From the President
10th SPELTA Conference (April 1999) Programme
Abstracts of Conference Presentations
Simon Greenall Interview
It is spring again. Yes, in spite of long dark winter, harsh winds and bitter cold, it has come, bringing sun, warmth, love and hopes. And we join again for our traditional spring conference, which is symbolic.
This year marks wonderful events in St. Petersburg. 275 years of our oldest and biggest university, the alma mater for many and many of us, the oldest university in Russia, the institution where SPELTA comes from. This year we celebrate 200 years of Russia’s greatest poet Alexander Pushkin.
And finally, believe it or not, it is the last spring of the Millennium and the 10th conference of SPELTA. Past years and past conferences in the complex environment and context of Russia these days is something we together, as an organisation, can be proud of.
I am the forth president of SPELTA. Elvira Myachinskaya stepped down in January a bit of a sudden due to her academic responsibilities and I had the presidency thrown upon me. Previous three presidents: Irina Pavlovskaya, Olga Brodovich and Elvira Myachinskaya are wonderful personalities who managed to organise and unite. Together with many other people from schools, colleges and universities who have been giving their talents and commitment to SPELTA they have made our association what it is now..
We are getting more and more widely known in St. Petersburg and beyond. We maintain our international status at TESOL and IATEFL, two biggest and most respected international organisations of teachers of English. We have set up a lot of new links with similar organisations in many countries of the world, in other parts of Russia. Our 10th conference has been included into Forthcoming Events section of the world-wide English Language Teaching Contacts Scheme(ELTECS) electronic net, working through e-mail and possessing a website at http://www.britishcouncil.org/english/eltecs. We have also started working on creation of SPELTA’s own website.
As I write this, some of you are packing bags for the 10th International Conference of SPELTA. Every new conference brings about more and more links, new faces, new ideas. This April we are going to have presenters and guests from the USA, the UK, from Denmark, Moldova, Moscow, Orenburg, Salekhard, Petrozavodsk and, of course, Saint-Petersburg.
The theme “Language communication across cultures” has got a lot of response and we hope more ELT professionals will join us. Communicating across cultures may be both curse and blessing, however it will never leave anyone indifferent.
A lot has been done by conference organisers to make this event both interesting and enjoyable.
I would like here to say special thanks to USIS and Madame Janet Demiray for the grant they provided and American speakers coming from various parts of Russia to our conference. I would also like to thank Tatiana Sallier and Elvira Myachinskaya for working on the program. Lyudmila Devel, Galina Avdijeva, Alice Murray, Elena Loutchenko, Svetlana Bebyakina, Alexander Andreyev help a lot with all kinds of organisational problems that have been arising.
The 10th conference is a certain achievement and a mark of stability, an event in itself. The fact that we continue to hold two conferences a year is also a sign of SPELTA’s being alive and well.
Now it is probably a good time to start new activities. You will notice changes in newsletter design. The new look is intended to be more “modern” in feel, and more legible in appearance. Does it work? Let us know. Our newsletter is getting more and more popular, we are sending it to other cities of Russia and abroad. Ten copies that I took to IATEFL conference were taken from the display stand in no time.
Our readers ask for more issues per year. I think we should definitely go in this direction. Our next issue is due in November, but if we have enough materials and finance, we might publish one more issue between the conferences.
We are looking forward to your contributions, to new ideas. If you are interested in starting up a special interest group yourself, feel free!
We are thinking about new and more intensive forms and content of our work with schools. We are working out new lines of policy in co-operation with publishers and book companies, our traditional book exhibition needs some fresh air too. We are also starting to work more on the SPELTA promotion and image.
In your conference handouts there are several questionnaires. We are looking forward to your answers. Please, fill the forms out and give them back to registration desk or to any member of the organising committee or session chair.
One more new activity started this spring. It was Masterclass which had a very good response. Read about it in the newsletter.
But time moves inexorably on and we should start thinking about November conference already. We are going to speak on New Ways in ELT. We encourage you to send your proposals and help with organisational matters. Don’t hesitate to send your opinion or pass it forward to our secretaries.
At the heart of our mission is networking, as much as professional development, therefore this time we think there would be more opportunities for informal discussions during the breaks. Pay attention to networking activity form in the pack.
Summing up, I would just like to mention that SPELTA is for you and it is only with you and up to you how to make it better. We call for the real enthusiasts, who will come and give their commitment and talents to SPELTA.
Welcome to our spring conference! Enjoy it!
Yours, Tatiana Ivanova
Language Communication Across Cultures
17-18 April 1999
Sponsored by the United States Information Service
17 April, 1999, Saturday
Venue: 11 Universitetskaya nab., Faculty of Philology, Room 191 (Assembly Hall)
14.00 Registration, Book exhibition
14.30. Conference Opening
Greeting and information from US Information Agency, the British Council, American Council of Teachers of Russian, English Speaking Union, etc.
15.00-15.50 Plenary session.
Nathan Longan. Cornerstones of Communication: Context, Content, Correctness and Culture
15.50- 16.10 Break
16.10- 17.00 Plenary session
Viktor Kabakchi (the Herzen University). Passing the Message of Russian Culture in English
17.00 - 17.15 Break
17 15.- 18.05 Anne Marie Bülow Møller. Intercultural argumentation.
18.05 - 18.55 Susan Holden. Culture and Cross-Culture: Whose? Why?
April 18, 1999 Sunday
Venue: 52, 1st Line, Vasilyevsky Island, The Herzen Pedagogical University, Philological Department
10.00 Registration, Book exhibition
10.30 -12.00 Workshop I
Oksana Abramova & Hamilton Beck. From Proverbs of Ben Franklin to Thomas Jefferson’s Ideas: Message to Humanity
10.30 -12.00 Workshop II
Betsy Lewis. Cartoons as Cultural Messengers: Multiki in the Language Classroom.
