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- What made you decide to become an English Teacher in general, and what drew you to Business English in particular?
I had a tough choice. I literally enjoyed all school subjects: IT and Maths, Physics and Biology, French and English. I decided to deepen my knowledge in each rather than to specialize in one. Therefore, my choice was a BA degree in English/Ukrainian Linguistics and later an MA degree in Pedagogy for Universities with a focus on Methodology in ESP (English for Special Purposes) for Technical Specialties. It gave me the fantastic privilege to teach English and Communication to specialists in all those domains of knowledge and to learn from them all the updates, advances and business cases in each sphere.
My first real job was teaching English for nine years at a tech university: PSACEA (Prydniprovska State Academy of Civil Engineering and Architecture). My first groups were International Economics and Architecture students, so we quickly switched into Business English, then later into ESP and Academic English. I enjoyed the way case-study and skills-oriented blended approaches taught communication strategies rather than endless vocabulary and grammar, so very soon I started teaching as a corporate teacher for IT companies. Business English was exactly what satisfied their professional needs, and it was a win-win strategy for me to have such a rewarding and results-oriented job and to enjoy all the pleasure of teaching and self-development.
- What do you think is either the greatest challenge or greatest opportunity for Business English teaching and consulting today?
To me, that’s two sides of the same coin. Staying up to date within diverse domains is tough and requires constant and sincere curiosity, but it provides enormous advantages as well. Teaching English business communication to an architect studio co-owner and to the CMO of an IoT (Internet of Things) company, then later to the top manager of an international pharmaceutical company, followed by a team of talent acquisition managers and finalizing the day with 20 back-end or full-stack developers does require a whole lot of erudition and professionalism. However, not only does it keep my mental capacity and memory fit and flexible, it also rewards me with first-hand, unique cases from corporate culture and communication within various companies from start-ups to corporations. This allows my students to benefit from peer experience and interdisciplinary vision, from the latest global analytic reports to expert interviews from the business world.
- Your bio mentions that you taught English for IT, International Economics, Architecture and Applied Engineering students. Did you have any background in those subjects, and if not, what did you do to inform yourself about the vocabulary that these students would need?
At PSACEA our department enjoyed teaching General English and French, followed by ESP and Academic Writing and Presentation within the international academic project along with a team of professors from each of those specialized departments. Therefore, the language teachers had great guidance and cooperation; we created the curricula together, trying to achieve specific goals for each specialization and ultimately to prepare students for academic mobility with our international partners, thereby subsequently contributing to Ukrainian or international industry.
We had such a motivated staff of about 30 teachers and taught in pairs in the same groups, often discussing new, successful ideas for vocabulary training or debates, using communicative approaches and case studies, and introducing podcasts into the learning process. As specific industry ESP teaching materials didn’t exist at the time, we would bring the best books from our trips, google news and interviews, and share them, thereby creating our own teaching materials, methodology, tricks and manuals. It was a great time of creativity, collaboration and learning from each other.
- It looks like you have taught academically and in companies. Which do you prefer and why?
True, my academic experience accounts for 13 years altogether at two universities: nine years at PSACEA, a tech university in Dnipro, and four years in the Linguistics & Typology department at KUBG, a classic university in Kyiv. My corporate and freelance experience is around 11 years for companies (mostly IT and HR) and for an IT education centre. Both sectors gave me the feeling that I can make a difference here and now; I can help these particular people improve their communication skills and attain higher goals quicker.
I enjoy giving students and customers the security to look beyond any barrier or frontier, and the skills to build up to get whatever they may wish for. I enjoy group dynamics, cooperation in class, and teaching students to help each other and to use their peers to learn to communicate and raise their EQ (emotional quotient). It is amazing how close building a business team is to building efficient group dynamics in an academic group.
- How do you adjust your methods for tutoring or teaching online vs face-to-face?
