Issue #18
April 2000

From the President
12th SPELTA Conference (April 2000) Programme
Abstracts of the Conference Presentations

From the President

Dear friends,

Welcome to the 12th conference of SPELTA, the first conference of this exciting year on the edge of two millennia.

I am sorry I could not be at the conference this time. The terms of my research work brought me to Copenhagen. I would like on behalf of all of you to say thank you to those people who took responsibility for the 12th conference on themselves, first and foremost Tatiana Sallier, Elena Petrova, Ludmila Devel and Elena Loutchenko. I am sure their work will show continuity with what has been done in SPELTA until now. I am coming back in June and am looking forward to our summer events and our autumn conference in September, the dates are 23rd and 24th. Since it is 13th conference, I would not give it any name or topic. Let it just be baker’s dozen, teaching and learning issues you would like to present to the members of our ELT community.

After the jubilee we celebrated last autumn, the logical question is: where do we go from here. Everyone of you has probably an answer to this question and it would be nice to receive a feedback from you. My view is that now since we have established and formed as organization we should work along two main lines. First is more and more networking, more developed, more variable and more profound. We need more links both inside SPELTA (links between schools, institutions, universities) and outside it (links with other associations in Russia and abroad). Newly started SPELTA Website is to have here and I am very glad to invite all of you to it. Its address is http://spelta.spb.ru However, creating more opportunities at the conferences, more encouragement for feedback from all members, making our conferences discussion-based and not only presentation based is a serious task for the future, though some discussions introduced at the previous conference and at the present one are a good start. Our Newsletter should probably change from being a collection of proceedings to more discussion forums.

Another aspect I would like to mention as a task for future is more and more learning. One wise person once said: the person who is educated is one who has learned how to learn. I would like SPELTA become more and more a learning organisation, that would always save our language knowledge and our teaching skills from getting rusty, providing more opportunities to refresh and develop what we already know and can do. Being a teacher is really demanding at any level. And from all exchanges with teachers from various countries, I would say teaching is never easy. And professional association can and must help us to help each other in the process of teaching and learning. Having this in mind, SPELTA is organizing a first summer school in July and those interested may get information on that from our secretary and treasurer Elena Loutchenko. It will be a first step and we’ll see how it goes.

In spring more than ever you feel yourself a part of the process of change. Process in teaching and learning is now valued as much as product. So, let us feel ourselves a part of the process of permanent development when everything going on, a lot is done and nothing is finished.

Best wishes and every success,
Tatiana Ivanova



12th International Conference of SPELTA

Language, Mind and Culture:
Russian and American Approaches.
Psychological Aspect of Language Learning

22-23 April , 2000
Saint Petersburg


The primary goal of the conference is to discuss a wide variety of aspects of second language acquisition and teachers’ and learners’ development, psychological aspects of teaching, contexts of teaching, cultural features, and cross-cultural issues.

The following issues are to be specially addressed:

April 21, 15.30 - 17.45 Venue: (5/1, Millionnaya Street) American Cultural Center

Pre-conference event

Master class for BESIG teachers
Organizer: Mila Devel, SPELTA Vice-President

Betsy Lewis (EFL fellow, USA). American TV and Video Programs in Teaching BE.
Alice Murray (EFL fellow, USA). How Americans Use the Internet in Educational Programs.
Irina Khan (Dinternal Director General). Applying for a Job in the USA.

April 22, Saturday Venue: Academy for Humanitarian Education (7, Kazanskaya Street)

10.00 – 11.00 Registration

11.00 Conference opening by SPELTA Coordinator Tatiana Sallier

Greetings from:
Thomas Leary, Consul for Press and Culture of the Consulate General of the USA.
Alexander Starikov, the Rector of the Academy for Humanitarian Education.
Margarita Mudrak, The English Speaking Union, St.Petersburg.

11.40 – 14.00 Plenary session
Chair: Tatiana Sallier

Karen Duffy (Fulbright scholar, St. Petersburg State University). Some Psychological Aspects of Language.
Mila Devel (Hertzen State Pedagogical University)
and Paul Bijleveld. Language, Culture, Mentality. American Scenarios and Russian Scenarios.
Michael Linn (Fulbright professor, Petrozavodsk State University). Aspects of the Relationship between Language and Culture in America.
Jan Stanbury, TBA.
Patrick MacLaughlin (Plymouth). Native and Non-native Speaker Teachers.               Full version

14.00 – 15.00 Coffee break, socializing

15. 00 – 16.30 Concurrent sessions

1. Business English and ESP. New Tools of Motivating Learners in the US and Russia
Chair: Mila Devel

Svetlana Serova (School # 83 ). Creative Classroom Learning through Business English.
Lyudmila Kuznetsova (St.Petersburg State University). Developing Learners’ Independence.
Natalia Medvedeva (Moscow). Creating Positive Atmosphere through Group Work.
Maria Mogilnaya (St.Petersburg). Meeting the Needs of Academically Oriented Students.