10.30 -12.00 Workshop III
Alice Murray. Some Do’s and Don’ts in the Business World: Appropriate Cultural Behavior and Body Language
12.00 Coffee break
Light snacks are provided for by the organisers
Cross-cultural Communication In and Around Business
Chair: Liudmila Devel
13.00 - 13.20 Elena Petrova. An Online
Course as a Factor in Professional Development
13.20 - 14.20 Jonathan Floss & Irina Spiridenko. Russian and American Perspectives on Incorporating Cross-cultural Awareness into Business English Training for Managers
14.20 - 14.40 Anna Beliakova. Business Communication in a Diverse World
14. 40 - 15.20 William Schettler. Corporate Culture
Cross-cultural Awareness through Literature and Translation
Chair: Elvira Myachinskaya
13.00 - 13.30 Sergei Pshenitsyn. Using
Translation to Contrast Cultures.
13.30 - 14.00 Elvira Myachinskaya. Numerals in Translation: Cultural Aspect
14.00- 15.00 Barbara Settles. A Look At American Culture through Looking at its Best Selling Books
Cross-cultural Differences in Style and Culture
Chair: Tatiana Sallier
13.00- 13.40 Nigel Barnes. The concept of formality (in
13.40 - 14.10 Vadim Goloubev. Teaching American Media Discourse: American TV News in Cultural Perspective
14.10 - 14.40 Valentina Levashova. Language-in-culture or culture-in-language? (on the interrelation of language and culture in EFL teaching)
Raising Intercultural Awareness in the Classroom
Chair: Galina Avdijeva
13.00 - 13.20 Elena Vlasova. Humanistic
Approach - Do We Need It?
13.20 - 13.40 Vera Nesterova. Teaching Language and Culture-Practical Aspect
13.40 - 14.00 Natalia Orlova. Building students’ cross-cultural awareness with the help of an E-mail dialogue.
14. 00 - 14.20 Tatiana Tsyrendorjieva. Questioning and its Functions in University Classroom Discours
14.20 - 15.00 Susan Holden. Young Learners: Cut and Paste .. For Young Learners
15.30 Closing-up. Raffle
Hamilton Beck, Oxana Abramova
From Proverbs of Ben Franklin to Thomas Jefferson’s Ideas: Message to Humanity
The presenters begin by comparing some proverbs in English and in Russian dividing them into three groups, and ask the general question, What makes a proverb translatable? They break this down into three specific questions:
1) Which proverbs in one language have word-for-word equivalents that are also proverbs in another language?
2) Which proverbs in one language have proverbial equivalents in another language, but reflect differences in local culture, geography, customs, etc?
3) Which proverbs in one language have no equivalent proverbs in another language?
It is the presenters’ contention that proverbs that have no equivalent in another language often use techniques that can be described as “literary” - rhyme, rhythm, parallel structure, alliteration, etc. The proverbs Ben Franklin included in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” are literary in this sense. The presenters then examine some of the proverbs in greater detail. Finally, they show how Franklin did not invent the proverbs himself, but borrowed them from others, and in so doing frequently improved them. They conclude with a stylistic exercise which shows just how Franklin made his improvements, that is, how he made his proverbs more literary.
Hamilton Beck is a Soros Professional
English Language Teacher at Soros Foundation, Moldova
Oxana Abramova teaches English in Kishinev, Moldova.
Business Communication in a Diverse World
Business professionals spend 70% of their time communicating. Therefore, employers consider communication skills as the main criteria for their personnel promotion. Both employers and recruiters keep finding the communication skills of recent graduates unsatisfactory.
Communication is what managers and their teams
spend most of their time doing. It is the main tool for carrying out the
following management achievements:
- leadership in order to inspire and motivate colleagues and subordinates
- team building in order to harness the synergies of individuals brought together from different disciplines and with different specializations
- delegation which aims to share responsibility, empower subordinates and free up superiors
However, there is another level at which we can see communication namely in terms of its role in a cross-cultural environment.
The role of Business English trainer is to
teach language through communication. It is not within our core responsibility
to teach culture, change behavioral patterns or act as informants about
national or corporate culture, although teaching the language we can assist
our students to:
- Better understand the interrelationship between language, communication and culture
- Recognize the ethical implications of cross-cultural communication
- Avoid conflicts arising out of the negligent or innocent use of inappropriate language or communication
- Avoid the pitfalls that may lead to a dysfunctional working environment
- Work effectively with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds
- Navigate intercultural complex relationships
Anna Belyakova is teaching Business English at the Faculty of Management at St. Petersburg University and is working on a Ph.D. in Economics, with a special emphasis on organisational behaviour.
Using a foreign language well means being able to achieve communicative goals with listeners who have a different set of norms and expectations from the speaker’s own. Failure to take such expectations into account will result in damage to the speaker’s credibility: he or she may not be able to convince.
This paper traces the usefulness of two major theories for intercultural communication: the various developments of Brown and Levinson’s theory of politeness, and Toulmin’s theory of argumentation. It is shown that both with respect to the protection of ‘face’ and in the construction of ‘warrants’ the speaker’s norms are reflected directly in the expressions chosen, and hence in the image the speaker builds up as persuasive or trustworthy.
Such norms are cultural, but not necessarily in the sense of national traits. The data that are used for illustration of this point are drawn from a native British dispute over insurance cover, with two distinct sets of cultural norms, and a sales meeting between Americans and Danes, who shared cultural norms but disagreed on the value of arguments.
Language teaching can do a great deal to draw the learners’ attention to the linguistic signals that are the carriers of such attitudes.
Anne-Marie Bülow Møller is a Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Department of English and a chairman of the English Research Committee. Her interest is in the field of pragmatics, speech communication, negotiations strategies.
