Deficiencies in language education in the CIS: a polyglot view

Hello! My name is Yegor Pak, I know several foreign languages. I lived abroad for 9 years and recently returned to Russia. If interested: studied in Berlin and in Santiago de Chile. Teaching English for 5 years. He worked in Sweden, Germany and Taiwan, currently in the Russian Federation.

I want to share my observations about teaching foreign languages ​​in the CIS and beyond. For each of the points I wrote tips.

There are countries in which people speak 3 languages ​​and do not consider this something special, take the same Denmark, Holland or Switzerland. These are countries with a small population, and in order to somehow communicate with their neighbors, people must be fluent in at least English. There are 4 official languages ​​in Switzerland, but I often see how the Swiss switch to English with each other if they do not have a common language. It turns out that command of a second language is a privilege of small nations? Looking at the French, Chinese and Americans, it seems that this is so.

However, if you look at the Filipinos, many of them speak three languages: regional, Tagalog and English. The population of the Philippines, however, is more than 100 million people, and they are likely to speak Tagalog with visitors from other provinces. In rare families, only English is spoken, and yet the percentage of fluent English in Russia or the Philippines is significantly different. In Russia, not every university graduate will speak English at a high level. This is not good and bad, and the only difference is in the way people learn languages, or, if you dig deeper, in how these languages ​​are taught.
I see several reasons why speaking good English in a Russian-speaking space is something special.

First of all, people think English is difficult due to pronunciation.

Words in English are not always read as spelled. This, however, did not stop a single Swede or German from studying it, but you can’t even call Russian a phonetic language. Looking at the “what” and “reading”, I want to note that the rules of reading from the point of view of a foreigner do not work here. The words “milk”, “powder” and “good” also do not make it very clear what kind of vowel there is.
Example from user berez:
“Chisel”, “swamp”, “gold”. In which word which syllable is stressed is not amenable to any foreign logic, you just need to remember it.

One must hear and repeat in order to understand and assimilate. In English, the same situation, only occurs much more often. An effective way to stop stuffing cones and learn a language is to listen and repeat out loud. The pronunciation of words remembers not only the brain, but also the muscles of the face.

Secondly, many think English is “different” or “complex”.

They don’t understand why the articles are needed, but about 12 times it’s not worth talking about - how can there be 12 times in a language? If this is in the language, then there is logic in it, but no one explains it.

In English there are 3 tenses, in each of them there are 4 aspects, a total of 12 kinds of temporary forms. Each aspect carries a meaning: for example, Continuous describes processes, Perfect is used for the result and completed actions, Simple - for things and facts in general.

Articles are needed to more accurately indicate objects, for which in Russian you need to add more context. They can be explained in a couple of minutes, but the textbooks only drive a bunch of exceptions, without explaining the logic behind all this.

Thirdly, people learn mostly British English (RP = Received Pronunciation aka posh accent), which is spoken by less than 3% of English speakers. Yes, this is the British standard, many exams are imprisoned for it, but very many just want to speak English, and not pass the tests. In England alone, with a population of 66 million, there are many different accents that will confuse anyone who teaches RP on BBC news. The same Cockney, Scouse, Geordie, Brummie. I will not say anything about the Scottish accent; many beginners cannot decipher it.

In simple words, there is a standard, but there is a real everyday language, and even with successful exams, you will have to learn to understand others by ear.

Most Europeans, for whom English is a foreign language, learn North American English. And there are reasons for this: despite the difference in accents between the west coast and the east, interspersed with redneck English somewhere in Florida and Arkansas, the North American accent is nevertheless more intelligible. People have a talk, but such a horror as in England certainly will not happen.

But most importantly: 365 million people live in the United States and Canada. Obviously, it makes more sense to learn the option that the majority speaks of. Although it is not possible to convey this to school and university teachers in the CIS.

Many teachers, by the way, do not have the slightest idea about the little things that are critical. Starting with phonetics, in which they do not see the difference between short and long vowels, the correct pronunciation of the characteristic sounds of English, including the sounds of schwa, [t] and [r], ending with vocabulary, forcing students to cramble the book phrases of the 80s. This forms a stereotypical Russian accent with old-fashioned book vocabulary in a person and sounds at least strange.

They say that in order to learn a language, you must be in the country where they speak it.
This is an excellent argument not to learn languages, but alas, in reality things are different. The point is the effectiveness of training. You can remake your room in another country, and do everything in a foreign language. This will allow you to master them well, even if you are not in constant contact with the media. And with the development of the Internet, when English content is in a couple of clicks, it sounds just absurd. All the same Filipinos after school go home and speak their language. And not all telecasts are broadcast in English - first-hand data, I have lived in Manila and Cebu for almost two years and speak Tagalog. Therefore, this is more of an excuse than an argument.

And finally, in the Russian-speaking segment there are a huge number of channels and instagram profiles that teach idiomatic expressions or simply rephrase English textbooks without explaining anything new and not showing the logic of the language. I must say that there are good profiles, but sometimes when searching for hashtags, I grab my head because the information in such videos is simply incorrect.

English speakers use idioms, but this is not # 1 priority. It is much more important to speak correctly and to be understood first of all. Sometimes it resembles a cook who really wants to show that he knows how to use spices and sprinkles them wherever in huge quantities. Will anyone eat such food? The answer is obvious.

It would be painful for me to write about this, but we all have a limit of time and willpower. If you spend time that you can spend on improving the accent or finding useful vocabulary in context, on studying idiomatic expressions and unnecessary words without pronunciation, nobody will see rapid progress in the language. Motivation is not eternal. To learn a language, you need to see progress in the first 2-3 weeks of training. Knowing that you have reached certain heights, you can use it as fuel to get through more complex structures and achieve fluency in the language. There are no difficult or easy languages: each of them has complex and easy topics, each of which is worked out using the right choice of strategy.

Do not step on the rake that thousands of people have entered before you and claim that it is impossible to learn the language.

Learn the language correctly!

I have a practical approach to learning that allows me to learn and train others faster than usual. The text above is not a textbook or a memo for teachers, it was written on the basis of experience with my students from the CIS. For you, this is an occasion to think if you learn languages ​​yourself. Thanks for reading!

PPS A week ago, began to lead the channel on YouTube. It's called PLGLT, sign up if you're interested.
In a couple of days, the English channel will also come to life, it is called Egor Pak.


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