5.1. Communication difficulties

5.1.1. Code switching and mixing

In schools with the Russian language of instruction, situations of mixing codes at morphological and syntactic levels are often observed, which leads to the adaptation of this type of communication.

  This happens mainly during the break, students playing with each other can use both Azerbaijani and Russian words. Such a system is mainly observed in mixed-type schools, where the Azerbaijani and Russian sector classes are located next to each other. In Lezgins and Talyshs, we can observe switching and mixing of a more complex code, i.e., among themselves in their native language, with Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijani and in the classroom in Russian.  In the classroom, students responding to lessons did not use code switching or mixing.

5.1.2. Slang (chat and internet)Youth slang, which is not always understandable to people around and natural speakers of the older language, reaches the youth of Azerbaijan quite late.

There are a lot of abbreviated words in Russia (KDC, GIA, VAC, RSCI) or words formed by sound (auf, lois). Russian Russian is also borrowed words from English (hypanut, stream), such types of words, cause difficulties in understanding Russian speech if the student does not actively use social networks, communicates outside the natural language environment and studies the classical Russian literary language, relying on literary works. The presence of abbreviated words and words formed by sound can cause difficulties in understanding Russian speech.

5.1.3. Accent and grammatical errorsRussian Russian sector students in Azerbaijani schools develop a special accent of the Russian language, mixed with an Azerbaijani accent.

If representatives of other peoples, Lezgins and Talysh, etc., study in the class, there is a possibility of developing a different, special accent. Russian Russian students may make grammatical mistakes and pronounce their speech in a special language mixed with Russian if they wish to speak in Azerbaijani. This kind of speech causes laughter or emotion of the surrounding people, in the Azerbaijani communicative environment.

5.2. Social sphere5.2.1. Linguistic space and language landscape A.R.

The communicative space in A.R. consists of the Azerbaijani language, in school buffets, in shops and other public places, the language of communication is mainly Azerbaijani.

On the streets, advertising posters and information boards are mostly written in Azerbaijani. Latin letters are used in the country. On the Cyrillic alphabet, you can see rare memorial plaques left over from Soviet times with information about a famous person. In public transports, stop announcements are reported in Azerbaijani and English. All this naturally includes students in the Azerbaijani-speaking space.

5.2.2. Service sector In public institutions and in state administrative centers, the first preference for conversation is given to the state language.

If the employee knows the language at the request of the speaker, they can switch to Russian.

5.3. Cognitive difficulties5.3.1. Language preference in the family

In the Russian sector, some students have cognitive difficulties associated with bilingualism in the perception of curricula and information processing.

Russian Russian sector classes in A.R. can be attended by students from different nations, and not all families use Russian as a communicative language. Russian Russian speaking informants are designated as L1 and L2, where L1 in the family all speak Russian, and L2 in the family partially speak Russian (mother or father) or do not speak at all, then we can see the following result: L2 informant has difficulties communicating with the teacher, cannot express thoughts freely in Russian. The L2 family also has the possibility that they prefer to watch local, sometimes Turkish channels, rather than Russian channels, which is typical for Azerbaijani society. Another problem arises for L1 students trying to socialize in a society where the main means of communication is the Azerbaijani language.

5.3.2. Moving students by sector Russian Russian language skills are taught to children faster and more effectively, many parents enroll their children in Russian classes, but after passing several classes, they see difficulties and problems that can have a bad effect on the future of the student, since he does not have time to master the basic program.

As a result, due to this situation, the student is transferred to the Azerbaijani department. Such immersion from one language environment to another becomes one of the factors of manifestation of language insecurity among graduates.

Another case of language uncertainty may be the transfer from the Azerbaijani sector to the Russian sector in the middle of the educational process. Despite immersion during learning in a foreign language environment, the second language does not become subtractive, the second, new language mastered by the individual does not replace the first.

5.4. Interview analysis

As mentioned in the Methodology section, each participant was individually interviewed by a researcher, and all interviews were recorded and researched later. Questions were asked to consider the causes of language insecurity among students. Let's look at some of them.

Question 1. "Have you ever experienced stress due to possible grammatical, lexical errors in the classroom?" The answers to this question were different. L1 informants confidently answered that they had not experienced, L2 informants had different answers, most of them experienced difficulties, which was accompanied by stress. And according to our observations, it turned out that students who are stressed due to possible grammatical or lexical errors prefer to sit mainly at the back desks, while students who are confident in their language skills sit in the front row.

Question 2. What contributes to the fact that you experience stress or uncertainty while communicating in Russian in the classroom? There were many answers to this question. We have selected the answers specifically related to language uncertainty. Many of the answers were related to the fact that if you need to answer in Russian for a long time and still under the supervision of not only a teacher, but also a native speaker, where mistakes should not be made and you should speak perfectly, in this case you feel insecure in communication.

Question 3. Would you like to go to Russia and communicate with native speakers? Half of the students answered this question with hesitation and uncertainty. They explained this by the fact that native speakers express their thoughts very quickly in Russian, and they consider it not delicate to tell them to speak slower.

7. OutputBased on the conducted research, we can come to the conclusion that the reasons for the emergence of language insecurity among graduates of the Russian sector of the AR are primarily:

· not fully immersed in the Russian-speaking environment outside of school and in some cases even the classroom;

· study in the Russian sector, at the request of parents who speak other languages, as well as moving from one language sector to another during training;

· alternate use of two, three or more languages: Azerbaijani and Russian, minority (Lezgian, Talysh, etc.)  and Russian.

Russian Russian-related international Olympiads in Russia can serve as a solution to the language uncertainty of students who have graduated from the Russian sector in the AR. Such Olympiads are held in Russia annually, but the number of participants from Azerbaijan is not too large and only students who have shown the best possible result during their studies can participate. Another solution is to edit school textbooks that are not based on communicative speech, students are more focused on prepared speech, by memorizing texts, and the development of various forms of online communication or online learning can solve problems caused by language insecurity in Russia. 

Thus, the linguistic uncertainty of graduates of Russian schools in Azerbaijan should be solved by temporarily immersing them in the communication environment.

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