Issue #17
November 1999

From the President - 5 years Jubilee of SPELTA
11th SPELTA Conference (November 1999) Programme
Abstracts of the Conference Presentations
Elizabeth White - 5 Years of the British Council in St. Petersburg
Jeremy Comfort Interview

From the President

5 is definitely a lucky number, isn’t it? At least in Russian culture it is most obviously so. For example, ancient and not so ancient Russian churches were five-domed.

Five is the highest mark at schools of many types. To become a specialist and get your first degree you have to study for five years.

In the English and American culture 5 seems to have a good  reputation too. For all of us a five-star hotel is a sign of class, chic and luxury. 5 o'clock tea is a nice English tradition loved in Russia.

America plays hockey where the team consists of five players plus a goal-keeper. And we picked up this tradition from there. Basketball team is five too, it goes without saying. In English schools they still play fives and five-a-side.

By the way, all English textbooks are mainly graded into five levels, remember? And those who reached the top look down at all the others.

We all have five fingers equally dear to us and the Roman figure of five, a V-sign, is a sign of victory. Five is a good number for flowers you are going to give as a present.

So, I believe, that all of the above was enough to persuade you that fifth anniversary is a happy one. Although in tough conditions the first five years have passed. Congratulations!

Adrian Underhill, the new President of IATEFL has recently offered to discuss an interesting concept of continuous professional development (CPD). He defined it as the attitude and process of being a lifelong learner. CPD helps us to remain fresh, alert, up-to-date, and confident in ourselves and in the topic we teach. It enables us to participate in and contribute to the development of our schools as ‘learning organisations’ and our profession as ‘learning profession’.

The mission  of SPELTA as a professional association is to provide conditions for CPD and encourage it. We all are trying to do it together.

The period between the two conferences was very interesting this year. We had seminars with very interesting visitors : Joan Morley, a distinguished teacher educator, one of TESOL executives, is the first in this list. She came in May and gave two inspiring lectures on teaching pronunciation.

Then the terrible heat at the end of June did not stop our guests from Moldova, Soros Foundation lecturers, Hamilton Beck and Oxana Abramova with a workshop on modern literature. And, finally, in September we had a very special guest from IATEFL, the author of a well known book Reward, Vice President of IATEFL, Simon Greenall.

So, Happy Birthday and best wishes to us all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Yours, Tatiana Ivanova



11th International Conference of SPELTA - 5 years Jubilee


20-21 November 1999
Saint Petersburg, Russia

20 November, Saturday. Venue: 11, University Emb., room 191

10.00 - 11.00 Registration

11.00 - Conference Opening by  SPELTA President Tatiana Ivanova.

Greetings from:

Sergei Bogdanov, the Dean of the Faculty of Philology
Elizabeth White, the Director of the British Council St. Petersburg
Thomas Leary, Consul for Press and Culture of the Consulate General of the USA
Joel Ericson, the Director, of American Council for the Teachers of Russian
Margarita Mudrak, The English -Speaking Union, St. Petersburg
Nina Kozlova, Mayakovsky Library
Natalia Medvedeva, BESIG Russia

11.40 -12.40 Plenary meeting

Jonathan Floss (USIS Fellow). A Student-Centered Guide for Discussing Ethical Issues

12.40 - 13.00 - Break

13.00- 14.30- Concurrent sessions
Learner Motivation
Chair - Natalia Orlova


Lidya Levchenko (School # 2). Books for Young Learners
Natalia Orlova (Herzen State Pedagogical University). Motivating Prospective Teachers of English with Songs
Tatiana Zolotova (Freelance). Motivating Communication at an English Lesson at School
Tatiana Ivanova (St. Petersburg State University). Developing Communication Skills. (Introducing new workshop of RELOD-SPELTA Resource Centre)

From School to College and University- Continuity of Teaching and Learning
Chair- Elena Petrova

Tatyana Ryzhova (Pskov Pedagogical University). Humane English: Teaching and Learning for the Future
Tatyana Sallier (St. Petersburg State University). What is Most Difficult for Students of English When They Come to Universities
Svetlana Serova (School #83). Syllabus Design for Optional School Course in Business English
Vadim Goloubev (Saint Petersburg State University). Perceiving Argumentation: Teaching Persuasion Dialogue in American Print Media

14.30 - 15.00 Break

15.00 -16.00  Workshop
Jan Stanbury (The British Council St. Petersburg). Using Poetry in the Language Classroom

15.00-16.30 Professional Awareness in ELT. Chair - Luidmila Devel

Nina Medvedeva (Moscow). Methodology of Teaching Business English
Alexander  Andreushkin (St. Petersburg). An Ideal Business English Manual for Russian Students, and how Different Books Come Short of that Ideal.
Luidmila Devel (Herzen University). Tacis Working Dictionary
Asya Silaeva (ETS, Moscow). TOEFL: Preparing Students for the Computer based TOEFL Test

