A RUSSIAN school has been opened in Chippenham by a native concerned her children are forgetting their mother tongue.

Eight adults and eight children have signed up for lessons, which began last Monday in the Rotary Club hall on Station Hill.

There are classes for English speakers interested in learning the language of tennis player-turned model Anna Kournikova and first man in space Yuri Gagarin and Russian youngsters keen to keep up their first language.

Bath Russian School, as it is named, was started by Elena Stevens, who lives in Monkton Park, Chippenham and teaches music at Malmesbury Primary School.

Mrs Stevens, 39, who has been in the UK for 18 years and moved to Wiltshire seven years ago, said: “The idea came about because my children [Alexei, four, and Zina, seven] are forgetting Russian a bit.

“Even though it was their native tongue when they were little, now of course English is their language of choice.

“It’s so difficult to learn as an adult, so it’s great to give them this gift as a child.

“Politics aside, Russia has a lot to offer culturally.

“And economically as well, like Chinese it’s becoming more known for its usefulness. A lot of English companies have an interest in doing business with Russia.”

There are 140 million Russian speakers in the Russian Federation alone, with many speakers also in Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The school has two other Russian native teachers, including a woman who was a choreographer in St Petersburg, and there are plans to incorporate movement into the classes.

“It can be quite daunting so we’ll try to make it fun so they don’t give up,” said Mrs Stevens. “I believe it can be mastered, it’s not an impossible task.

“The hardest thing is probably not being in the Russian environment and hearing it, but the alphabet is not so bad; it’s not as different to Latin languages as say Arabic.”

University research has shown that students of foreign languages tend to achieve better exam results generally than their monolingual peers, particularly in maths and English.

Adult classes cost £7.50 an hour and are on Wednesday or Thursday evenings at 6.45pm-7.45pm.

The Russian as mother tongue playgroup costs £5 an hour and is on Saturdays between 9.30am and 11.30am.

To sign up or for more information, call 07764 582683 or email russianschool.bath@gmail.com n The Rotary Hall is available for hire to local organisations. For details, call Lyn Crabtree on (01249) 656172 or email lyn crabtree@yahoo.co.uk