The challenges of teaching software developers

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love teaching software developers. They are smart, kind, and have a great sense of humor. But there are certain challenges to teaching them. In this post, I want to talk about these challenges and provide some ways of dealing with them.
1. Their English level is a mess. Level placement is a challenge. There is usually a huge discrepancy between their productive (e.g. speaking) and receptive (e.g. reading) skills. If you choose an Intermediate coursebook, you may soon start doubting your choice because even though the grammar is a perfect match, the reading/listening materials are too simple and uninspiring.

This issue can be fixed by substituting or supplementing the materials in the book with the articles/videos in the original.
2. They are extremely smart. I mean, extraordinarily smart, which can play both ways. On the one hand, you don’t need to explain things too much. All they need is a concise and precise explanation. On the other hand, due to…

An interview with a Russian software engineer working in Ireland

This post is an interview with my awesome friend Petr Filippov, who lives and works in Ireland. He talks about his experience of living in an English-speaking country and gives some tips on learning English.
1 Tell my readers a bit about yourself. I am software engineer. About two years ago I moved to Ireland from St Petersburg when got an offer from Microsoft.
2 Do you like living in Ireland? Yes, I do. It became better after I started to explore it - travel around my home area and to the other parts of Ireland, started to pay more attention to the things around me and enjoy the nature, like Dublin mountain which is just behind my house.

But there are a lot of things that might annoy you first time. Left side driving, housing problems and long term rent contracts. The rent prices itself - I was really surprised when realized that it will cost about half of my monthly salary to rent an apartment here.
3 Tell my readers about your background in learning English. I studied English in sc…

Assess my C2 Proficiency essay. Please.

I’ve always been curious to find out one thing. If a person has excellent English, can they write an excellent exam essay based on the instructions only, without any preparation? They should be able to, right?

I’ve decided to do an experiment on myself. My IELTS score is 9. I am toying with the idea of taking C2 Proficiency (formerly known as CPE). I have written a Part 1 essay based on the instructions only, without reading any tips, explanations, or model answers. In this post, I want to share my essay, and I am inviting everyone to assess it.

Here is the task (taken from the official website):

Part 1 Read the two texts below.
Write an essay summarising and evaluating the key points from both texts. Use your own words
throughout as far as possible, and include your own ideas in your answers.
Write your answer in 240 – 280 words.

The Excitement of Advertising Outdoor advertising has to attract, engage and persuade potential customers; it is the most important way of grabbing custom…

8 professional growth ideas for English teachers

In June, I attended and was a speaker at a summer school in St Pete organized by Живой Английский. I talked about professional growth ideas for English teachers. In this post, I want to summarize my speech and give some useful links. If you are a learner, don’t stop reading - some ideas suit you too!
1. Language exams: IELTS, TOEFL, C1 Advanced / C2 Proficiency I am one of those teachers who take international exams on a regular basis. Taking international exams is a great way to grow for several reasons.

First, you get an objective assessment of your language level. Sadly, our level is not always as high as we think it is, and some skills might be lacking. Language exams paint a clear picture. If you are aware of your weaknesses, exams are a good improvement tool because they force you to work towards a measurable, time-bound goal. Even if your English is impeccable, exam preparation is still useful because it never hurts to brush up on your skills.

Last but not least, you can expa…

“Introduction to public speaking” I designed and taught

Always do what you are afraid to do. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Like most people, I am afraid of public speaking. I don’t know about most people, but my fear caused me to take public speaking courses. I took one online at and two at University of New Haven as part of my Fulbright FLTA program. Inspired by the courses I have taken, I designed and taught my own "Introduction to public speaking" course. In this post, I want to describe my course and share three incredible speeches made by my students.

The participants of the course were nine brave advanced learners of English. The course consisted of 6 classes meeting weekly from 17 March to 21 April. The participants had to make a speech each class. All the speeches had to be prepared at home.
Class 1. Introductory speech. This speech was self-explanatory - people had to introduce themselves. My main goal was to let people get the taste of speaking in front of an audience. I also wanted them to meet each other. The particip…

A step-by-step guide to IELTS line graphs

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 poses the biggest difficulty to everyone, including those who have excellent English skills. The reason might be that most people don’t often describe graphs in English or even in their native language. I know all the test takers want a simple model to follow. More often than not, they go online and end up trying to follow questionable models. I want to put a stop to this. In this post, I want to share my sample answer and my six-step guide to describing IELTS line graphs.

While I believe my guide is a good model to follow, you have to keep in mind that:
1) This is one possible approach, not the only one possible approach;
2) Each line graph is different, so the approach might have to be modified for some line graphs;
3) My overall IELTS score is 9, but my writing score is only 8.5, so my sample answer might not be perfect.

Here is the task and the line graph I will be describing:

The graph below shows the consumption of fish and some different…

Do you really need grit?

I am thrilled to present a guest post by my student Alisa Chernikova. In this post, she talks about determination to succeed and recommends three great books that will help you get started on your success journey. The post was inspired by the TED talk we watched in class "Grit: The power of passion and perseverance." You, in turn, will be inspired by the post.

Macmillan dictionary defines grit as ‘determination to succeed, even in very difficult situations’. Before we dive deeper into how and why, let me ask you this question: Do people really need grit?Personally, I would go with yes. Still, some might say: “Just find your passion in life, and you won’t ever need to bother yourself with such things as grit in the first place!” But in my experience, it’s not that simple. No matter how much you like what you do, you need to be able to do it well. You need to be passionate, perseverant, strong. You need to be gritty!

So how does one become gritty? I assume there’s no universal…