 November 21, Sunday. Venue: 11, University Emb., room 191

10.00 Registration

10.40 – 12.00 Plenary Meeting
Jeremy Comfort (York Associates, the UK). What do we Mean by Effective Communication?
Aaron Hotchner (a close friend and personal biographer of Ernest Hemingway). Hemingway and his Llanguage

12.00- 12.20 Break

12.20 - 13.20 Professional Awareness in ELT.  Chair - Luidmila  Kuznetsova

Natalia Medvedeva (Moscow). Business English and Public Relations
Luidmila Kuznetsova (St. Petersburg University). Search for New Ways in Teaching ESP
Ekaterina Shutova (St. Petersburg University). ESP: Teaching English to Theology Students

13.20-14.00 Experience of Teaching in PMTI Programme- Panel Discussion

Simon Winetroube (the British Council, Moscow)
Natalia  Bespalova (University of Telecommunications)
Larissa Tarnayeva (Regional Instutute of Training Managers)
Tatiana Ivanova (St. Petersburg University), Grigory Pershin (IMISP) and Professors from the University of Finance.

14.00- 14.30 Break

14.30 - 15.30 Concurrent Workshops
Betsy Lewis (EFL Teacher Training Specialist). A Small Transference Error:  Typical Mistakes Made by Russian Speakers of English. Alice Murray (EFL Fellow). Combining  the Arts: Literature, Plays and Film

5.40-16.30 Closing Plenary

Simon Winetroube (the British Council, Moscow). ELT: Where is it going?

16.40 Conference Closing, Raffle, Socialising


Abstracts of the Conference Presentations

NB: Full versions of these presentations will be availanle by May 2000

Alexander Andreushkin
An Ideal Business English Manual for Russian Students, and how Different Books Come Short of that Ideal
Taking into account the variety of levels in the students’ knowledge of English, the different degrees of specialization that they need, and the different time frames, one should probably say that there is  no such thing as an ideal Business English manual. However, there are so many books on the market now, that some analysis is necessary. This report limits itself only to books printed by Russian publishers, now on sale in St. Petersburg in 1999.

The weak point of many  books is that they try to combine what is difficult (if not impossible) to combine: learning English from zero knowledge (beginner’s level) together with commercial and financial words and phrases supposed to enable the learner to take part in complicated business negotiations.

Some of the points that will be discussed are as follows:

1. One may classify existing Business English manuals according to many criteria, but a nice criterion would be: does the book devote more attention to E n g l i s h  or to  B u s i n e s s  E n g l i s h? There are books frankly addressed to those who already know the language, and books which are really just English language manuals, only instead of «He waters the flowers» we find «He writes memoranda».

2. The important thing in teaching Business English is to know that some learners want not so much to learn the subject as to be part of the group. By definition, business people are very busy, so, for example, a typical short-term group of learners could be a delegation going abroad in a month's time and including people of very different language levels. It may even be that the boss (head of  delegation) knows English the  least, but still wants to continue to exercise control over the rest of the group. He cannot only  b e  p r e s e n t in the classroom, however, but wants   t o  t a k e  p a r t.
Is this «Business English»? Yes, very much so, because it helps some members of the group not to lose face, and not losing face is important in business.

3. Finally, there is a brief  look at the differences between Business English manuals translated from English (written by native speakers) and those written by Russian authors.

Alexander Andreushkin is the author of the book Business English compiled on the basis of his Business English course and first published in 1992. Now a second, revised and enlarged edition  has been printed.

Mila Devel
Tacis Working Dictionary
This talk presents the results of a year and a half work.  The dictionary is intended for those who would like to extend their knowledge in the sphere of translation and interpreting, who would like to talk with their business counterparts independently, without interpreters’ assistance.

Our experience shows that when preparing for a conference, every experienced interpreter studies the specific vocabulary of the given field, its terminology, jargon and general business expressions. This non-systematic dictionary  is an attempt to collect  these words and expressions and put them together.

Full version
Lyudmila (Mila) Devel, Ph.D. in linguistics, a teacher of Business English, SPELTA Vice President, BESIG Co-ordinator.

Jonathan Floss
A Student-Centered Guide for Discussing Ethical Issues
English language teachers typically face two problems in the discussion class: reticent students who contribute little more than an insubstantial «It depends» or verbose students who measure quality of speech in terms of unfocused quantity. Either situation can encourage the teacher to revert to a teacher-centered instructional mode.