Jonathan Floss, Irina
Russian and American Perspectives on Incorporating Cross-cultural Awareness into Business English Training for Managers
While co-teaching an English language class for managers participating in the Presidential Management Training Initiative (PMTI) at the International Academy of Business & Banking in Tolyatti, Russia, we tried to help our trainees understand the significance of cross-cultural awareness in Business English training. Our students had made excellent progress language-wise, but we worried that insufficient cross-cultural awareness might hinder successful results in an interview or an overseas internship if the foreign interviewers or co-workers were unfamiliar with Russian ways. The trainees had a lack of understanding of how word selection tendencies, behaviors, etc. which may be culturally appropriate in Russia can convey an entirely different meaning to a non-Russian and therefore skew the results of an interview or working relationship. This however does not imperialistically imply: Russians must act like Americans, Britons, etc. Instead, we mean that if the trainees are having an interview with native speakers of English, they need to be aware that they may need to momentarily modulate features of their native culture and language to come across appropriately in terms of American, British, etc. cultural and linguistic conventions. “Selective honesty” (never lying!) was suggested: there are some things they just should not say! But if they feel they must, then they need to be prepared in how to tactfully help the foreigner understand the Russian perspective and context.
The workshop aims to provide practical information, examples and activities which add a cross-cultural perspective to Business English teaching. Topics will include: general principles; interview questions and answers -training the ability to be specific, to elaborate appropriately, to explain Russian cultural attitudes and behaviors; consideration & discussion of fundamental American values, their effect on management beliefs, and their compatibility/incompatibility with Russian values; verb choice (frequency of ‘Latin’ words vs. ‘Germanic’ words) and other language guidelines; avoidance of sexist language.
Jonathan Floss is the USIS EFL Fellow,
Irina Spiridenkoworks at International Academy of Business and Banking in Tolyatti
Teaching American Media Discourse: American TV News in Cultural Perspective
Given the focal position of the mass media in American society, there can be little argument about their relevance to the study of the English language. Media discourse is a reflection of a society in which it is created.
The paper attempts a contrastive study of American and Russian TV news discourse in terms of the following characteristics: 1) how the world is represented (selection of events, relationships, etc); 2) what identities are set up for those involved (role of anchorpersons, reporters, audiences, third parties referred to or interviewed); 3) what relationships are set up between those involved (reporter-audience, expert-audience, politician-audience relationships).
Culture and Cross-Culture: Whose? Why?
Cross-cultural approaches to learning are now commonly talked about in the ELT context: but what is really meant by this? Information? Cultural awareness? Discussion and disagreement? What place does ‘ethnography’ have in the language classroom?
This paper discusses and explores some of the features of cross-cultural learning which teachers may encounter in textbooks, and on in-service training courses, with the aim of identifying those which are of use with different age groups.
Reference will be made to relevant textbook and syllabus projects, as well as to the criteria for textbook evaluation devised for the Russian Federal Ministry of Education in 1996.
Learners: Cut and Paste .. For Young Learners
The new UCLES Young Learners Tests involve children in active reactions to and participation in communicative speaking, listening, reading and writing activities. This calls for language flexibility and manipulation which may be rather different from what both the learners and teachers have done before in the language classroom.
This approach involves them in activity-based learning which can be centred on their own personal world and experiences, and their reactions to the world around them, which is now made accessible in a new way through modern communication. Such an approach is beginning to affect attitudes to both teaching and teacher training for young learners.
This session discusses the teaching of young learners within the educational context and the implications for teacher training.
Susan Holden is Director of Swan Communication Company, specialising in ELT materials development and training in Central and Eastern Europe. She has worked extensively as a teacher and teacher trainer, often with The British Council, and was for 15 years editor and publisher of Modern English Teacher (MET) magazine. She was formerly Publishing Director for Macmillan ELT, and has written a number of ELT titles, some in collaboration with Donn Byrne. In 1996 she devised the criteria for textbook evaluation for IBD and the Russian Ministry of Education, and organised the initial discussion and training for their use
Language-in-culture or culture-in-language? (on the interrelation of language and culture in EFL teaching)
The ever growing interest of EFL teaching in a more humanistic “cultural context”, witnessed in recent decades, has brought about nearly a universal agreement on the necessity of a cultural component in the language content.
The process of “acquiring” a second culture is a complex one and involves investigations into a wealth of anthropological, social, psychological and cognitive aspects, in addition to the linguistic aspect. The target culture acquisition is primarily based on coming to recognise and appreciate the ways in which two cultures resemble one another as well as the ways in which they differ.
The very progress in the mastering of English presupposes various levels - normally starting with the beginner’s level and through to the advanced level, accordingly, the amount and content of the cultural component or the correlation of cultural differences and similarities varies from one level of English proficiency to another.
For the purposes of the present paper it will
be convenient to use the system of L.Wong-Fillmore in characterising the
important stages in second language acquisition. Focussing on relatively
specific language skills, she noted five qualitatively different stages
in second language acquisition.
Novice speakers (stage 1) depend almost exclusively on situational clues and first language strategies and vocabulary.
Advanced beginners (stage 2) understand most face-to-face conversations and can use rules to produce language but are generally limited to functional kinds of tasks and interactions.
“Competent speakers” (stage 3) know most basic rules of grammar and conversation, think in the language, and make relatively few serious mistakes.
“Proficient speakers” (stage 4) can select language effectively to meet specific goals, even if they have to bend the rules to do so: they have developed reliable intuitions as to which word form is most appropriate. (Her fifth level, which we have not incorporated here, she exemplifies as entailing the ability to write professional-quality poetry in the second language).
Stage 1 is the early phase, in which the new culture is almost totally inaccessible, the phase is often referred to as entailing some degree of culture shock. The cultural component is introduced with great care and is sometimes minimal.
The “advanced beginners” level, also termed “survivor” is the stage of functional language and functional understanding of culture. For example, manual labour jobs often require no more than “survivor” competence in language and culture.
A number of researchers (L.Wong-Fillmore, W.R.Acton et al.) noted that the biggest “leap” in internalising the target culture is from advanced beginner to “competent”. This is the level of acculturation expected of an educated learner and reached by most literate people who spend an extended period of time working (and/or living) in a foreign culture and who recognises all major values and behaviour patterns of the new culture.
“Proficient speaker” is almost at the level of the native speaker, in which one has acculturated to the degree that one is rarely tripped up by the subtleties of the language and culture. This person is expected to have both the pronunciation and gestures very similar to those of natives.
