RUDN students expand linguistic horizons


RUDN students of economics returned from Zambia not only overwhelmed with emotions, ideas and impressions, but also brought something valuable — an ethnic book that added a new language to the Russian State Library — the Bemba language! Thanks to the book, the total number of languages in the RSL has increased to 269.

Arina Tinkova, Andrey Surkov and Aaron Kasonde, representatives of the Department of International Economic Relations of RUDN University, handed over the book to the chief librarian of the Center for Oriental Literature, Daniil Oganev. As soon as he learned about the upcoming trip of RUDN delegation to Zambia, he contacted representatives of the faculty and clarified that the library was lacking in literature in African languages.

The task was to bring a book in a language that is not represented in the collection. Fascinated by the cultures of different peoples of the world, RUDN University students decided to contribute to the diversity of the Russian State Library. They made it their mission to find a book in a rare and unknown African language for the library in order to expand the library’s collection and introduce people to an unusual literary work. And they did find it!

The book was given to our students by the student community of the University of Zambia. Why was this very book chosen? It is a famous parable of the Bemba people, symbolizing their customs, wisdom and history.

“The title of the book is translated into Russian as ‘Kindness Ate the Quail’. It is a great pride for me to bring to the country, which during my studies I loved with all my soul, a piece of my native language and share the wisdom that is passed on to all the children of my people. I hope that this is just the beginning, and from future trips we will bring works in the languages of other African tribes,” Aaron Kasonde, “International Trade”, master student.

Bemba is the ethnic language of the people of the same name, which is spoken in northern Zambia. It is also used as a lingua franca in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, north of the main Bemba habitat, as well as in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana. In general, very few books are published in the Bemba language — most literature is published in English.

This book turned out to be a real find. It tells a cautionary tale about a snake that gets into trouble. A quail passes by and decides to help her. However, instead of gratitude, the snake eats the bird. A wise parable shows that life can be unfair and unpredictable, but this should not stop people from being kind and supportive.

“The appearance of a book in the Bemba language at the Center for Oriental Literature of the Russian State Library will be the beginning of the study of the cultural and linguistic features of Africa, which are still unknown in our country. This is an event that was the result of our work to promote friendship between the peoples of Africa and Russia. We not only exchange knowledge and experience, but also discover a lot of unknown things in the culture of Zambia,” Arina Tinkova, assistant lecturer at the Department of international economic relations.

“The trip to Zambia broke many stereotypes about African peoples and provided an experience that we will now share with everyone who wants to learn more about African peoples. Studying the languages of other African tribes will give us the opportunity to get to know people better, find out how they live and what their life is filled with. Still, the culture of another people is best learned through its language,” Andrey Surkov, “World Economy”, postgraduate student.

Thus, the book has become not only a precious addition to the RSL collection, but also the personification of international dialogue and cultural exchange. There are now 269 languages in the library, each a unique reflection of the richness and cultural diversity of the world.

For reference:

Representatives of the library and the Faculty of Economics agreed to hold a Public Talk “The Side of Africa You Didn’t Know” on October 6, at 6:00 pm, where RUDN University students will talk about the summer school and travel around Zambia.


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