This «Guide for Discussing Ethical Issues» serves as a tool and framework for the students to use as they prepare to discuss ethical issues. It helps them map out the elements (political, sociological, economic, legal, etc.) that enhance the formation of a focused, educated response that will make an impression. The guide forces them to think in broader terms while also requiring them to be specific. In particular, it emphasizes the need to carefully consider the far-reaching consequences of one single action. The guide focuses on the role played by five factors: rights, obligations, values, consequences and circumstances. Examples will be given for each step. The guide was originally developed by Professor Candace Matthews and will be presented as adapted by the speaker.

Participants will be given copies of the 5-step guide and a set of ethical situations for classroom use.

Jonathan Floss is the USIS EFL Fellow, Ekaterinburg

Vadim Goloubev
Perceiving Argumentation: Teaching Persuasion Dialogue in American Print Media
Traditionally, argumentation research has been dominated by rhetorical studies whose purpose has been to investigate the impact of persuasion on the passive recipient. This kind of argumentation research has mostly concerned itself with analyzing argumentation  from the perspective of the arguer, the speaker of an argumentative message.

Researchers have pointed to persuasion techniques and methods the speaker employs to make his or her argumentation effective with the universal or particular audience. They have explained why this or that method is more effective than others basing their conclusions on audience and communication situation analysis. However, one can call such conclusions educated hypotheses rather than well-supported claims because, by its nature, rhetorical studies cannot provide empirical evidence to explain why some persuasion methods work and others don’t in a seemingly similar communication situation with the same audience, unless in exceptional cases audience responses to the message have been recorded. I believe that  we can fill this gap by taking a dialectic look at two available discourses, one of which is a response to the other one. Examining both juxtaposed discourses, we can take the opposite perspective in argumentation analysis, one that explores how argumentation is perceived by a message recipient in a given communication context. Our study will primarily focus on the second discourse because it reflects the perception of a recipient of the first message. We believe that argumentation perception analysis can help students of English become better interpreters of the English language argumentative texts and better communicators of their own ideas.

Vadim Goloubev, Ph.D. in Argumentation Theory, a Reader at the Department of English Philology and Translation, St. Petersburg State University. His field of interest is argumentation and the language of mass-media.

Aaron E. Hotchner
Hemingway and His Language
Born in St.Louis, A.E. Hotchner is an American author and graduate of Washington University (LA and JD, 1940) who briefly practiced law in St.Louis. In 1942 he joined the United States Air Force and directed the London-Paris bureau of the Air Force Magazine from 1946 to 1948. After a period of free-lance work in Paris from 1949 to 1950, Hotchner went to work for Cosmopolitan magazine as a feature writer from 1950 until 1954. He then returned to serious free-lancing and sold stories and articles to well- circulated magazines. Hotchner later turned to television and the stage as a playwright, writing successfully for Playhouse 90, U.S. Steel Hour, Playwirght ’58, and Omnibus. A full length novel, The Dangerous American, appeared in 1958, and his plays such as The White House (1964) were produced in New York. In 1955, he began various adaptions for stage and television of work by Ernest Hemingway. Hotchner had meet Hemingway in 1948 in Cuba while on assignment of Cosmopolitan and the two were friends until Hemingway’s death in 1961. Papa Hemingway, Hotchner’s controversial memoir brought to court by Hemingway’s widow, was published in 1966 by Random Houe.

The Hotchner Papers consist primarily of material relating to Ernest Hemingway, notably Papa Hemingway, and drafts of Hotchner’s adaptations of Hemingway materials. Also included are drafts of five original plays by Hotchner, written for television and stage.

Tatiana Ivanova
Developing Communication Skills.
Introducing new workshop in RELOD-SPELTA Resource Centre
If we all agree that we teach communicatively, we would have to admit that one of the teacher’s primary roles is to be a good communicator. Some people feel themselves more comfortable, some more uncomfortable playing this role due to a number of reasons. To effectively develop communication skills in our students we are to develop these skils in ourselves trying to be in some way on the same side of the learning fence. Introducing a fragment of the workshop on developing communication skills the talk shows  areas where accuracy and even fluency is not enough to make communication effective and outlines  the ways to solve the problems. The workshop offered is a joint project of Relod and SPELTA aiming at training teachers in classroom management, classroom dynamics and communication and to provide them with both teaching and learning experience. It is a kind of tailored set of minimum 4 maximum 40 hours of training, using a variety of books and a lot of video materials.

Tatiana Ivanova, Ph.D in Linguistics, associate professor of SpbSU, President of SPELTA; Resourse centre is a part of  Library on Humanities and Economics at the Faculty of Management, given by RELOD.

Betsy Lewis
A Small Transference Error:  Typical Mistakes Made by Russian Speakers of English
I find this topic both helpful and entertaining.  What I have done over my years in Russia is to collect typical errors made by fluent speakers of English—meaning mostly those made by English professors!  My idea was to collect the most typical ones in order to help people to become aware of them.  I then wrote a story around the mistakes, incorporating all of them into the narrative.  The task for the audience is to read the story and then correct the underlined mistakes.  Then I go over each of the errors with the group and we discuss them.

