Thursday, 5 March 2009

What about English?

I wonder how would be our world if all people spoke the same language. The Tower of Babel! If only our ancestries didn’t try to reach the sky – there’s a time for things – we could easily communicate with each other speaking one language and who knows, maybe we could better understand each other and live in peace. Who knows?
It’s necessary today to know at least one foreign language usually English, which widen man’s opportunities for communication and self-development. And be sure, before employer accepts you for employment he’ll ask you about your level of English.
English in Chechen Republic – this is out theme for today.

Our practice at Chechen State University has begun last month. As potential English teachers we –the 4th –year students - undergo practice training at schools. All we have to do is visit the English lessons, take part in the teaching process if possible and at least once lead a lesson.
I’ve got second form)). To be honest I was surprised to know our pupils study English from the second form. I remember when I was a pupil we began to study it at fifth form and there was always a problem with English teacher, i.e. with her/his absence. As it’s appeared the problem is still actual. It’s also sad that in XXI century we teach in the traditional way by old methodology – a backboard, a chalk, a copybook in lines and “dry” materials – while Information Technologies have entered to every field of humans’ activities and make a great help in teaching process. How to arise pupils’ interest to foreign language in these conditions?

After my observation of the pupils during the lesson, seeing their passivity and disinterest in I decided to show them that learning foreign language can be interesting and even merry sometimes. First I asked a manager whether the school has projector. It turned out that they have 2 projector which goes with 2 interactive boards (for school with 2 shifts), but they can’t be moved. And there’s always a queue to the lecture room with interactive boards, so it’s not judicious to cross the whole school with 30 children during the 5-10 minutes break just for one lesson. I have some interesting and colourful material in electronic version, wanted to work with it – make children play games, sing songs. Pity(( There was nothing to do but to use traditional “equipment” on our lesson – blackboard, white chalk, paper and a word. When they heard: “Now let’s play a game. Who wants to meet foreigners and talk with them in English?” – their eyes blazed, they became active and seem to like English. Our foreigners were Bob, Sue, Helen, Dave, Mike – foreign children printed on papers. Then we “went to the shop” to buy some vegetables and clothes. I was glad to see their active, taking part in the process and thought: How many things depend on how they will be given to you.

It’s pity, but fact – at our schools and universities people learn foreign languages by old methods and books, while the rest of the world use teaching material of publish houses like Oxford, Cambridge, MacMillan, Longman with active use of IT. I see some reasons of that sad situation:
1) You won’t find books of these publish houses in Grozny shops. And if find, they’ll be too expensive (more than they cost). How can English teacher ask parents to buy these books, if besides English they have to buy all school books and materials on their own money?
2) Law computer literacy and restrict access to the Internet resources. Even if one wants to move on and improve his skills there’re hardly opportunities for it. The Internet could help in this process, could help to find colleagues from other countries, to study on distance courses, by Internet people can exchange points of view, give or get advices, but rather high prices on the Internet leave much to be desired. As I understand, school teachers very seldom use PCs and the Internet (if use at all), at least at school – for sure.
3)There are no lingophone rooms. Maybe, you can find them at gymnasium or presidential lycée, but it’s impossible for every child of Ch.R. to study at 2 schools.
4) English teachers teach as they know and can, as they have been taught. We must use new methods with dominance of communicative methods of studying foreign languages and usage of IT.
5) A law salary – is a big problem too. When your salary hardly enough for way you do every day to get to the school and for food, you can forget about initiative, hard work and so on. This problem concerns not only our republic, but Russian Federation. It’s promised that in the nearest future it’ll be solved by raising teachers’ salary. Well, hope this is true. Because on teachers conditions and satisfaction depends their treatment to their job and children – on it depends pupils and students education.
6) There are no any program on republic level for popularization of English. There are no special-purpose schools with advanced studying of foreign languages. There are no new books, magazines in English in the libraries. Of course, if one has the Internet he/she can practice in reading using the computer, but we have the problem №2 (see above).

Here are the problems I see for today in teaching and learning foreign languages. We talked about schools, but the situation is not better at institutes of higher education.
I hope and believe that in the nearest future things will get better in our republic. Hope, believe and pray.

Next time I’ll tell you about republic competition in English language among our students, where students practice in working with new materials and IT.

I’d be glad so read your comments on the subject with advices, if you have ones.

Best regard,
Your Amata.


Anonymous said...

Hi Amata!

Thanks a lot for this good article. teaching English in Chechenya is the Big Problem. And I agree with you: in term of taeching the methods are very old and completely unamazing especially for children. I used to teach English in one of the Grozny's schools to the 5th grade pupils and we used to try to make some plays but the Principle did never allow us to go out of the "regular program" established by the Russian Ministry of Education wich meant to be strict and keep some distance between pupils and teachers. So we had to follow this bored methods and finally children lost an interest on English.

Amata said...

Thank you for your comment.

It's really very pity that our children must study by this boring methods while there are lot's of books and interesting teaching material in the world.

But I must say, that when I tought to the 4th grade pupils I used to use additional material and tried to adapt it to the "regular program".

Other issue - it takes more time and energy to teach this way and you can be sure nobody will notice your efforts... So after 4 months I was like a sucked orange with salary 1500 rubles ($50) a month.

Alec said...

It's funny, here in America we have the exact same problems learning English and Spanish. My school has sold all of our textbooks and resources because we have so much debt, so we learn English from two textbooks for the entire English class of 45 people. But it looks like you have to teach in much more difficult circumstances than my teachers. You are doing a good job.