Ever since I was an undergraduate at UCLA in the 1970s, I have had an interest in Russia and the Russian language. My first visit to Russia was in 1974, when I took advantage of an opportunity provided by my employer to take an 18 day inclusive tour of several Soviet Republics, including Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Tartarstan.

The next opportunity came in 1994, when my family and I were able to visit St. Petersburg for a few days.

Then in 1996, I spent four months teaching Linguistics in Moscow, on the invitation of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Moscow State University (MGU).

In 2001-2002, I taught and did research at Novosibirsk State University and the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SO-RAN). There I was exposed to the richness and variety of the languages of Siberia, and began a major research and editing project in collaboration with Russian colleagues.