Elizabeth Lewis is United States Information Agency EFL Teacher Training Specialist. 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.

Alice Murray
Combining the Arts: Literature, Plays and Film
Movies are a very useful resource for teaching a topic or theme in the EFL classroom, giving a visual perspective to an idea or culture that students might know little about. Teachers often teach historical or cultural periods without giving students a sense of what the period looked. This workshop will present activities using passages from an American novel and a play to introduce a target theme and then show the corresponding scenes from the film versions. The workshop will also include activities that can be used comparing the written work to the film and comprehension.

Alice Murray is the USIS EFL Fellow, St. Petersburg

Natalia Orlova
Motivating prospective teachers of English with songs
We consider songs to be an effective tool for language teaching. They could be used teaching phonetics, grammar, or expanding the vocabulary of the pupils at different levels of study. For the purpose of presentation, songs (folk, rock, country, and pop) will be treated from a different perspective: they will be used to develop the speech skills of prospective teachers of foreign languages.

The presenter will give a short theoretical overview of the problem in question and will describe the model of using songs for the development of speech skills of prospective teachers of English. The model is comprised of three stages: preparatory, forming, and developing. Each of them has its own objective, composition and techniques.

The first stage implies the formation of speaking and reading skills within the topic «Music» and includes reading specially chosen micro-texts on the topic and fulfilment of post-reading activities directed at vocabulary development. The aim of the second stage is forming speech skills while discussing the songs under consideration.  The third stage of using a song in an English class is to further develop speech skills on the topic «Music» and to teach students how to use songs in ELT.
Handouts will be available and time will be allowed to discuss the procedures with participants.

Natalia Orlova, Ph.D. in TEFL, Associate professor at the English Department of Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. Her research interests encompass methods of promoting speaking skills of advanced learners of English as well as ways of teaching American Studies.

Ekaterina Shutova
ESP: Teaching English to Theology Students
The recent years have witnessed the growing interest in the problems of religion, the Church and theology. The number of institutions providing theology education to people who wish to work in this field has increased too. Most of their students expect to be able to communicate with their foreign colleagues, attend international conferences and keep abreast of the new trends in theology. Therefore, they feel the need to learn the lingua franca of our century - the English language.

Teaching English to theology students has certain peculiarities, specific problems which call for specific solutions. Some of them are not of linguistic nature and reflect the position and attitudes of specific churches and religious movements towards the use of English in worship and everyday practice. In the present paper a special attention will be given to teaching English to Orthodox theology students.

The future priests, theologians, religious educators and journalists need to acquire a number of skills such as reading, reporting, conversing, writing and, which is very important, to build up an extensive vocabulary to be used in their professional work as well as the awareness of the numerous pitfalls of the use of theological terminology. Theology texts require understanding of the nuances of language, style and register and the failure to use or understand words and expressions correctly may seriously distort the meaning and lead to misrepresentation or miscomprehension of the general idea. In this light the study of syntax and sentence structure takes on a special significance but vocabulary remains a primary issue.

Among the major theological vocabulary problems are the difference in confessional usage of the terms, the concurrent use of a great number of Hebrew and Greek words and their English translations in Orthodox literature as well as the abundance of quotations from the works of theologians of different ages and the Bible. All this is aggravated by the lack of dictionaries and authentic textual, audio and visual materials approved by the Orthodox church.

Asya Silaeva
TOEFL: Preparing Students for the Computer-Based TOEFL Test
The Test of  English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is designed to evaluate the English language proficiency of people whose native language is not English.  TOEFL scores are required for admissions purposes by more than 2,400 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, as well as many institutions  and agencies in other countries. I’ll make focus on teaching methods which help students to be able to pass this exam successfully. I also will give some advise on strategy which test takers should choose when they plan to pass multiple-choice tests such as TOEFL, GRE (Graduate Record Examination), GMAT (Graduate Record Admission Test). In the conclusion I’ll make short presentation on IIE’s FLTAP (Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program).

Tatyana Zolotova
Motivating communication at an English lesson
In spite of enormous literature on motivating students/ pupils to speak, establishing atmosphere of authentic communication in class remains a problem. The question How can I make my students speak? has not been answered yet and  there are two more significant ones we should ask ourselves Do I really want my students to speak? and Do I do anything to motivate them?

Teaching foreign language to children should not be just for teaching but for communication, as language, first of all, is a means of communication. This goal can be reached by  a variety of ways. The talk analyses a certain strategy and tactics in lesson management and classroom dynamics important for pupils’ motivation. All these require a lot of time and efforts and the results are rewarding.