2. Young learners. Problems of Motivating Young Children. Russian and American Approaches. Mixed bag (last-minute submissions)
Chair: Ekaterina Vorontsova

Jonathan Floss (Public Affairs EFL Fellow, Ekaterinburg). Using Authentic Children’s Literature to Motivate Elementary School EFL Students.
Galina Elizarova (Hertzen State Pedagogical University, St.Petersburg). Cultural Values in a Four-level Course of American English. New Interchange.
Elena Mednzherizkaya (Moscow). Quality Press Discourse: the Role of Headlines. Full version
Elena Vershinina (Moscow). New Approaches to the Problem of Discourse.        Full version

16.30 – 17.00 Coffee break

17.00 – 18.30 Workshop

Irina Khan (Dinternal Director General). Applying for a Job in the USA.

April 23, Sunday Venue: Academy for Humanitarian Education (7, Kazanskaya Street)

10.30.-11.00 Registration, book display

11.00-12.30 Plenary session
Chair: Mila Devel

Kevin McKelvey (USA). Philosophy of Education in the U.S.
Nathan Longan (Fulbright scholar). “Where? What? Why?” WWW in Foreign Language Education.

12.30 – 13.00 Coffee break

13.00 – 15.00 Concurrent sessions

3. English in Junior and High School
Chair: Svetlana Serova

Brenda Ameter (Fulbright scholar, Hertzen State Pedagogical University). Creating a Comfortable Classroom: Using Drama and Dramatic Poetry to Enhance Speech.
George Thompson (Professor of American Studies, Pskov Volny University). Using Games as an Educational Tool.
Svetlana Serova (School # 83). English Language Learning through Audio-video Material.
Tatiana Kireeva (Gymnasium # 2). Testing and Evaluating Students’ Achievements in English Language Learning.
Lydia Levchenko (Gymnasium # 2). Teaching in Junior Classes.

4. Computer Assisted Language Learning
Chair: Larissa Belyaeva

Larissa Belyaeva (Herzen State pedagogical University). Computers in Language Teaching and Translation in the US and Russia.
Tatiana Sallier (St.Petersburg State University). CAMP: Computer Assisted Material Preparation.
Natalia Malkina (Herzen State pedagogical University). On-line ELT Journals and Teacher Development.
Natalia Orlova (Herzen State pedagogical University). E-mail Dialogues in Language Teaching.

15.00 – 15.30 Coffee break, book display

15.30 –16.30 Panel discussion: Student-friendly and Teacher-friendly Atmosphere in the Classroom
Chair: Elvira Myachinskaya

Speakers: Tatiana Sallier, Luydmila Kuznetsova, Alice Murray, Ekaterina Vorontsova, Vadim Goloubev, Tatiana Tsyrendorzhieva.

16.45 Closing ceremony


Abstracts of the Conference Presentations

Vadim Goloubev, St Petersburg State University
Critical Discussion in Language Teaching: Debate or Fight?
There may be two different approaches to analyzing debate: rhetorical and dialectical in terms of the goals parties in dispute aim to achieve. The rhetorical perspective deals with debate as a competition where the parties engaged strive to win the dispute sometimes at any cost because the ultimate goal for them is to persuade the audience in the rightness of their opinion. If we look at the debate, however, as a critical discussion whose purpose is to resolve the difference of opinions and arrive at the truth of the matter, we use the dialectical approach to the study of argumentative dialogue.

In order to achieve the resolution of the conflict of opinion, following the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation developed by the Dutch argumentation theorists Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst the arguers must comply with ten rules of critical discussion such as: 1) Parties must not prevent each other from advancing standpoints or casting doubt on standpoints; 2) A party who advances a standpoint is obliged to defend it if the other party asks him to do so; 3) A party’s attack on a standpoint must relate to the standpoint that has indeed been advanced by the other party; 4) A party must use formulations that are insufficiently clear or confusingly ambiguous and he must interpret the other party’s formulations as carefully and accurately as possible; etc.