Despite the general breadth of the term “cultural component” as used in the context of EFL teaching under discussion, it is obvious that at the two lowest stages the relevance and importance of the cultural component is subordinate to the language per se and reduced to cultural similarities. The dominance of the linguistic aspects over the cultural component makes it possible to term their inter-relationship as ‘language -in- culture’. The higher levels of “competent” and “proficient speakers”, on the other hand, reveal the predominance of the cultural component in this relationship (with the emphasis on the differences between the two cultures) and thus justify the term “ culture -in- language “.
The comparison of cultures with language being taught opens great vistas for the teacher and provides a basis for better intercultural understanding of persons from other backgrounds.
Cartoons as Cultural Messengers: Multiki in the Language Classroom
This presentation will explore the world of cartoons—in both America and Russia—and the cultural messages they contain just beneath the surface of the laughter and fun. Cartoon clips will be shown on video, and they will be analyzed from the point of view of culture. This presentation will also detail practical ways in which to use cartoons in the classroom, to teach both listening skills and cultural awareness.
Elizabeth Lewis is United States Information Agency fellow. Based in Moscow, she conducts seminars there and in other Russian cities. She is also the co-ordinator for the EFL Fellow Program in Russia, overseeing the work of four other Fellows.
Cornerstones of Communication: Context, Content, Correctness and Culture
Communication is a holistic event. Very broadly speaking, a communicative act becomes greater than the sum of its parts by producing new knowledge in its participants. At its best, successful communication is a transforming event. All too often, however, even between native speakers of any given language what is presented and purported to be communication fails to produce “new knowledge.” Simply put, people fail to get their message across. For a non-native speaker of a language the difficulty is compounded manifold. Thus, while realizing that ideal communication is the goal, identifying, analyzing and understanding the components of communication is central to providing non-native speakers with the tools to strive for that goal. In other words, if we can pinpoint what makes up any act of linguistic communication we can better serve the needs of our students.
This paper presents a framework for examining and analyzing non native language by separating out four aspects of communication: context, content, accuracy and cultural awareness and examining their relative importance at various levels of language competency. This division is, by and large, the framework for language proficiency analysis used by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), and provides a useful basis for rating the effectiveness of non native speech.
Nathan Longan is an Associate Professor of Russian at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan USA. Currently he is a Senior Fulbright Scholar lecturing at Herzen Pedagogical University of Russia
Some Do’s and Don’ts in the Business World: Appropriate Cultural Behavior and Body Language
The success of modern international businesses relies upon effective strategies of globalization. Globalization requires today’s businessmen and businesswomen to deal with, sell to, and/or buy from people and companies from other countries. These people might speak different languages, have different historical and political backgrounds, and have different cultural attitudes. One cannot expect to apply the same business methods and techniques to a foreign company that one might use with a local firm. Multicultural awareness is a crucial component of any global marketing plan.
This workshop will examine some of the cultural issues a businessperson might encounter in his or her dealings with foreign companies. Some of the areas that will be discussed include concepts of time, negotiating techniques, body language, social issues, and intercultural communications.
Teaching Language and Culture. Practical Aspect
The closeness of the relationship between language and culture is now generally accepted. Linguistic anthropology considers that people’s capacity for culture and their capacity to use language are closely linked. Neither can exist without the other, for the ability to use language is essential to the acquisition of culture. Culture is learned. There is no learning without language, and culture can be neither used, not passed on. Language is indispensable means for using culture: to communicate, to elicit response from others, to respond appropriately in turn, and, what is most important for the ongoing evolution of culture, to accumulate, store, transmit, and speculate on the past and present experience of others. Teachers of EFL should provide their students with an accurate description of the English language, they also face the task of showing the differences in speech behavior of different speakers at different periods of time. For people do not always say things in the same way, they use the same language differently when speaking informally to a friend, for example, or when speaking to a reporter holding a microphone. Full description of the language requires attention to three separate aspects of language structure: phonology, grammar, lexis. Extra-linguistic factors should also be taken into account!
All people’s languages function equally well in fulfilling their needs within the context of their traditional cultures. But languages and cultures differ, so the role of cross-cultural aspect in the EFL classroom is getting increasingly important. New approaches to teaching cultural aspect and choosing teaching materials have been described. The paper also present a sample Unit “How they see us” from Curriculum specially devised for the Language School for Business and Professional People recently established in Petrozavodsk under Karelian Research Centre RAS and Mega-Press Information Agency.
Vera Nesterova is the Head of Foreign Languages Department at Karelian Research Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Building Students’ Cross-Cultural Awareness With the Help of an E-mail Dialogue
Proficiency in a foreign language implies a variety of components. Apart from its core components - well-developed skills in reading, listening, speaking and writing - it presupposes a substantial cultural component. The latter can be formed through various means and methods. The speaker is going to share her experience of the development of students’ cross-cultural awareness with the help of an on-going e-mail dialogue on contemporary political and cultural issues and events facing Russia and the USA. The e-mail connection was done within the frameworks of the project The Dialogue, which is a joint effort by Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia’s English department and the University of North Dakota Department of Political Science and Public Administration.
The goal of the project is a manifold one. Not only helps it to build cultural linkages between the students of Russia and the United States using the media of electronic communication, but it also may: 1) enhance the language competence of would-be teachers of English, providing them with an extra opportunity to use the knowledge and skills, gained in class, in the process of communication with their contemporaries in the USA; and 2) develop the cultural awareness of the students about the country of the target language.
The speaker will discuss the methodology of the project and will present the students’ overall opinion of The Dialogue.
Elena S. Petrova
An Online Course as a Factor in Professional Development
The proposed paper is an account of the author’s first experience of taking an online course. The lectures, given via email in the summer of 1998 by Moya Brennan and moderated by Chip Harman of the City University of New York, were intended for teachers with a background in ELT who were planning a Business English course. However, the methodology, principles, and teaching styles observed can be adapted to planning other courses and enriching ELT techniques at the university level.
Using Translation to Contrast Cultures
There is a growing understanding that culture matters if our EFL students are to become really effective in cross-cultural communication. What kind of culture is of primary importance in ELT? What are the most effective ways to get our students familiar with it?
