Q&A: Learning English in Russia – Spoken English Class in Russia
As a global English school that helps thousands of students around the world improve English, we are always interested in finding out about the English learning process in different countries.
What is unique about learning English speaking in Russia?
Can we apply our Conversational method to help Russian English leaners?
What areas of English do Russian English students need the most help with?
We are always exploring better ways to improve our English teaching process.
Today we wanted to interview Irina, one of our students from Moscow, Russia, and learn more about the process of improving English speaking from a native Russia’s perspective.
Irina has been part of the Spoken English Practice program since May 2014, and works as a Human Resources Manager at a large multinational company based in Moscow.
She will talk about how we are different from the Spoken English class in Russia that she took, and how our conversational method has helped her improve fluency and confidence.
Let’s talk to Irina and see how our method has helped her improve English speaking.
P.S. We want you to pay attention to how articulate Irina has become.
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What is the main reason for you to improve Spoken English?
We learn a lot of written English including advanced grammar in Russia.
But this approach does not make a lot of students fluent in English.
So when it comes to communicating with native English speakers (which I have to do a lot with my job) and need to improve my speaking skills.
For example, I have regular calls with my team members in the US.
One person in the US team once said, “that is a whole new can of worms we don’t want to open”.
I had never hear this expression and had a tough time trying to translate it in to Russian.
Then I figured the translation was no literal and that this was an idiomatic expression used by native English speakers.
I realized at that point that if I wanted to communicate well with native English speakers, I needed to learn from native English speakers, not textbooks.
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What do you see as the biggest obstacle for improving English conversation skills in Russia?
A huge challenge is that we don’t get enough chances to practice English with natives.
In most cases, we don’t even speak in English with friends or co-workers.
Because of this most of our English skills are limited to writing and reading.
In other words, we have a solid foundation in theory, but little practice so we are not fluent when speaking English.
This is definitely the case with most professional living in bigger cities in Russian like Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
However, when you go to more rural Russian, there are beginner level English students as well.
These students often lack the vocabulary they need to express themselves and can struggle with understanding grammatical concepts.
For these students beginner level Spoken English classes are required.
In my case, I had learned English formally in school and growing up. I knew basic grammar and vocabulary so I wanted to improve English speaking.
For this Spoken English Practice was perfect.
How do you rate local Spoken English schools in Russia?
To me, since I’m not an absolute beginner, they are not very useful.
They are good if you are trying to learn a few words and some elementary grammar.
I have taken English speaking classes in both Moscow and St. Petersburg and I have found that most of the English tutors here do most of the speaking.
In a Spoken English class in Russia students rarely speak in English.
How can they improve English speaking if they don’t speak?
How has the Spoken English Practice lessons helped you?
The biggest thing I like about the Spoken English Practice program is that I speak a majority of the time.
I had most of my classes with Gina who is great at asking a lot of questions and getting me to speak! If you are in a Spoken English class in Russia, as I said, the teacher will be speaking most of the time and that is not helpful.
I also like your approach where the teacher/conversation partner does not interrupt the conversation and correct every little thing. To do that kills the flow and makes it hard to improve fluency.
My teacher at Spoken English Practice, continuously inspired and motivated me to use English more by discussing topics of interest. She reminded me that the more I involved with a native speaker the more proficient and confident I will become. This was a break through experience for me.
We are not like a traditional Spoken English class in Russia
Tell us a bit about what a normal lesson is like with your conversation partner at Spoken English Practice, compared to a Spoken English class in Russia?
It is a lot of fun! We would talk about almost anything. From Hollywood movies to vacation plans, from cooking to gardening. Outside of improving English, I have actually learnt a lot of about life in the US!
What is your advice to fellow English language learners?
I think often times the biggest hurdle that non-native English speakers have is their fear and embarrassment.
For myself, I was not as confident in speaking English.
I speak it best when I am comfortable with the person I am talking to.
So I think that primarily, it is important for the teacher to help the students feel comfortable and confident, and then their mind will be more free and their English will be better.
Aside from that, I think that pronunciation and expressing correct vocabulary are the two skills that ll of us English students need to work on.
I have found that often times my grammar is fairly good, but I was limited in how I can express myself.
Being able to speak in any tense (past, present, future, subjunctive) is something that most students really need help in as well.
In my classes with Spoken English Practice, the teacher would first make me feel comfortable trying new things with their English and being fearless in expressing themselves, even when they aren’t sure that they’re correct.
In order to help them with my pronunciation, the English teacher will show me how to move my mouth and place my tongue in order to make the noise we want.
Then we would go through some words that have the same sound to practice.
Through the course of normal conversation and getting to know each other’s cultures, I was able to use new words, slang and idioms that I never knew how to use in real conversations.
And I feel like the best way to learn the different tenses is to tell stories and to hear them.
Every tense will come out in a story.
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What type of teaching style works best with you?
I prefer a teaching style that is relaxed and conversational.
I would liked to approached like any initial interview with a research participant.
The teacher should be a great listener who would listen intently to what I’m saying.
Within that relaxed conversation, then, the teacher should be able to gently make corrections to my English
I would prefer a patient teacher who would encourage me to try to say something before asking for help in expressing it.
Also I like a teacher who is able to lead the conversation to more difficult ways of speaking in order to introduce new material.
I would like to laugh and learned from each other.
Thanks Irina! You have been a great English student and such a fast leaner!. We wish you all the best with your future endeavors.