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How to choose a freelance language teacher

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This is the time of year when many of you might be considering hiring language teachers for yourself or your children. It makes a lot of sense to cut out the middleman (a language school) and hire a freelance or a self-employed teacher directly. But if you decide to do that, you might find yourself browsing through tens of profiles a day and still unable to make a choice. In this post, I want to outline several aspects you might want to pay attention to when looking for a freelance language teacher.

Degree
A degree in teaching is not a 100% guarantee of good quality teaching, but it definitely helps. People who get a degree in language teaching do not only study the language in-depth, they also study teaching principles and methods. It is, of course, possible but less likely that a person with a degree in engineering will make a great language teacher. They might be a proficient or a native language speaker, but they simply might not know how to help you learn the language.

Experienc…

Fulbright FLTA memories. Part 2. Translating Dovlatov back into Russian with my American students.

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What I want to share in this post was probably my favorite part of my teaching Russian as a foreign language experience, which was teaching language with the help of literature (or is it literature with the help of language?).
In the second semester, the Russian teacher at UNH, Daria Kirjanov, taught a course called, “Stories of Displaced Lives: Russian and Eastern European Memoirs of Exile.” As part of this course, the students of Russian were supposed to attend a language lab class, the purpose of which was reading some of the course materials in the original. I got my own language lab class with three beginner level students. The beauty part was I didn’t have a rigid program to follow and had the freedom to create my own materials.

Talking about Dovlatov in this kind of course was absolutely inevitable. But his works came later in the semester. What we started from was Silver Age poetry. Since my students had only been learning Russian for 5 months, we started from the easiest a…

Fulbright FLTA memories. Part 1. Teaching Russian from scratch: my proudest achievement.

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I am a teacher of English as a foreign language, but last year, thanks to the Fulbright FLTA program, I got an incredible opportunity to teach Russian as a foreign language at the University of New Haven (CT, USA). In this post, I want to share a tiny portion of this experience.
When you win a Fulbright FLTA grant, you don’t get to choose your host institution or your duties there. The only thing you can do is accept or decline the grant offer (but why on earth would you do that?). I got an offer from the University of New Haven and happily accepted. According to my terms of appointment, I was going to be a primary teacher for beginner level students.

Truth be told, teaching beginners was the last thing I wanted to do. In my defense, I just didn’t know how rewarding it would be because I had never taught beginners in my entire life. Anyway, I went through with it and I don’t regret it for a minute.

When I say beginners, I mean absolute beginners - people who literally knew zero Russ…

Verbs worth spreading or how I work with TED talks

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I have inexplicably taken a special liking to verbs recently. What’s inexplicable is why recently. Verbs are a powerful part of speech and deserve special attention. In this post, I want to show how I bring powerful verbs to my students’ attention with the help of TED talks.

Verbs are one of the reasons why English is so easy to start speaking. I am talking about basic verbs, like do / get / have / make. You can often substitute any verb with one of these and construct a correct, meaningful sentence. However, as you move along in mastering the language, these verbs turn into an obstacle. Because you can express almost anything using the basic ones, your brain resists using any others. These are, after all, correct. As a result, you get trapped - you want to progress to the next level, but your language lacks any verbal variety whatsoever and sounds disappointingly simple.

But enough chit-chat. Let’s see some powerful verbs in action.

I work with TED talks a lot. I work with advance…

The phone that transformed the way I work

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I used to be very old-school. I used to own phones that could only make calls and send messages. I used to think that smartphones were just toys. That was until January 2017, when I got a new phone - a smartphone, which has completely transformed the way I work. Please give it up for my current phone - BlackBerry PRIV!

What has changed?

First and foremost, PRIV comes with a physical keyboard, thanks to which I have started writing consistently. The physical keyboard, which is a full QWERTY keyboard, is so convenient that I can easily type long texts. I have never written so much in my entire life, even though I have a blog which dates back to May 2013. Writing used to require a lot of discipline because I had to sit in front of the computer and focus. I now enjoy the freedom of writing in any place and at any time - on the metro (sitting at off-peak times or standing in the rush hour), at an airport (killing time waiting for my flight), on the plane (when there is absolutely nothing …

Proudly presenting my student’s essay

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Remember last week I wrote a post about how I tried walking in my student’s shoes and wrote an essay I gave him for homework? Well, the student did his homework (which I didn’t have a shadow of a doubt he would). In this post, I want to share it with you.

First, let me introduce the student. His name is Nikita Videnkov, he is a 21-year old engineering student, who has been having one-to-one classes with me for about 3-4 years. His primary purpose is to improve his language skills, but he is also thinking of taking IELTS, so we do IELTS-format tasks on a regular basis.

Second, to those of you who aren’t my students I have to explain that my homework worded “write an essay” is usually followed by homework worded “rewrite your essay.” I believe that writing is 90% rewriting and make my students rewrite their work.

Third, let me give you some context. We were discussing the article called “Phoney war” (New Scientist, 25 January 2017), which deals with end-to-end encryption and its i…

I try walking in my student’s shoes and write an essay I gave him for homework

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I have a question to all the teachers out there - how often do you write essays in English? I mean essays in IELTS / TOEFL / GRE or any similar format. (Please message me - I’d love some kind of statistics). I have to confess, I don’t*. But I make my students write a lot. Which might be a little unfair, don’t you think?

That’s what I thought when I was on a bus from my home town back to St Petersburg yesterday (a 4-hour journey). I had nothing to do, so my mind began to wander until suddenly it stumbled upon the essay topic I gave my student on Thursday.

We were discussing the article called “Phoney War” (New Scientist, 25 January 2017). The article deals with the questions of end-to-end encryption and its importance in the ‘privacy of communications vs. public security’ debate. As a follow-up task, I came up with an essay topic for my student (a very diligent, Advanced level student who is going to take IELTS in the future).

Anyway, my mind stumbled upon this topic and started workin…