Any violation of the pragma-dialectical rules is an unreasonable discussion move, interfering with the aim of resolving the difference. Such violations reflect the type of errors commonly known as fallacies. From a pragma-dialectical point of view, fallacies are thus discussion moves that do not agree with the rules for critical discussion.

It is believed that while in the classroom students should be encouraged to seek victory in the debate they should be also taught to play by the rules without turning their debate into a fight.

Elizabeth Lewis
American TV and Video Programs in teaching BE
This workshop is designed to show language teaching professionals how to use authentic television programming in their Business English classes. Students benefit from this approach because it enables them to: increase their knowledge of business vocabulary and expressions, improve their non-interactive listening skills, and develop fluency in discussing business concepts in a context that is current and interesting.

The presenter will give advice on finding suitable programming, demonstrate a complete method for utilizing the video in class, and discuss various follow-up activities. Participants will be given handouts containing all information on methodology.

Elizabeth Lewis is one of five EFL Fellows living and working in Russia. Based in Moscow, she conducts teacher development seminars at various sites in the capital and around Russia. She is also the Coordinator of the EFL Fellow Program for Russia.

Brenda Ameter
Creating a Comfortable Classroom: Using Drama and Dramatic Poetry to Enhance Speech in A Non-Threatening Environment
Students for whom English is a second language face two frightening and threatening situations when they begin to study under an instructor that they have not had before. They have to speak in front of a person whom they do not know, and they have to speak in front of the whole class of students. Both situations can create a great deal of anxiety. Studies have shown that people are more afraid of speaking in public than of doing anything else. One study showed that people fear public speaking more than death. The study involved only people who were speaking in their native language. Certainly to speak aloud in a classroom in a language that is a second language is very threatening. While it is important in all subjects to make students feel confident and comfortable in the classroom, it is most important in a classroom in which the student must speak aloud in a second language in front of a teacher who knows the language very well. It is even more intimidating to speak the language in front of a native speaker of the language. Students need to feel confident that they possess the knowledge and the ability to express their opinions about the works they are studying. Through the use of drama and dramatic poetry, students have the opportunity to adjust to a new classroom situation.

Students who read parts in plays become accustomed to speaking frequently in class before having to recall vocabulary and fashion sentences with good syntax. This gives them an opportunity to develop a relationship with the instructor and the other class members in a non-threatening environment. Since playwrights and poets attempt to create the natural rhythms of speech, the dialogue gives the students an opportunity to hear normal speech patterns. Using a play to make students feel comfortable during the first classes also provides an opportunity to explain idioms that may be new or that the students may have forgotten. One of the advantages of beginning with a play is the instructor has an opportunity to hear the students speaking frequently in a relatively stress-free situation; so an assessment of their ability levels can be made and material selected that best fits their ability levels. The ideal situation is for the students themselves to correct one another softly if a word is mispronounced. An article “What is the Collaborative Classroom?” emphasizes that “self regulated learning” in which student sassist other students often results in less self-consciousness than if the students feel the teacher is judging their speech all the time. Students who sit with friends very quickly begin to whisper the correct pronunciations to each other. If a student mispronounces a word when reading a part in a play and no one corrects the pronunciation, the instructor can use the word in discussing an aspect of the play; so the students hear the correct pronunciation. Reading a play together or sharing dramatic poetry creates a history of shared experiences. Often the students will refer to a character in one of the plays when discussing a character from another work.

At almost any level beyond introductory English, plays exist that contain appropriate vocabulary. Drama allows the students to become characters in the play. They submerge their personalities in the characters they are playing and lose some sense of being judged by their speech. Thus the use of drama creates a more comfortable classroom for students who are faced with having to adjust to a new instructor.

Karen Duffy
Be Careful What You Say: Social Psychologists May Be Listening
This lecture will elucidate the results of current social psychological research on human communication. Several demonstrations with active audience participation will illustrate the importance of spoken language as well as the importance of other forms of communication.

Fine nuances in spoken language can alter the impressions speakers leave on their audiences. Professionals, for example, carefully need to choose their words, because phraseology directly and sometimes powerfully affects clients fates. «Clients» include students, defendants in court proceedings, psychiatric patients, and others.

Differences in spoken words can be further exaggerated by the nonverbal messages speakers emit. Such nonverbal cues include but are not limited to gestures, facial expressions, and postures.

The literature on nonverbal communication has paid special attention to style differences between men and women.

Additionally, interesting and new research on electronic interaction, a relatively new mode of communication, also supports that one person’s communications can broadcast unintended information about the sender and therefore impact the recipient in a variety of ways.

We need to attend with caution to all communication channels, not just to spoken language, if we are to interact appropriately and accurately with other individuals.