It’s been five or six years since I had to adapt to online teaching. My teaching methods have improved by creating and using more personalized and accessible digital materials. I can only see the benefits of these adjustments:
- better scheduling for any timezone and availability
- no classes lost during business travel
- no exhausting commute whatsoever (either for me or for the customer)
- all the materials are handy in one personalized Google Drive folder
- fewer print-outs and a much more sustainable use of paper (!)
- none of the home tasks are lost (all are here and checked-out)
- more useful links shared both ways in a personal chat
What’s more, I normally write the stronger words and phrases (while speaking) in the Messenger chat so students can revise the key vocab in an instant before the class, or a check on and look up any phrase wherever they are.
- Why is intercultural communication such an important aspect to include in our classes nowadays?
Coming from a closed city of Soviet space research, I often contemplate how sad it is that instead of intercultural case studies and rules to follow to be safe, we had tons of stereotypes and us-vs-them prejudgement, eventually raising cultural misunderstanding and shock when speaking to a foreigner. As the first generation privileged to travel abroad during university years, my first international experiences were with the native speakers coming to Dnipro to teach, and while I was taking summer courses in Macedonia, France, and Italy. As I was diving into the culture of cheese or pizza, pairing champagne with harsh political views, I was hitting the rocks of misunderstandings and stereotypes.
The culture studies from the Market Leader [Business English coursebooks– Ed.] back in 2008 were a fresh breath of understanding in terms of what people expect from you interculturally and why. Having done lots of research on attitudes to time/power/future/seniors, I created my first flip-lecture and case study for an Intercultural Communication course for the International Economics MA students going to study a semester abroad to prevent them from making painful but obvious mistakes. Now business is as international as ever, but the era of bitter-smile tolerance to intercultural mistakes is gone. With all the online courses, internationalization and exchange programs–whether it is a job interview or establishing contact with prospective partners, presenting your start-up or a final round of negotiations–we now have no excuses to say: nobody taught me that. The price for incompetence is just too high.
- You recently moved to Berlin. How does the teaching context here compare with that in Ukraine?
It’s been a year since we moved to Berlin and I missed the group dynamics so much while settling down and looking for classes to teach. However, once I got a Childhood Education and Management group at the EBC Hochschule, I dived immediately into teaching Professional English–a new specialty for me. I had more time to prepare, so I invented and tried out some new approaches of how to create real-world scenarios for them. And I am going to share my findings and discuss similar experiences during the August ELTABB Staffroom workshop, so come along!
Overall, freelance teaching for a university course was a completely new experience for me, as back in Ukraine we had a staff room to discuss and share ideas, create curricula, align our vision and measure the results with a board of teachers during exams. This come-and-go approach is more corporate-like to me: even more responsibility for the result on the teacher’s shoulders and ever more liberty in what and how to teach.
What is more, the teaching community of ELTABB in Berlin is something unexpected but so inspiring and supportive; I felt so welcome here (huge thanks to Mandy, Galina and Evan!) and participated in most professional development workshops and events, ranging from moderating the online BESIG conference in June to most surprisingly a wine tasting along with other teachers (thanks, Sean!).
- Question from Mandy: What motivated you to pursue the particular Ph.D. topic you chose?
Well, that’s a great question and a hard one. I have always been convinced that one should only spend three to four years of their life doing a Ph.D. if it has a mix of three things: it’s a true vocation-based topic; it has a helpful and leading supervisor; and if one has enough inner resources to combine it with full-time work. Language Democratization is the whole universe of neologisms, jargon, borrowed lexis, specific formatives and weird transcription that boomed with Web 2.0, when every user was suddenly granted the right to create and publish new words and forms online. To study those patterns and cases along with my supervisor was a genuine pleasure. I did the concept and discourse analysis to find out what ‘democratization’ actually means as a term in order to introduce it into linguistics.
- Who would you like to nominate as Eltabber of the month and what question would you like to ask them?
I would like to nominate Shaun Trezise to be the next ELTABBer of the month and the question is: what has been ELTABB’s most fun and effective workshop for you?
Edited by Stephanie Anderson