Tatyana Zolotova is a graduate of Russian Christian Humanitarian Institute in St. Petersburg, who is now reading for her post-graduate course entry exams. Her diploma paper was devoted to comparative analysis of textbooks and their methodology principles.


5 Years of the British Council in St. Petersburg

Elizabeth White, The British Council St. Petersburg Director

In May this year, the British Council celebrated an  anniversary; five years ago, the Council’s handsome offices in the Mayakovsky Library for Foreign Literature were opened by Prince Charles and the mayor of  St Petersburg. An anniversary provides the opportunity for retrospection and evaluation and reconsideration, and it was useful for all of us and those we work with to look back over the work we have done in the first five years here, and to think further about where we go from here.

When we opened the offices in St Petersburg, it was with  the support of and at the express invitation of the city administration and the city’s main universities - in particular, the Philology Faculty of the State University and the Herzen University -and with the valued partnership of the Mayakovsky Library of Foreign Literature.  In starting up a new office in a new city for the Council, we had the possibility of designing the work that we do to suit the context, matching the interests and needs of the city with relevant British experience and expertise.  It was clear from the first that the main direction of our work was to be the support and development of English language teaching and learning in St Petersburg and the North West.  Our partners in the city were very specific about this. The Council’s work is to increase and enrich cultural contacts, in the widest sense, between Britain and St Petersburg, but in particular at that time the main task was to address then sudden and considerable need for  the English language to give access to the many new opportunities opened up by the changes in society and by new technologies.  In the early nineties, the English language more than any other skill made a vital difference to a person’s scope and prospects; at the same time, the teaching of English in schools and in some universities was threatened by the opportunities presented for competent English-speakers in fields outside their profession.

The British Council, in partnerships with the Education Committee of St Petersburg, the universities and schools and individual teachers of the city, designed projects and programmes in support of English language teaching development and educational reform. Over the five years that we have been working here, the English language has always been at the heart of our work - through the library of resources and materials for teaching and learning English, through methodology support for in-service teachers, through the training in Britain offered for key professionals in English language teaching, through the work of the English Language Centre, and through a considerable amount of project work.  The projects range from the relatively small - the support of the development of a handbook of English language teaching terminology, which was presented at the previous SPELTA conference - to the wide-ranging, ambitious and important SPEX project in support of reforms to end-of-school testing and assessment.  We work in INSETT and in PRESETT projects, and in a major new all-Russia textbook development; and we provide access to training for teachers interested in teaching for the Cambridge examinations.  Full information on present and past projects in ELT which are coordinated by the British Council in St Petersburg is available on our website - www.britishcouncil.ru\spb\ - or from the British Council office; we warmly invite you to visit both.

There are principles behind the choice of projects.  Every  thing that we do is done in partnership and with equal commitment from either side.  In ELT, the aim of the projects across Russia is to introduce sustainable systemic change, through addressing key needs of four major components of the system: Curriculum, Assessment, In-service and Pre-service training.  Projects must be feasible, sustainable, and capable of dissemination; and more than that, since ELT is a natural area for piloting innovations and promoting Britain as an international partner, priorities are set in such a way that ELT projects implemented may not only benefit ELT community and clients, but also provide patterns which can then be disseminated into other areas of education. We welcome your interest in existing projects, and proposals for work in new areas which fit within this general brief; in particular, we are looking to extend our work in the North West of Russia.  If you would like to discuss our work in ELT, or to bring forward an idea for a new project, please contact us.

The five years since we opened the office of the British Council in St Petersburg have been times of enormous change, and exciting times to be living and working in this city.  One of the most astonishing changes has been in the development of English language proficiency - an increase and improvement in capacity which has no parallel in my experience.  The facility with which so many of the student and working population now use English, the resource and variety and riches of English language teaching at all levels, the access for teachers and learners to up-to-date materials, services and examinations - all are very far from the levels we met when first we came to St Petersburg five year ago.  To some extent, this is a matter of history, and these changes were implicit in the changes in Russia; to some extent, I would hope that the British Council has played a part; but to the greatest extent, it is a tribute to the work of the teachers of English in St Petersburg.  On the occasion of the opening of the second SPELTA conference, I salute you and your work, and pledge the British Council’s continued and continuing support.



G. M. Vishnevskaya & V. I. Volkova
Ivanovo State University

A key to success in the business world  often lies in a businessman’s ability to use a language suitable for the situation (Brown , Reynold  1986 ; Huseman 1988).   A  true  businessman extols values of being prepared to win any encounter with  a  prospective client, with a live audience. Possessing a good vocabulary and correct grammar of speech, a well-trained  and  sonorous voice,  ability to use adequate tone inflections in a business conversation is a necessary part  of  a businessman’s  professional kit. Mary Stewart writes: “«All business employees are expected to have good vocabularies... It is more than a large store of words. The possessor of a good vocabulary: 1) uses preñise words to express meaning, 2) uses the synonóms, 3) pronounces words correctly, 4) spells them correctly» (1978:58).