Obviously, knowing about the First Amendment, pre-Raphaelites, or how the British Parliament is elected could be helpful. However, this sort of general cultural knowledge is easy enough to acquire and in case of a problem one can always resort to a dictionary or encyclopaedia. Much more elusive and difficult to master is the ‘deep culture’ - values and attitudes which overtly influence perception, thinking and behaviour, cultural models in communication and behaviour, specific worldview as expressed in the language.
One of the most efficient ways to contrast cultures and get EFL students familiar with the ‘deep culture’ could be through practising translation in ELT classes. Realising that you cannot translate by mechanically manipulating with the words and structures of the source text provides EFL students with a first hand experience of linguistic and cultural differences. Translation when thoughtfully and purposefully used in ELT could be particularly useful to introduce in a very ‘natural’ way cultural differences pertaining to worldview and cultural models, which otherwise requires a special theoretical course in cultural linguistics. Translation practised to develop cultural and linguistic awareness of EFL students does not have to take a lot of time in ELT classes. It could be done once or twice a week for a quarter of an hour and that provides a valuable opportunity to develop our students’ cultural awareness through practical activity in a very consistent and systematic way.
Sergei Pshenitsyn, Ph.D. in Linguistics, Associate Professor, English Philology Department, Herzen Pedagogical University; Lecturer, Special Philological Faculty, St. Petersburg University. he is currently working on Post-Doctoral Thesis at Herzen Pedagogical University, St. Petersburg. He is also the Translation SIG Co-ordinator.
Almost 30 years as a business executive and consultant taught me that executives lose their jobs or fail to advance because of personal or political problems with their coworkers or with “management.” Foreign executives working with American corporations as employees, suppliers or customers may find the potential for such problems is all the greater.
To survive and succeed with an international company, an executive has to learn its corporate culture. Two corporations can be as different as day to night when it comes to traditions and behavior standards. The executive has to be sensitive to the corporate culture, get comfortable with it and not rock the boat.
There are, however, areas of business culture that apply to almost all companies. This paper suggests a course in international business culture. It is not just about corporate culture; it requires a lot of language practice. Business-culture learning and language learning reinforce each other. Being comfortable with English is essential to becoming a success in international business.
Here is a brief description of the suggested
1. Meeting People and Making Introductions. Most advanced English students can’t do this. Some are walking disasters. How can this be? Getting acquainted is the most critical business discourse.
2. Getting Names and Titles Right. Here’s how to make friends — or enemies. And make sure you spell names correctly.
3. Knowing the Organization. Where exactly do you fit in? Your first loyalty.
4. Acquiring the Basic Business Vocabulary. If you don’t know this, you don’t know business. Words for all businesspeople. The two kinds of corporate organizations.
5. Learning How to Use a Corporate Annual Report. The best textbook. The best business vocabulary source. Very good language.
6. Dumping the Textbooks and Using “Real” Materials. Magazines, newspapers, television. Find them and make the best use of them. Excellent writing and language.
7. Creating and Maintaining Good “Chemistry” with Your Fellow Employees. Taboos. Threshold diplomacy.
8. Being a Good Business Writer. The simplest language is the clearest language. Business-writing shortcuts. Listening, note-taking, transcribing. Accuracy.
9. Advancing (and Surviving) through Written Communications. Format and timing of internal memos. Tooting your own horn. Putting out fires.
10. Working with the Opposite Sex. The American workplace today. Sexism: in behavior and writing.
The 10 areas above all include relevant language
practice, using 100% class-participation:
five-step dialogues, pattern drills, memory conversations, listening-note taking-transcribing, scan and skim, directed role play.
Bill Schettler is a former business executive and consultant specializing in international marketing and public relations. He is now an EFL teacher trainer at Kazan State University. This is his fifth year of teaching in Russia.
A Look At American Culture through Looking at its Best Selling Books
The session will be focused on looking at American culture through looking at its books, the books on the best selling list of the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. The book lists will be from the hard and paper and a list of What’s New and Interesting, another listing which will show us what Americans are reading, in the expensive hardcover and the paperback section. Over 7,000 new books are put out in the reader’s market each year, each year that number increases. Newspapers print the best sellers lists each week so that people can see what others are reading, to guide their own choices perhaps, but to see what are the authors and topics to fellow Americans. I propose that we do the same in our conference.
I have been following these lists for several years and it gives me a view of what Americans are reading, what ideas they are discussing in book clubs, what authors they respect , what topics entertain, soothe and excite Americans. In my session, I have collected book reviews from the most recent months and will make copies for a group of about 15 participants.
In small groups, the participants can
comment on several items that I would point out:
A sample of a listed book is: Feb. 7, l999, #2 on paperback list: Chicken Soup for the Teenage Sout II, compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger. (Health Communications, $12.95) Inspirational stories.
This sample tells a lot about American culture and it can be a source of vocabulary for beginning readers as in the use of the words compiled, inspirational. Questions to ask and answer about this selection: What is the theme, what audience is it geared to, what answers could it give to an American reader, what kind of American would find and read this book, how long has it been on the best selling list, how much does it cost , other questions.....
In looking at the riders on the St. Petersburg Metro in January, I was reminded of the riders in the Washington, D. C. Metro, everyone had a book or a newspaper and I wanted to know what they were reading.
Perhaps your participants of SPELTA feel the same. I was curious cause I believe that people are very tied to what they read, how they entertain and enlighten themselves is an important part of one’s culture, and I would like to explore Americans through looking at the Best Seller’s Lists.
Some books remain on the lists for long periods of time, although we will only be examining a month or two of the listings, it will be possible to skim and scan and to ascertain which kinds of books and authors remain on the lists.
Some of the skills that I would like to address through this session is vocabulary extension, skimming and scanning reading skills, and discussion skills in small groups.
