Teachers of English in Russia Feeling Winds of Change in Their Profession
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I'm Avi Arditti and this week on Wordmaster: teaching English in Russia.
A lunchtime concert at Saint-Petersburg State University.
Last month I had the opportunity to speak at two conferences -- one was a meeting of SPELTA, the St. Petersburg English Language Teachers' Association. The other brought top English teachers from across the Russian Federation to Kursk State University, in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine.
Both conferences were about using technology to teach English. But it was also a chance to talk with several English language instructors about other developments in the field.
LUDMILA KUZNETSOVA: "I'm Ludmila Kuznetsova, a professor of Saint-Petersburg University. I've been recently elected president of [SPELTA.]"
AA: "What's it like teaching English today, at a time where traditionally British English has been taught in the Russian schools, but now there seems to be more and more interest in American English?"
LUDMILA KUZNETSOVA: "Well, all students have to learn a foreign language. And the English language is taking over, and American English is also taking over from the British version of the language. So there is more and more of American language taught at Russian colleges and universities, as a compulsory course. But also Russian schools and university teachers teach more courses on American culture."
AA: "What advice do you have for English teachers who are in a situation where they're trying to get their students to communicate more, to talk more."
LUDMILA KUZNETSOVA: "I'm also a teacher trainer and I always tell my trainees that they shouldn't be afraid of giving their power over to students, to trust them more and to involve them more. Not only in responding to the teacher's questions or doing exercises, drills or other tasks, but to create materials for the language classroom -- to unleash their creativity and use it to the benefit of the students."
AA: "And what use are you making of Internet technology in language teaching in Russia?"
LUDMILA KUZNETSOVA: "Only recently have we started using Internet technologies. And basically we at present are the takers of the information, of the materials from the Internet, and we are learning to use the resources that are out there, but not yet creating our own. This will be probably our next step."
DMITRIY KLIMENTIEV: "My name is Dmitriy Klimentiev and I'm associate professor of English language, Kursk State University."
AA: "Now you're something of a legend here, it seems, with Internet and information technology. What advice do you give to teachers who are thinking about using the Internet in their lessons, or maybe already using it and not sure how to make the most effective use of it?"
DMITRIY KLIMENTIEV: "What I usually say, the first thing we should think about is the reasonable approach. You should use each teaching tool only when it is really more efficient than the one you used to offer before.
"So if you need more information, if you need something which the students are not used to, then you go online and you look for something. If the Web connection is not very good, if your computers are old, then don't waste time. Choose whatever is more efficient, whatever saves time and whatever is more motivating for students.
"Now you can even make use of a cell phone which plays MP3 files. And they can listen to a book which they download from the Internet or somebody from a CD into their cell phone, and then after having listened to this book, they will just share the contents with the others."
Dmitriy Klimentiev teaches at a university, but one of his projects has been to work with local high school students to create English-teaching CDs of their own. They used Microsoft's PowerPoint software to develop a volume of interactive presentations, based on VOA's Special English programs for English learners. They downloaded transcripts and MP3 files from voaspecialenglish.com.
And if you're looking for more English teaching advice, check out voanews.com/wordmaster.
That's Wordmaster for this week. Next week -- more interviews from Russia. I'm Avi Arditti.