There is one important problem in the strategy of a businessman’s behavior  in his professional world. This is the art of asking questions, the art of using   linguistic means of expression  suitable for this particular type of an utterance. It is a well-known fact that asking a  person a question  is intruding on his private life,  trespassing  on his privacy. In business asking questions is the main way  of acquiring  information. Very often  direct questions arouse negative reactions on the part of  the conversation participant. To ask a question and not to break the rules of politeness  is a golden rule for a professional businessman.

Teaching ESP in the field of business communication  impelled us to investigate  the art of asking questions with  partiality to the types of questions being asked in the chosen field and the linguistic means of their formation.

The communicative aim of  a polite request, as our research showed,  predetermines the choice of the vocabulary, of the grammatical composition and the prosodic structure of the utterances in question. The study of the varieties of  polite question types used in business English  revealed the fact that certain  groups of them  seem to be preferable to others.

The most frequent type of a polite question used in business communication  (28% of all the questions in the collected corpus) is the type that is a  non-direct question, generally placed within a context and  asked after a statement preceding it ( we called it  a ‘long distance question’). Such type of a question seems to be most safe, the least offending.  For example: “ First about the office. How much space are you looking for?” ;  “About your customers. I know you sell to the big manufacturers, but who are your other customers in Germany?” ; “ I think we should hire John Hart. He has ten years of experience and he’s 35 years old, quite mature. What do you think?”  The choice of context in such a question  is  of great importance.

The next most frequent type of  question used in  business communication is a direct question ( 21% of all the examples), the main “politeness marker”  in this type of question is intonation. It should be noted that straightforward questions are very much popular with   businessmen since they   get more  information from the answers to such questions. However, the intonation of such questions is chosen very carefully by the speaker. For example: “|How many \bales have you used so /far?”  ;  “Is it only the  \last delivery that has been a /problem?” In these questions there is , as can be seen from the given examples, a strong accent (emphatic stress) upon the nucleus of a sentence which is shifted to the left (upon the words ‘bales’ and  ‘last’). The use of a Divided Fall-Rise makes the question weighty and serious. The tempo of such a sentence is deliberately slow. The speaker sounds serious and genuinely interested.

The next  type of a question is   a  “what about …”  type (20 % of all the examples). It is a very polite form of a question leaving a lot of breathing space for a business partner: the latter  is free to give or not to give the information sought after. The non categoric character  of the question  prevents any possible negative reactions to this type of question. The intonation of such a question is very calm, non emphatic, with a Low Fall in the focus of the sentence. For example: “What about the duration of the guaran\tee period?” ; “What about the \price?”.

 Very popular, and thus very frequent, are  formal “non-questions” (19% of all the examples): questions in the form of statements (supplied with questioning intonation) and indirect  questions. These questions help the speaker to ask questions “without asking”. For example: “You seemed to be against it?” ; “I am wondering if we could get together, say Wednesday?”. The voice of the speaker is held on a level note throughout the utterance and at the end of it is slightly raised.
Among the rest of the polite forms of address in the order of frequency go disjunctive questions (“The price is fair, isn’t it?”), questions starting with the  construction types “Would you…”, “Could you…”, questions containing modal  words of the type  “I imagine…”, “I suppose…”, “I hope…”, serving as  “polite” markers of the requests.

 It is necessary to underline the role of intonation in the expression of politeness in  the business communication style. The research  has shown that questioning melody in Business English is mostly associated with falling nuclear tones at the end of utterances ( Low Fall and High Fall), contrary to the preferable use of rising tones in other styles of speech. Emphatic stress is rather recurrent in the business oral discourse. The pauses are amply used. The tempo of speech is rather slow. The rhythm of speech in questions is regular, the stressed words have a clear and prominent character of enunciation. The timbre of business speech is rather neutral, with few  voice modulations, it  conveys a  sincere interest  of the speaker.

 In all the analyzed examples  it was not difficult to trace down  a deliberate attempt of the speakers in  using  all these types of questions to lessen the tension in the conversation and to get a positive response from the  partner in the discourse. Speech etiquette in the sphere of business  is closely connected with the notion of politeness ( Brend 1978) and it has  definite linguistic  means of expression on the grammatical, lexical and suprasegmental levels of  oral  speech.


1. Brend R.M. Politeness // IREAL. 1978. Vol.16. ¹3.
2. Brown J., Reynold R. Communicating in Business. Boston, etc.: Mifflin, 1986.
3. Huseman, Richard C. Business communication: strategies and skills. Chicago, 1988.
4.  Stewart M.  Business English and Communication. New York, 1978



Jeremy Comfort:
I hope that you continue to be as enthusiastic
as the teachers I’ve come across...

