Learning a foreign language can be very beneficial for your career, and there are lots of places to learn them in Russia’s capital city. The variety of courses taught is vast, and it is best to be informed about them before you make a choice. The Leader’s Yulia Molodtsova investigates how to go about learning a second language and gives you some pointers for selecting a good course.
Where can you learn a foreign language? This is a question often asked and often answered and then asked again. The reason for it being so frequent is the fact that a foreign language can’t be learned once and for all. Any language is a whimsical creature that requires patience and revision to keep abreast of. Moscow offers many opportunities of using both while learning a foreign language.
You can improve your language skills or learn a new language at various language courses. Such courses are in good demand now due to the following distinctive features: the groups are usually small; one can easily determine and study at an appropriate level; the program and methods can be chosen according to your purposes (going on a business, tourist trips, exchanging e-mails, receiving phone calls and many others).
The first objective for anyone eager to take language courses is to find information on them. Among several sources of such information are magazines on language education or newspapers with educational sections and advertisements, the Internet and friends.
There are also special directories and business guides that give you the list of existing schools and short description of the services.
Internet would be helpful in comparing information about schools and courses you have heard of before (read about in the newspaper, magazine or directory). Language schools’ Internet sites usually provide you with some of the school’s history, methods, prices, schedules, levels, and additional services.
Friends’ advice is the most popular way of receiving verified, though sometimes, partial information. Natalya Korepanova, a representative of the Association of Educational Projects in the field of studying Foreign Languages, which incorporates such schools as BKC (BKC-Global), Lingua.ru and Linguist, said that a friends’ recommendation usually brings almost half of the students to schools. Lyudmila Shichkina, a representative of Express-L, advised those who are hesitant about language courses to visit the exhibitions and fairs on foreign languages, careers and education that take place two to five times a year. There are usually free sample entrance tests, discounts and contests at such events.
Once you have looked through most of the information about the existing schools, start the process of making your choice.
Every school provides you with free, compulsory entrance testing. However, despite a common stereotype, this testing is not a selective measure but an instrument to determine your genuine language level, so as to place you with the most appropriate group. The tests usually consist of multiple-choice and oral-interview parts. Svetlana Posnova, a representative of the American Academy of Foreign Languages, said that oral interviews are more useful if native speakers do them. Every school has its own scale and questions, but the purpose overall is to get an idea of the student’s present level of language proficiency and language-communication skills.
Some schools offer trial lessons, some not. If there are no free trial lessons in the school, there is usually the possibility of paying for one or two or withdrawing your money at any point.
Most of the language courses use a communicative approach to teaching. Tatyana Dandarova, a representative of English First, asserted that for a student the ability to communicate and use foreign language in practice is more important than learning a set of grammatical rules. The teachers’ goal is to help with breaking the language barrier during the first lessons and make students equal participants. Yelena Vladychenko, from Businesslingua, said traditional methods based on a conscious approach to learning foreign languages have their own advantages. Many people are interested in full understanding of the subject, and an equal proportion of grammar and speaking practice is essential for them to master languages. To improve students’ communication skills, schools extend the learning process by introducing additional events: clubs, holidays and summer courses.
For example, English First conducts soccer matches for the students of different affiliates and organizes language camps. BKC organizes country-study and language contests (one of the prizes was a two-week trip to Ireland). Language Link teachers organize special trips and excursions, holiday parties and plays. The American Academy of Foreign Languages offers summer courses and a "round table of intelligent people speaking the language of current events and global business." Express-L also gives the opportunity to visit business clubs on Saturdays. Businesslingua celebrates national and foreign holidays.
Some of the other frequent questions about language courses are the length of a lesson, possibilities of receiving a certificate, prices, offers of rare and exotic language studies, qualification of teachers and possibility of getting prepared for different world-recognized certificate examinations.
Summarizing the answers of course representatives, we arrive at the following:
The average length of a lesson is two to three academic hours (one academic hour is 45 minutes). The length depends on the age and level of students; in smaller groups and individual courses it depends on the desires of the students.
All language schools guarantee acquisition of the certificate of attendance. Some schools and courses give you a certificate attesting to your level of proficiency. (This is the question to ask in the very beginning of your choosing process.)
Course prices are usually based on the number of students in the class, teachers (Russian or native speakers), the time of the class and the language and type of course being taught. Discounts are often available.
You won’t find rare and exotic language courses in most of the schools. The choice of languages is usually based on demand. Currently, most of the schools provide English, German and French. There has been a rise of interest in Spanish and Italian recently. Some schools specialize in English. Again, you are sure to find out information on languages offered and the possibility of studying for certificates on the school’s Internet site.
In conclusion, it is necessary to break a couple of stereotypes that were brought up by school representatives.
In the past there, were several cases when many native speakers who were teaching didn’t have the relevant education, and that undermined their authority as foreign-language teachers. Today, every school’s recruitment policy is designed to prevent such incidents. Russian teachers and native speakers are selected and recruited according to university training, experience, references, motivation and enthusiasm. Some schools provide special training for teachers.
Also, lower prices do not always indicate lower quality. As stated above, a wide range of factors determines the price, and you can always find a suitable rate.