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Did you know that astronauts traveling to the International Space Station must speak Russian? While English is the working language of the ISS, the Russian spacecraft Soyuz is the only means of transport for the crew heading to and from the station. During the six-hour flight, from lift-off to docking, Mission Control gives commands in Russian. An interpreter would not be able to translate commands quickly enough, so the astronauts must learn enough Russian to make the flight.
Americans flying in Soyuz must be capable of speaking Russian at the Intermediate High level according to the ACTFL scale. Not only do the astronauts learn basic Russian, but also very specific “space Russian” in order to understand the control and navigation system in Soyuz, among other commands and procedures. The flight engineer trains Russian four hours each week to make it happen.
For some astronauts, learning Russian is as difficult as it sounds. British Commander Tim Peake recently commented that learning Russian was the hardest and least enjoyable part of his entire training regimen. Take a walk in his moon boots in our free Russian for Astronauts lesson powered by Transparent Language Online.
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