At the end of the session, I expect the participants
to have considered American culture through these and more
1. What kinds of books are most popular, themes?.
2. What authors are popular?
3. What issues are addressed in the books: race, work, rights, children, education....?
4. What are differences in the hard or paperback lists?
5. Considering the buyers of each category of book, how do preferences and themes vary?
6. If Americans are reading about their concerns, what are those concerns, the problems in current life?
7. Are Americans concerned about international issues?
8. Are Americans concerned about historical and religious issues?
9. What books would you order if you could?
There are many extensions of this activity, further discussions and explorations of book lists from Russians and other nationalities would be a natural extension. A listing of favorite authors and topics could be made, from the group, and groupings of topics and themes could be analyzed and compared to interests of Russian readers.
I would suggest that an hour-long session could bring out a lot of participation from a group of 10 -20 participants. We would have lists of the Best Sellers and would explore t what Americans choose for their private reading collections for their enlightenment and entertainment; and perhaps gain another view of American culture.
And, of course, it is another invitation for us to look at ourselves and use this activity to look at what we think is important about us.
Barbara Settles is the USIS EFL Fellow at Krasnoyarsk State University
Questioning and its Functions in University Classroom Discourse
The verbal negotiation in classroom talk and discussion is made mostly through questioning. It is a kind of “perpetuum mobile” of the classroom talk. Questions were studied in terms of their syntactic, phonological, and semantic properties on the sentence level. Questions realized in classroom talk cannot be explained on the sentential level because they are neither complete nor inverted propositions (yes-no questions) or incomplete propositions for which the answer provides the missing clue - special questions. Although they have a pragmatic force obliging or demanding request and can be measured by timing (next to each other) and content (coherence and appropriateness of answers to the preceded questions), their function in discourse is both contextual and social.
Thus, they have the following discursive functions
on the “surface” interactional level:
- breaking silence
- clarification: “I just want to clarify the following…”
- initiation of talk or discussion: “ I have trouble understanding …”
- curiosity questions: “I just wonder…”
On the “deep” social/personal level:
- establishing status/reinforcing status: questions that she/he knows answers to.
- producing impression on a teacher: reference to other authors or works that are not scheduled to be read, etc.
- maintaining educational goals.
The presenter will discuss in detail the university classroom discourse properties (mostly types of direct/indirect questioning) based upon the analysis of classroom discussions videotaped at Stanford University (winter quarter 1998), the University of Iowa (spring semester 1998) and Moscow State Pedagogical University (fall semester 1998) in order to see the way pragmatic universals function through cultures and languages.
Humanistic Approach - Do We Need It?
The main idea of Humanistic approach is to shift the focus of instruction from the teacher to the learner thereby giving the learner more opportunity for self-assertion, self-determination and self-esteem. By creating a favourable psychological climate the teacher gives up the dominating role in class and provides the learner with considerably more freedom and independence, which is essential for the shaping of his/her personality. Humanistic approach is viewed as one of the techniques practised in class.
Evgenia Vlasova is an Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages, Russian Academy of Sciences
On 27 March, 1999, Masterclass #2 of SPELTA BE/ESP SIGs was held. It was sponsored by the British Council, the United States Information Service and the Faculty of Philology, Pedagogical University, and conducted by Dr. Liudmila Devel, SPELTA’s Vice President. The class was of special interest to those involved in the teaching for the Presidential Russian President Yeltsin’s Training Initiative Programme.
The class was opened by Consul Elisabeth White, who said it was a useful initiative.
Four important issues were discussed:
- Cambridge University Business English Certificate course and exams were presented ;
- Dr. Dibrova introduced his new book, “TOEFL for Russians”;
- Ms Alice Murray shared her impressions of and insight into her work with the teacher trainers of the Russian President’s Training Initiative Programme and gave recommendations to those preparing for the latest version of TOEFL;
- Dr. Kuznetsova, who represented the Editorial Board of the BE/ESP Russia magazine in St. Petersburg, pinpointed the key issues inolved in the education of ESP trainers.
All the participants were very glad attend
the British Council’s workshop on Business English certificate. It was
very informative, especially for such busy persons. The speaker from the
USIS, Ms. Murray, emphasized the fact that the Masterclass was basically
the only chance to discuss the Russian Presidential Training Initiative
Programme with the trainers, for each institution is working independently.
Moreover the Masterclass was actually a forum for St. Petersburg textbook
writers, several of them participating. The textbook writer Dr. Vlasova
said that it was very important to have such informative events for professional
teachers. It could be viewed as a kind of an in-service course
for round about 2000 ESP teachers of St. Petersburg. Two books written
in St. Petersburg were quoted as the best ones in the sphere of BE/ESP
to date: “Practical Business English Dictionary” by Dr. Devel (the biggest
number of copies sold) and “America” by Dr. Popova (the fourth edition).
A brief presentation of one more book, “A Pocket Dictionary of Business,”
was made by its author, Dr. Natalia Chelnokova. At the request
of the American Educational Center the Masterclass in its capacity
of a professional get-together tried to answer several questions and got
the following answers.
- The best language training centers are still SPb State University, the Herzen Pedagogical University, the Technical University, the Financial Academy and the British Council. A list of commercial language training centers is now under consideration and will be given to the Center.
- The best manuals for preparing for TOEFL are an interactive Educational Testing Program, which anyone can order through Internet, Baron’s, Cliff’s and Cambridge textbooks.
- The greatest problems for Russians in TOEFL,
as with many other tests, are:
1. lack of practice with tests and especially with computer tests;
2. lack of training to work within certain time limits;
3. lack of practice in the sphere of listening/reading comprehension
SPELTA has been an affiliate of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) for four years by now; we have an official Certificate of Affiliation, sealed and signed by the TESOL president, saying that we have been an affiliate in good standing since 1996. SPELTA pays its annual dues, we get a bi-monthly newspaper Matters, various Newsletters and informational flyers, SPELTA’s official representative attends TESOL Annual Conventions with a compulsory attendance of an affiliate leaders workshop and Affiliate Council meeting. There are other benefits too, in the form of various awards, grants and projects where we can participate. It gives a unique opportunity to net-work with related organizations of a similar orientation via an e-mail discussion list, exchange of Newsletters and direct contacts at conventions.
