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8 more mistakes Russian learners of English often make

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I didn’t initially plan to write a sequel to my post about common mistakes that Russian learners of English actually make, but the post proved extremely useful. Instead of explaining the mistakes over and over again, I simply gave my students the link and the number of the mistake they kept making. Seeing how well it worked, I’ve decided to put together one more list of common mistakes Russian learners make.

The root of all the mistakes below is the direct translation from Russian. Again, the list is based on my personal teaching experience. The order is almost random.

#1 Feel yourself good Feel good. If you think about it, isn't ‘yourself’ redundant anyway? Of course, it’s yourself you are talking about, so you don’t need to say it. On top of that, ‘feel yourself’ actually means something you probably don’t want to say. Google it. Seriously, do.

#2 Weekends Weekend, just one. If you are talking about your last or next weekend, a combination of two days Saturday and Sunday, it’s s…

Top 8 mistakes Russian learners of English actually make

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Due to the nature of my job, every once in a while I stumble upon an article about N most common mistakes that learners of English make. I look at them and go, “Who makes these mistakes? Russians certainly don’t.” (For example, Russians don’t confuse your and you’re.) In this post, I want to talk about 8 common mistakes Russian learners actually make. These mistakes persist on different levels, but are not usually addressed in EFL course books.

The list is based on my personal teaching experience. The order is random.
1. I with
I often ask students “What did you do at the weekend?” and what I hear is “I with my friends went to the cinema.” The right way to say something like this is “My friends and I went to the cinema,” or “Iwent to the cinemawithmy friends.” In English, the word order is “subject+verb” and prepositional phrases can’t go in the middle.

2. How to say
When students don’t know how to say something, they ask me or murmur to themselves “How to say this?” The right ways …

How to choose a freelance language teacher

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This is the time of year when many of you might be considering hiring language teachers for yourself or your children. It makes a lot of sense to cut out the middleman (a language school) and hire a freelance or a self-employed teacher directly. But if you decide to do that, you might find yourself browsing through tens of profiles a day and still unable to make a choice. In this post, I want to outline several aspects you might want to pay attention to when looking for a freelance language teacher.

Degree A degree in teaching is not a 100% guarantee of good quality teaching, but it definitely helps. People who get a degree in language teaching do not only study the language in-depth, they also study teaching principles and methods. It is, of course, possible but less likely that a person with a degree in engineering will make a great language teacher. They might be a proficient or a native language speaker, but they simply might not know how to help you learn the language.
Experience…

Fulbright FLTA memories. Part 2. Translating Dovlatov back into Russian with my American students.

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What I want to share in this post was probably my favorite part of my teaching Russian as a foreign language experience, which was teaching language with the help of literature (or is it literature with the help of language?).
In the second semester, the Russian teacher at UNH, Daria Kirjanov, taught a course called, “Stories of Displaced Lives: Russian and Eastern European Memoirs of Exile.” As part of this course, the students of Russian were supposed to attend a language lab class, the purpose of which was reading some of the course materials in the original. I got my own language lab class with three beginner level students. The beauty part was I didn’t have a rigid program to follow and had the freedom to create my own materials.

Talking about Dovlatov in this kind of course was absolutely inevitable. But his works came later in the semester. What we started from was Silver Age poetry. Since my students had only been learning Russian for 5 months, we started from the easiest a…

Fulbright FLTA memories. Part 1. Teaching Russian from scratch: my proudest achievement.

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I am a teacher of English as a foreign language, but last year, thanks to the Fulbright FLTA program, I got an incredible opportunity to teach Russian as a foreign language at the University of New Haven (CT, USA). In this post, I want to share a tiny portion of this experience.
When you win a Fulbright FLTA grant, you don’t get to choose your host institution or your duties there. The only thing you can do is accept or decline the grant offer (but why on earth would you do that?). I got an offer from the University of New Haven and happily accepted. According to my terms of appointment, I was going to be a primary teacher for beginner level students.

Truth be told, teaching beginners was the last thing I wanted to do. In my defense, I just didn’t know how rewarding it would be because I had never taught beginners in my entire life. Anyway, I went through with it and I don’t regret it for a minute.

When I say beginners, I mean absolute beginners - people who literally knew zero Russ…

Verbs worth spreading or how I work with TED talks

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I have inexplicably taken a special liking to verbs recently. What’s inexplicable is why recently. Verbs are a powerful part of speech and deserve special attention. In this post, I want to show how I bring powerful verbs to my students’ attention with the help of TED talks.

Verbs are one of the reasons why English is so easy to start speaking. I am talking about basic verbs, like do / get / have / make. You can often substitute any verb with one of these and construct a correct, meaningful sentence. However, as you move along in mastering the language, these verbs turn into an obstacle. Because you can express almost anything using the basic ones, your brain resists using any others. These are, after all, correct. As a result, you get trapped - you want to progress to the next level, but your language lacks any verbal variety whatsoever and sounds disappointingly simple.

But enough chit-chat. Let’s see some powerful verbs in action.

I work with TED talks a lot. I work with advance…

The phone that transformed the way I work

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I used to be very old-school. I used to own phones that could only make calls and send messages. I used to think that smartphones were just toys. That was until January 2017, when I got a new phone - a smartphone, which has completely transformed the way I work. Please give it up for my current phone - BlackBerry PRIV!

What has changed?