Tatiana Sallier, St.Petersburg State University
CAMP: Computer Assisted Material Preparation
One of the main aspects of teaching English to students majoring in other subjects is working with the text. It is from the text that most of the new words come; it is in the text that we find characteristic structures and comment on them; it is the text that gives rise to discussion. Every teacher has her own “pet” texts that she likes best. At the same time, every teacher knows that working with a textbook is like wearing someone else’s clothes – they often don’t fit our individual needs. When bringing her own materials to the classroom, however, the teacher isn’t always able to supply all the necessary exercises, especially when the texts in question are taken from newspapers. Newspapers are like fish – they stink on the second day. This author has never been able to use a single textbook dealing with newspaper text reading: by the time the book is out of print, the newspaper becomes history.

If we are to overcome this difficulty, it seems expedient to organize auxiliary materials in such a way that they can be retrieved and used at short notice. The computer enables us to do just that.

The present author keeps two directories – one devoted to vocabulary, the other to grammatical structures likely to appear in newspaper texts and cause difficulty. The files are added to whenever something interesting turns up. We all used to keep card files before the advent of computers. Having chosen a suitable newspaper text, it is easy to assemble a set of exercises illustrating the use of words and structures. The only remaining task is translation from Russian into English. This must sometimes be tailored specially for a particular text. This is sometimes made easier by choosing a parallel text, e.g. an account of the same event in a Russian newspaper.

This technique enables the teacher to wear “designer clothes” made by herself at short notice and without much effort on her part.

Andrej Shatilov, St.Petersburg State University
Russian Vs American Way Of Thinking And Acting: Cross-Culture Studies
As is known, language reflects reality. Speakers express their own worldview by describing and naming objects, events, and phenomena. Each nation has its own “viewpoint” of reality. A study of linguistic material in terms of “world picture” could reveal the system of concepts used in a given community by native speakers.

When learning a foreign language, individuals come in contact with another culture, discovering, as it were, another community’s outlook and comparing it with their own. The differences and divergences can sometimes provoke misunderstandings or errors that could hinder or even prevent communication.

Such fundamental categories as time and space, as well as the systems of color terms and descriptions of emotions are represented in different ways by different languages. At the same time, there are a lot of universal concepts, which facilitate mutual understanding between cultures. If the learner is exposed to the system of universal concepts shared by native speakers, it will raise his/her awareness of the distinctive way of thinking and verbal expression peculiar to another community.

Cross-cultural communication, also known as ‘culture dialog’, has become quite common in the present-day world. Moreover, a number of sociocultures can co-exist within one nation, each taking its own view of reality. Awareness of each other’s attitudes may help to avoid or resolve possible conflicts.

The American experience of integrating various cultural communities, their languages and systems of values may prove very useful for Russia, which is faced with difficulties in its relations with the states that have recently gained independence.

Russian society today is trying to establish its identify, to find out its own place in the world that has changed so radically. Some of the old values are being re-considered, and this process is parallelled in language. A mixture of speech styles, a huge percentage of vulgarisms, taboos, jargon and criminal slang, the decline of speech culture — all these reflect social instability.

A description of the native speaker’s  national character and type of verbal expression allows one to visualize the realistic image of a potential partner or co-worker. Besides, it may contribute to a better understanding of the ways of thinking in a given society. Existing stereotypes in the perception of another culture could be changed substantially if we were able to pinpoint the basic rather than random features of native speakers’ mentality.

As a practical application of these ideas I can propose what is described as ‘culture scenarios’, which compare typical ways of thinking and behaving in Russian, American and Japanese cultures.

Jonathan Floss, Elementary School EFL Students
Using Authentic Children’s Literature to Motivate
The presenter has successfully used authentic children’s literature with EFL students and encourages EFL teachers to make use of them too. He has found that it increases both vocabulary retention and children’s motivation to remain an active part of the English language lesson. Children’s literature also exposes students to cultural points and language that are overlooked in generic textbooks. Authentic children’s books can be challenging, but with proper scaffolding, the EFL teacher can ensure success and aim at tomorrow’s linguistic development rather than just frustration with today’s.

The presenter will provide a rationale and guide for using an authentic children’s book to motivate children to learn, listen and talk with a purpose. The guide details what an EFL teacher should do with any book in terms of pre-reading, reading, and post-reading activities. He will then demonstrate how to use the guide with a particular modern American children’s book. Practical post-reading activity handouts will be provided and a copy of the book will be left with SPELTA for future use by the workshop participants.