This year’s (1999) Convention was held in New York, New York in the hotels Sheraton and Hilton and was attended by more than 7000 people. It featured various pre-convention institutes and educational visits, breakfast seminars, electronic village with Internet fair, software applications fair, developers’ showcase, etc., interest sections meetings, an opening plenary lecture given by David Crystal, features speakers’ lectures and concurrent sessions, academic sessions, colloquia and workshops, poster presentation, publishers’ fairs and many other activities of professional and social nature. The list of presenters includes about 1800 people, books form more than 500 publishers were on display, for order and sale. Of course, it is impossible to attend even a small part of the events and one has to be highly selective.
SPELTA has expressed interest and intention to participate in TESOL International Standards project which aims at developing guidelines and promoting professional and employment standards for teachers as well as professional accreditation of individual teachers and institutions. Some time ago we had a similar program called Recognition Scheme, which, perhaps , needs revitalizing and revising. This project’s ultimate goal is to promote excellence in the teaching of English in this country by establishing and supporting standards that affect educational policy at local, national and international levels. For SPELTA, it will be a chance to draw on the existing expertise accumulated by the international teaching community and adapt good ideas to our reality. Those of SPELTA members who are willing to join this project should approach the Council and say so.
Newsletter Editors’ workshop at the Convention gave a few valuable insights on our own performance. It has become even more evident than earlier that grass-root initiative and information are of vital importance for the Newsletter to be effective. As it is, our Newsletter works one-way: from the editors to the readers, while not only feedback is absolutely necessary but also exchange of ideas and varied participation of the membership. We think it is time to introduce new columns to the Newsletter, such as, for example “What is going on in schools/universities”, “Book reviews”, “New books written by SPELTA members”, “Teachers and students’ typical mistakes in English”, “Useful tips (in ELT, grammar teaching, warming up activities, etc.) We invite you to share with us your ideas for new columns, give your comments on what is usually published in our Newsletter or has been published in this particular issue, to volunteer for the position of a column editor or give names of people who can qualify for the job, to write your articles/ reports and send them to the newsletter editors or any member of the SPELTA Council. TESOL Newsletter and other regular publications also welcome articles on the activity of their St. Petersburg affiliate, we should make our Association known to the world ELT community - we have things to share.
A memorable event was an opening plenary lecture from Prof. David Crystal “The Future of English: A Welsh Perspective” His presentation, sparkling of humor and wit, profound with striking ideas dealt with the following: “As we approach the millennium, it is a fact that most people who use English in the world do so within a context of other languages. The center of gravity for the language, which used to be in the US/UK, is now moving elsewhere, as speakers of English as a second/foreign language gradually become the majority. What will happen to the language as it moves in these new directions? And what will happen to other languages as a consequence? Recent debate has identified the main issues but has seriously underestimated the scale of the changes that are currently taking place”. David Crystal explored these changes, spoke about the development of an international language and discussed the implications for ELT.
One of the concurrent sessions was devoted to “Successful EFL models from Russia” Presenters from Samara, Barnaul, Khabarovsk and St. Petersburg discussed the development of curriculum reform materials as well as the cultural, social and financial challenges that they had encountered and overcome. In this session SPELTA was represented by Dr. Natalia Orlova, Associate Professor at the English Department of Herzen Pedagogical University of Russia, who is also taking part in the SPELTA 10th Conference.
When my plane took off for London I looked down through the window. From very high up in the air the land that has just started to get rid of the snow seemed like a piece etching, all black and white.
In three hours, ‘Fasten your seat-belts’ announcement appeared and we slowly started to go through the thick clouds. The land below was all green and spring was obvious. The difference in the temperature and the air struck me. Another half hour and cherries and magnolias in blossom were running along the rail track on my way from Gatwick to the centre of London. No wonder. The cold misty London of films and novels is actually situated almost at the same latitude as Kiev and if we take into account the Gulf Stream...
My strongest impression of London this spring is daffodils, daffodils everywhere. I thought again how different we all are. Different backgrounds, different climates, different weather, different attitudes.
After one day in London a very fast train took me in four hours to the point of my destination - Edinburgh - the capital of Scotland and the venue of this year IATEFL conference.
The Edinburgh Story begins with the arrival of the first settlers. Evidence of their Stone Age lifestyle has been found on Calton Hill, Castlehill and Arthur’s Seat. The easily defended Castle Rock was first fortified about 1000 years later. By the time the first recognisable castle structure appeared on the rock in the 11th century, the original Celtic name of Dun-edin (“the fort on the slope”) had been translated into Anglo-Saxon Edinburgh.
To this day, the imposing form of Edinburgh Castle proudly crowns the city’s skyline dramatically perched at the top end of the ancient Royal Mile which is in contrast to the ordered elegance of Georgian New Town, designed by James Craig, the beauty of Princess Street and Princess Street Gardens.
The conference venue, however, was 6 miles off the city centre at a compact and comfortable venue of the campus of Heriot-Watt University that provided a very suitable setting for both the academic and the social programme.
I did not manage to find out who was Heriot, but I am sure you all remember who was Watt from your school days, a Scottish inventor, who developed the design of steam engine and gave his name to the unit of power.
So early in the morning of March 28 Lothian (the area where Edinburgh is situated) bus drivers were rather surprised when one after another the passengers asked them to show where to get off for Heriot-Watt campus. It was at the end of the bus line surrounded by daffodil and heather lawns. The only place where I saw thistle in Scotland was only on the Royal bank of Scotland 1 pound coins. But that’s the way the thistle is. It hides in the grass to appear suddenly and protect the Scots against the enemy. But heather was everywhere and it was no less traditional and no less associated with Scotland, its history, culture, literature.
Suddenly all my previous thoughts of differences changed for the thoughts of how much we have in common. I saw faces of teachers and faces of academics around me that were all slightly familiar and very friendly. This year there were about 1300 delegates from about 60 countries round the world. The first day was Associates Day, where the representatives of many of 75 IATEFL associates met together to exchange ideas, and join in training session. This year it was on organising conferences! And I clearly realised that there are many things that we have not yet taken into account. At this session I met people from Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and Moscow (Lateum and the British Council representatives). We have set up links, we have exchanged newsletters, we have decided to work out joint conferences and share the experience.