Jeremy Comfort is well known to many of our readers. He is one of the authors of Effective Communication Series published by Oxford University Press. Together with his friend and partner from York Associates,  Nick Brieger, he has been involved in  several programmes of the British Council, teaching tertiary level teachers, ESP teachers, teachers of Business English. This autumn he was teaching at the RPMTI teachers at a residential course in Zerkalny, where he kindly agreed to give this interview. The second seminar starts on 22 November and we are very lucky to have Jeremy at our Conference.

Tatiana Ivanova
T.I. Thank you for the opportunity to take this interview. Let’s start with why we are here. We are here on a training course for Russian teachers with a bit complicated title a Teacher Training Programme funded by the British Government Know How Fund and managed by the British Council and taught by York Associates. Please say a few words about York Associates. What is it? Why are they in the Programme?
J.C. York Associates is a private firm, a partnership, based in York, in the North East of England and we specialise in language and communication training for industry.for the corporate sectors. So, we do a lot of work with participants from companies throughout Europe and  further afield. We are also involved in teacher training and in particular in business English Teacher training and we have done that for the last five years and a lot of work for the British  Council in Eastern Europe and in Russia in training teachers especially in tertiary sector to new concepts of teaching business English.
T.I. How did you decide that you would like to be an English teacher and was it Business English from the very beginning?
J.C.  It was really a coincidence. I left University and like a lot of people in Britain nowadays I left University owing money. It is quite expensive. So I took a job which I thought would just be a summer job -  teaching English in a language school in London, as you may know, there are lots and lots of language schools in England.
It was teaching English to business people, but teaching general English to business people and I liked it.  And I decided I’d like to follow this as a career. It wasn’t something I chose, I sort of fell into it.
T.I. So from what I know from this course you think that business content or professional content is not a must, so Business English teacher doesn’t have to be an expert on this, but we all feel that you are an expert to some extent. So, what resources did you use to increase your knowledge.
J.C.  I mean, I think that’s important point to make that it is unrealistic to expect language teachers to be experts in areas  such as financial management, production or operations. On the other hand the longer that you work in a certain field the more knowledge you pick up and I think working in business English now for  well over twenty years, naturally if you spend twenty or more years working with accountants, working with marketing  people, you do learn a lot from your students and that’s where I learnt most of what I know.
T.I. Not many people nowadays, I mean not many people abroad, would be happy to go to Russia. What was your reaction to this job when you were chosen to go here?
J.C. I honestly was delighted. Before this programme, I’ve been to Russia before. Russia has always held an appeal for me, so when I was first invited I went to Moscow and I went to St. Petersburg and I was delighted to come back. So I wasn’t worried about it. I mean, I think there are probably some  dangerous aspects to inner-city life in some of the cities of Russia, but to be honest they are also in many cities throughout Europe, also dangerous aspects to life.
T.I. What was the reaction of your family? I mean have you ever been here with your family? Were they curious about Russia? Were they worried about you going  to Russia?
J.C. They were not worried. I travel a lot, and I think they just get used to it. They were very curious, because my wife, her maiden name was actually Borroff. She comes originally from a Russian family and she is just waiting for the opportunity to come with me some time to Russia.
T.I. You mentioned you have two daughters. Are they interested in your profession? Are they going to be teachers  of English?
J.C. I have two daughters – one of 16, one of  19. The 16 year old certainly is not planning to do that. She is determined to be a fashion designer. The other one who is 19 has started to travel a lot and she recently said that she would also like to be a teacher of English, because, I think, she ‘s seen that it is a good job.
T.I. We discussed stereotypes a lot and cultural element in teaching language. It is interesting that you said you had held an appeal for Russia. What is your impression of Russian people and Russian teachers?
J.C. I think that obviously a lot of them have had  a tough time. I know it’s quite difficult times in Russia. They have to work extremely hard, but what I‘ve been incredibly impressed by is enormous enthusiasm to learn and to improve and to become more professional. Much more so than in the West, where you can get quite a lot of cynicism during teacher training sessions, so that’s been a pleasure to work with Russian teachers.
T.I.The next question is a bit philosophical, I think. Are teachers born or made? Is it possible to teach a teacher? Is it more difficult to teach a teacher?
J.C.  We recruit a lot of teachers and there is no doubt that there are some natural teachers. I think you can’t dismiss that. On the other hand there are teachers who aren’t natural teachers, and who have become very very good teachers, very competent teachers, so, I think they are both born and made. When I think about teaching teachers they are difficult to teach. I think teachers are naturally quite a critical bunch of people, so you know, you need to be aware of that.
T.I.  What do you think is or are most difficult things for you as a teacher as a native teacher of English in teaching foreign students?
