Abby Zhang, Russian

Abby Zhang is an alumna of the 2020 and 2021 Virtual Summer Intensive (VSI) Programs for Russian. In 2023, Abby returned to the NSLI-Y program as an interpreter.

Abby Zhang served as the interpreter for the 2023 VSI Bolshoi Ballet Academy Russian Program. Having completed the NSLI-Y program twice, Abby brought a unique combination of participant experience, strong Russian language skills, and a passion for dance to the position. Abby notes that “serving as the channel through which the instructions and wisdom of the teachers could be transferred into the dancers’ quality of movement and understanding of this art form, I found myself at the crossroads of my two passions.” ​

Group of ballet dancers

Abby’s initial eagerness to study Russian stemmed from her love of Russian ballet; she notes that she was inspired by years of Vaganova training with her teacher from the Bolshoi Theater to begin her study of Russian. She credits her NSLI-Y experience with helping her develop discipline, cultural awareness, and stronger language skills, which she relied on after enrolling at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. She found that it was easier to adapt to the new environment and​ culture after NSLI-Y, and she was able to use her Russian skills right away to talk with teachers, make friends, and help students who did not speak Russian understand ballet lessons. Abby also takes the idea of being a global citizen seriously, staying informed of global events, and exposing herself to multiple perspectives.​

Abby’s experience interpreting for the 2023 VSI program has helped her develop her interpretation skills. She has learned that interpreting involves much more than an extensive vocabulary in the two languages, but that “one has to be extremely sensitive to the cultural and linguistic nuances that exist between them. NSLI-Y’s emphasis on familiarization with all aspects of Russian society: lifestyle, history, idioms, humor, traditions, and not just the language itself, prepared me to interpret relevant sayings and references in context, as opposed to mere literal translations.”

For others interested in translation and/or interpretation, Abby recommends developing a specialized vocabulary in the area that you are interested in, such as medical terminology or legal jargon. She notes that increased familiarity with the specific terminology helps give crucial context and improves your ability to provide a strong translation.​