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Trends of the era of Great Ethnographic discoveries

In recent years, Russia has been growing interest in Africa, whose population is comparable to that of China or India. Geopolitical conditions force businesses and public organizations to look not only to the East, but also to the South. But do we have enough experts who know languages, understand the peculiarities of mentality and culture to work competently with this region?
The features of ethnopsychology, understanding the key areas of which can help Russians avoid mistakes when communicating with Africans from different countries, were told to the editorial board of the “Molecule” by an expert in this field – the founder of the First Russian School of African Languages for all “AfrikaDa”, a linguist, a regional specialist

About the school
For me, Africa is not exotic or a tribute to a fashion trend, but a deep personal interest. It so happened that I spent part of my childhood in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, a region that Africans themselves call the “heart of Africa”. My father is a graduate of MGIMO, an Africanist, and an international journalist. My mother worked as a translator at the USSR Embassy and, through the SSOD, taught Russian to future students of the RUDN.
The idea to establish an African language school for everyone appeared a long time ago, but the conditions for its creation have arisen only recently. We have been working since 2022 on the basis of the Utro Education Center. Our niche is edutainment (education + entertainment). We offer basic language training for adults and schoolchildren. It is beneficial for universities to cooperate with us, because we have motivated people who are already a little prepared, who do not need to be taught from the basics. Thus, we fit into the concept of vertically integrated school-university-employer training.
A few words about the language situation on the continent. There are thousands of peoples and thousands of languages in Africa. When choosing languages for teaching, we were guided by the prevalence of a particular language and the benefits of learning it. For example, about the same number of people speak Swahili as they do Russian. Amharic is not far behind them. All of them are languages of interethnic communication for dozens of peoples, whose numbers are rapidly increasing. We also offer Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Afrikaans, Chwi, Pidgin English and some others. My favorite African language is Krio, a young-written language undergoing a formative period. He has never been taught in educational institutions in our country. The course of our school’s cryo–know-how. We are especially proud of him.
Our educational process is structured in a special way. The lesson is taught by a native speaker in English. He is paired with a translator, a regional specialist, an Africanist who makes an educational product suitable for a Russian audience, complements it with comments on the history, economics, geography, and psychology of the people of the language being studied.
Our main focus is on the basics of ethnopsychology or national psychology, which is a branch of ethnography that studies everything related to a particular people. Food, housing, hairstyles, cosmetics, clothes, family relations, etiquette… We consider this part of the course to be the most important and interesting.
At one time, I had the opportunity to study with Alexei Maslov, now director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University. Alexey Alexandrovich discovered national psychology for me, introduced me to the developments made for the region of Confucian culture. Today, our school conducts its own “field” research. We are transferring the accumulated experience to different regions of Africa.

6 theses on ethnopsychology

Why is ethnopsychology so important? Because every nation has its own psychology. Without her knowledge, it is impossible to competently build political, business or personal relationships. It gives the keys to understanding the people, helps to achieve the goal of communication.
Ethnopsychology is genetically fixed. Therefore, in whatever part of the world you meet a representative of a particular ethnic group, having the keys to its national psychology, you can always come to an agreement.
We have developed and continue to improve the training course on how Russians can avoid mistakes when communicating with Africans from different countries. We offer the same course to Africans coming to Russia. Both courses are designed for business representatives and those who are in international relations or marriages.
We start the course with the simplest situations. For example, you have arranged a meeting with your future African partners and scheduled it for 17:00 hours. They arrived at 17:58. There is a conflict of cultures. In our understanding, they were very late. This may anger the Russian side. To put future cooperation in doubt. According to African etiquette, they were not late, as it is still 17:00. They won’t understand your annoyance. We explain to the Russian side that these are very punctual people and others are unlikely to be found. We explain to the African side that it is not only that Russians value their time and that the further schedule breaks down, because another meeting may be scheduled for 18:00. Business is not without difficulties. And if you can’t handle such a simple thing as arriving at the appointed time, according to the Russian side, you won’t be able to handle more complex situations.
Or as for personal relationships. In Russian culture, it is perfectly normal to invite a girl for a walk in order to chat, especially if the weather is good and the area around is beautiful. The African woman will decide that something is wrong with you. And it’s not just about her deep religiosity and upbringing. And it’s not that her family doesn’t want to know about such events in her personal life. The fact is that Africans are stay-at-home people and do not go anywhere without a specific goal. They don’t just walk around like that.

This is all the external side of the described situations. Next, we look deeper, consider the mechanisms for making certain decisions. We are too late to be born in the era of Great Geographical Discoveries. We can no longer discover new continents and islands. But still, we were lucky. We live in an era of Great ethnographic discoveries. We invite everyone who wants to contribute to the development of ethnopsychology to cooperate.