J.C.  I think the important point to make is that a native teacher of English is at a disadvantage in a fact that they often don’t know the mother tongue of the people they are teaching, therefore they are not aware or it is more difficult for them to understand the interference problems that come from the mother tongue. So, I think that’s an important point to bear in mind. In terms of the most difficult thing to teach there’s a sort of overall point which is difficult and that is to persuade  the students that it is not just a question about being accurate in a language,  being correct in a language, it is also how confidently they use the language. I think this is something that is difficult to get across to some students.
T.I. What is the most difficult  concept in methodology, that is hard to explain to the teachers or difficult for them  to master?
J.C.  I think that’s again related to the last point. I think that in the business world what is appreciated above all is someone who communicates well. People are not very concerned about how accurate you are in use of your grammar, but they are concerned that you get to the point quickly, that you don’t waste time and that you’re helpful, you’re courteous, you know, these things matter, and I think that for a lot of teachers who have been brought up teaching the grammar method or even the old grammar-translation method this is quite a big jump for them to turn, not away entirely from that method, but to move also towards teaching more effectiveness in the use of language.
T.I. Speaking about effectiveness, this concept of accuracy versus fluency and versus effectiveness... Sometimes it is difficult when you have students with different expectations and you mentioned a difficult example from your own experience. Would you tell our readers about it?
J.C.  Yes, of course. That was actually a person that I recently taught, called Sergei, who was actually a man who had been in the Russian Navy, he was a senior when he left Navy, and then he was working for a Swedish Telecoms Company in Moscow. And  he came to us for some intensive training. And as far as the company was concerned they wanted him to manage their project in Moscow. They wanted him to be able to have meetings with the Swedes in English. His perception was he needed to learn a lot of language, he needed to learn a lot of grammar. My perception was that he needed  to become more confident when he spoke, to better get across his messages etc. And it was difficult to persuade him of this and I wasn’t entirely successful.
T.I. How did you manage ?
J.C.  It is always a compromise. To some extent I allowed him to follow his way of learning, not way of learning, but his expectations of what learning a language is about, because he was in his fifties. It is very difficult to change someone’s mind or approach at that stage, but on the other hand I tried to show him how everything that we did, however grammatical it was, had an application and could be put to practice in real situations such as on  the telephone or  writing an e-mail.
T.I. This  morning you gave us a very interesting exercise on teacher’s roles: a manager, a decision-maker, evaluator, etc. And you asked us to say which are most comfortable and most uncomfortable for us. And what about you?
J.C. Most uncomfortable is that many of us once had, which is  friend. I think it is very interesting because when I started teaching, I think that I did make friends with  a lot of the students that I taught and the relationship I had and the success of teaching was partly related to that friendship, that increasingly, you know, as you teach more and more people it is not realistic for you to continue to make friends with all your students. You do get  a certain amount of distance and I now find it easier to relate to students without becoming their friend. But of course  on rare occasions that is not true and I do make  some very good friends, but as a rule, I don’t. And  as for the most comfortable role I would say as a facilitator, someone who facilitates learning, that ‘s what I would like to think I did.
T.I. What do you think about our residential course in terms of cultural differences, food etc.?
J.C.  I was delighted actually, because I’ve been to St. Petersburg a couple of times before and done courses, but in the city centre and this course was run out in the country,  on a lovely lake in the forest, about two hours from St. Petersburg. So I was very pleasantly surprised by this residential centre, very good facilities, the weather’s been great, it’s been a nice place to be. And the meals are certainly different, generally good, the thing that’s struck me was the quantity of food, you know, quite a big breakfast, very big lunch, very big dinner. Seems that we are expected to eat much more than I really eat in Britain.
T.I. Speaking about St. Petersburg, what is your most pleasant and most unpleasant impression?
J.C. Pleasant impression is that it is such a beautiful city. The last time I was in St. Petersburg I stayed in the hotel St. Petersburg, just opposite is the battleship Aurora and every morning at eight o’clock there was a bugler who played on the ship and that was really nice and really romantic thing to look out to,  to see that and to listen to that. Unpleasant thing, I guess I have to say that, is the fact that there are a lot of prostitutes in hotels, if you stay in a hotel that’s quite off-putting. Besides, it was difficult to find somewhere a medium priced and local to eat. If you are in St. Petersburg, it seems to me, maybe  I’m wrong,  that there are a lot of international type hotels to eat in, but if you wanted to eat something ethnic, sort of something Russian in a nice restaurant, small or medium size restaurant, not too expensive, it is very difficult to find.
T.I. What would you like to wish to our association, to the teachers of Russia?
J.C. I hope that you continue to be as enthusiastic as the teachers I’ve come across, that you don’t become as cynical as some of us, teachers in the West. And obviously I hope very much for you that your working conditions get better, because I know that at the moment they are still quite tough.
T.I.  Thank you very much.