This is set up in a Russian university with English as a working language, but may apply to any university with a large share of international students.

Suppose I'm listing a set of course materials, including textbooks and educational resources, for a graduate course. Should I include textbooks in Russian / any other language that might be useful to a part of the students cohort, or should I stick to English only?

Pros of providing additional materials in Russian:

  • some students might benefit from them, and additional materials might make the course content clearer for these students,

Cons of providing additional materials in Russian:

  • students that don't know Russian might fear they are missing out some course material.

3 Answers 3


I think you can distinguish between required and optional materials

For required materials (students will be expected to read regularly, have exams on the content, solve exercises from the book, etc), I'd say they should by default be in the "working language" of the university, unless there is a clear educational reason to do otherwise (e.g. the course is studying a foreign language). In the latter case, students should be advised before signing up for the course that knowledge of the other language is a requirement.

For optional materials, I see no problem with offering materials in a variety of languages, either for the convenience of the students, or simply because it's a good book that happens to be in another language. Those who know the language can benefit, and those who don't still have everything they need to keep up with the course.

  • Optional needs to be really, really optional. My teachers often have optional reading which does help you to understand it better. If that's the case, then English students should be given the same chance (or whatever the working language is, if not English). Only if there coincidentally happens to be an untranslated Russian article/book which you think is interesting (but not really helpful for course material, other than going beyond it), I'd recommend it.
    – Luc
    Mar 6, 2018 at 10:45
  • "variety of languages" part seems the most important. There musn't be exclusivety on the other languages, even if it's optional material there must be a decent amount of english (or main language) content.
    – everyone
    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:09
  • @Luc So let me get this straight, you would prefer that teachers not even talk about some material that would help the students, for the reason that it's untranslated, in the interest of "fairness" or whatever?
    – user9646
    Mar 6, 2018 at 12:08
  • 5
    @NajibIdrissi Yes. If some get an advantage from it, it should be available to all students equally. Giving native speakers an advantage on the exam is a dick move when the university claims to be an international one with a working language of English. Foreign students have a big enough disadvantage without this stacked on top of it. (I'm speaking as a Dutchman in a Dutch university. I notice foreign students here have it harder. We should make it more fair, not less.)
    – Luc
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:02
  • @Luc It is available for all students... What is the teacher supposed to do, translate the entirety of all the material available out there and relevant for their course? The material exists whether the teacher mentions it or not, and the students could find it independently...
    – user9646
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:04

Depends on the subject. In Humanities it is quite common to add course material in languages the students are not required to know. Mostly because there are no equivalent English sources available. Students should learn to get the important information from the articles despite not knowing the languages. E.g. Students are required to know Latin and the sources are given in French or Italian.

  • 2
    I don't see how somebody who knows Latin is going to get much use out of French sources. I know English, and that's not adequate to let me read Old English or German. Mar 6, 2018 at 12:59

I would definitely say no to this one. Put in some effort and find good English equivalent of the Russian sources.

It is just unfair to non-native speakers.

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