After this first very successful day there were four more with David Crystal, David Nunan, Luke Prodromou, Michael Lewis, Carolyn Graham, Nick Brieger, Leo Jones, Henry Widdowson and many, many others. The AS Hornby Lecture and Opening Plenary was given by Michael Wallace who spoke about key issues for every teacher. He argued that the search for the ideal methodology will always be frustrating and frustrated, and every teacher who has been active in EFL for a number of years will have seen a succession of “methods” falling in and out of fashion. He sees the reason in the wrong focus and came to the conclusion that pursuit of “progress” should be focused on the individual teacher working in a specific context. This idea was somehow central to the whole conference, that was thus opened and swung into action. By the end of Thursday more than 340 talks were given. Interesting trends were quite noticeable. Many speakers pointed out the importance of using L1 and translation along with maintaining communicative approach. Teaching professionals of the greatest calibre spoke of danger of grammar negligence and stressed the importance of proper style in writing for academic purposes. All these were to name just a few of the problems discussed. More modern concepts also took their place in IATEFL conference programme. Computers, video, neurolinguistic programming, management in ELT.
AGM (Annual General Meeting) was also a part of the programme, which I think, is a very sensible time management that we probably should also think of for our own practice.
Simon Greenall stepped down, Adrian Underhill came in. IATEFL structure was discussed and members spoke of “too many SIGs spoiling the broth” and put forward the idea of merger between overlapping SIGs. Wider Membership Scheme (WMS) was formally introduced instead of the previously used Differential Subscription Scheme (DSS).
A number of panel discussions were among the gems in the conference crown: “What is the future of ELT?”, “The language and the nation”, “East meets West”, etc. Everyone from the audience could participate and give his/her opinion.
Yet, the best and the most important was an opportunity to talk to people, to discuss and to share. The atmosphere of friendliness and professionalism was overwhelming. IATEFL conference is definitely a major event in the language teaching calendar, an example to follow in many ways.
T.I. How do you think the conference
S.G. Fine, I think. It’s very difficult to know. We’ve worked very hard all year round, longer even for this conference. Now that it’s here we’re just responding to events really, but I’ve personally got a good feel about it. It is going on very well.
T.I. Is this conference somewhat different from other conferences? It is the last conference of the Millennium. Does it make it different?
S.G. No, it doesn’t. One of the reasons is that it’s not the last conference of the Millennium for many countries. We were going to make a big issue out of this, then suddenly realised that with different calendars around the world the Millennium is only actually something that interests us primarily in the West, you know, including Russia, so we are not making a big deal of the Millennium. I think next year there will be probably a bit more. No, it’s a standard conference. There may be other reasons to change the style of the conference in the future but it has nothing to do with the Millennium.
T.I. Has it something to do with the pessimistic opinion that big conferences like this are inefficient?
S.G. I would not want to misrepresent Adrian’s views (Adrian Underhill is the newly elected president of IATEFL, who has taken over from Simon), but he is very well versed in the dynamics of conferences and networking. We are very pleased that IATEFL conferences become a major event in the language teaching calendar, but I think Adrian is very aware that they may become something less attractive to people. And I think under his supervision there is a good chance that we will rethink the conference and do it in a slightly different way probably maintaining the size of it in some form or other, but operating it in a slightly more intimate, more informal way. That’s the way forward, I think.
T.I. You have just stepped down as a president, but was elected vice-president of IATEFL. Thank you very much for everything you have been doing. Could you tell me what was the worst thing and the best thing during your two years of office.
S.G. The worst thing ....I can’t think of a single event, but the worst thing, I suppose is: the feeling that the organisation is very big both the conference and the association itself and it is difficult for somebody who is elected and comes in effectively from the outside I was an ordinary member of IATEFL before, but for somebody who comes in and starts running the Association it is difficult to feel that you are doing that job efficiently... I like to do the job efficiently, but I was never certain that I was able to do so.
Best thing... best thing was probably the conferences at which I’ve been president. I came in at the end of the conference in Brighton in 1997 and probably this year it’s not quite as good as I am leaving and there is a note sadness... So I suppose the best thing would have been Manchester conference last year when I was in the middle of my term of office, I knew everything that was going on and I felt competent and confident. And whereas I still feel competent and confident I am slightly sadder today than I was at the Manchester conference 1998.
T.I. What do you think of the main trends in IATEFL development in future?
S.G. I think probably two words - professionalisation and internationalisation. We started out as a very UK based organisation, calling ourselves international, but I don’t think we were really. I think we have been moving in the past few years into much, much greater outreach around the world and sponsorships of different events in different parts of the world and basically our profile being seen as becoming more and more international. We keep our main conferences in the UK because people get funding to come here but then we have various events where we go to them , that’s the international side of IATEFL.
And the professional side... Although it is amateur strictly speaking and volunteer association, we believe that people today expect professional service
Everything we have been doing from new logo, mission statement, using all the different media, such as websites etc. So all this is a part of a process of professionalisation.
T.I. Your book, Reward is very well known, probably better known than the fact that you were the IATEFL president for two years. What do you like better, to run IATEFL or to write books?
S.G. It’s a very good question. And if you really want to know, maybe it is not the best answer for the interview, but the honest answer is the books. I am very pleased and proud of what you’ve just said. Reward was a labour of love for five years really, and I am delighted that it’s known in Russia, in St. Petersburg. I am very, very proud of it. Though I have got certain regrets about leaving this job, but for me the greatest pleasure is writing
T.I. You are going to be in St. Petersburg this September. What do you expect from this visit?
S.G. I am certainly looking forward to this visit, it is my first visit to Russia. I had many invitations and it is the first one that’s going to happen. I don’t know what to expect. It is going to be above all an enormous privilege to come there and I am looking forward to seeing a city that I know so much about from books and films and whatever, but have never seen myself and I am feeling that it’s part of our common European culture and it’s nice to belong to that, so the European aspect of my visit is very important as the Russian side is as well.
T.I. Thank you very much for this interview. We look forward to your visit.
S.G. I look forward to it as well.