First and foremost, PRIV comes with a physical keyboard, thanks to which I have started writing consistently. The physical keyboard, which is a full QWERTY keyboard, is so convenient that I can easily type long texts. I have never written so much in my entire life, even though I have a blog which dates back to May 2013. Writing used to require a lot of discipline because I had to sit in front of the computer and focus. I now enjoy the freedom of writing in any place and at any time - on the metro (sitting at off-peak times or standing in the rush hour), at an airport (killing time waiting for my flight), on the plane (when there is absolutely nothing …

Proudly presenting my student’s essay

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Remember last week I wrote a post about how I tried walking in my student’s shoes and wrote an essay I gave him for homework? Well, the student did his homework (which I didn’t have a shadow of a doubt he would). In this post, I want to share it with you.

First, let me introduce the student. His name is Nikita Videnkov, he is a 21-year old engineering student, who has been having one-to-one classes with me for about 3-4 years. His primary purpose is to improve his language skills, but he is also thinking of taking IELTS, so we do IELTS-format tasks on a regular basis.

Second, to those of you who aren’t my students I have to explain that my homework worded “write an essay” is usually followed by homework worded “rewrite your essay.” I believe that writing is 90% rewriting and make my students rewrite their work.

Third, let me give you some context. We were discussing the article called “Phoney war” (New Scientist, 25 January 2017), which deals with end-to-end encryption and its i…

I try walking in my student’s shoes and write an essay I gave him for homework

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I have a question to all the teachers out there - how often do you write essays in English? I mean essays in IELTS / TOEFL / GRE or any similar format. (Please message me - I’d love some kind of statistics). I have to confess, I don’t*. But I make my students write a lot. Which might be a little unfair, don’t you think?

That’s what I thought when I was on a bus from my home town back to St Petersburg yesterday (a 4-hour journey). I had nothing to do, so my mind began to wander until suddenly it stumbled upon the essay topic I gave my student on Thursday.

We were discussing the article called “Phoney War” (New Scientist, 25 January 2017). The article deals with the questions of end-to-end encryption and its importance in the ‘privacy of communications vs. public security’ debate. As a follow-up task, I came up with an essay topic for my student (a very diligent, Advanced level student who is going to take IELTS in the future).

Anyway, my mind stumbled upon this topic and started workin…

What I do on Sunday mornings or Dasha’s Speaking Club

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With language, it’s use it or lose it. Language skills, speaking in particular, go rusty in a flash. Teachers are not an exception here; let’s face it, teachers’ speaking skills deteriorate too (for a variety reasons that I won’t go into now). Sitting around and complaining is a tempting, but counterproductive approach to solving this problem. In this post, I am going to talk about the solution my colleague and I came up with to stop our speaking skills from going rusty.
… It all started on a gloomy, hopeless, rainy November afternoon from Dasha’s message. The message went like this, “How about starting our very own speaking club? We could meet once a week (Skype, of course) and just talk about stuff. What do you say?” I jumped in excitement and immediately replied, “I’m in!” We discussed the possible time and scheduled a session for Sunday 10 am.

You are now probably wondering who the hell Dasha is. Dasha, officially known as Daria Maslovskaya, is a top-notch English teacher, author…

Give editing the attention it deserves

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This post is inspired by the guest post Nadya Borisova wrote for me “Academic IELTS without a degree in linguistics” (go to Part 1 or Part 2). She wrote the whole thing, while I got to comment and edit. Editing is a critical, yet underestimated part of writing. In this post, I want to give this part the attention it deserves and talk about how Nadya and I collaborated on editing her post. The guest post idea. Being a teacher, I write about exams and language learning from a teacher perspective (naturally). I claim to know the right thing to do and demand that my students do what I say. But my students don’t always do what I demand or recommend. One reason could be that, as a teacher, I am not always able to put myself in my students’ shoes and adequately assess their needs. Additionally, to be brutally honest, IELTS 9 (my score) is out of reach for most students, so my success story might not be particularly inspiring. Most test takers or potential test takers are probably more likel…

Academic IELTS 8 without a degree in linguistics. Part 2.

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Writing and Speaking. Resources. This is the second part of the guest post by my student Nadya Borisova. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as the first part


Now let’s talk about the active parts: Writing and Speaking. Writing Here comes the tough one. Last time I got 7.0 for Writing. I used Irina’s help, and I can’t stress it enough, you need a look from another person to tell you what you do right and wrong.

In Task 1 the hardest thing for me was to decide what’s important and what’s not. I practiced a lot with Irina, and now I feel more comfortable with distinguishing meaningful information from the less important on the graph or pie chart.

The best tip I got for Task 2 is the way you brainstorm ideas. Sometimes I got a topic and I was stuck as I didn’t know what to say. IELTS essay questions are in a formal style, so I tried to think about my arguments and reasons academically, which is, of course, not easy. But then I read about “the cafe technique". The point is, imagine yourself …

Academic IELTS 8 without a degree in linguistics. Part 1.

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Background. Preparation time. Listening and Reading. This is a guest post from my student Nadya Borisova. Enjoy!

Hi there, my name is Nadya Borisova, and I’d like to share my experience in getting 8.0 in IELTS Academic as well as my list of top-5 resources for preparation.

My first attempt was in 2014. At that time, I wanted a clear understanding of my level. So I tried a mock IELTS test with no preparation at all, got Overall 5.0, and decided to get better results in a real one. The second test followed two years later.

2014 Listening 7.0 Reading 8.0 Writing 6.5 Speaking 6.5 Overall Band 7.0 2016 Listening 9.0 Reading 9.0 Writing 7.0 Speaking 7.5 Overall Band 8.0
My background Two years ago I worked as an IT recruiter, now I’m a copywriter. I don’t have a university degree in languages, nor did I go to the school focused on English language. I went to an ordinary school with two hours of English a week. Most of the learning after that, I did on my own. 
Preparation time I think setting a cle…