Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Confessions of self-employed English teachers

Image
My fellow Fulbrighter and a wonderful English teacher Maria Merziapova, when she moved to Moscow was so appalled by the mess that is going on in language schools that she is thinking of going freelance. I’ve been self-employed for several years now, so Maria kept interrogating me about this career path. I decided to take it two steps further: to address her questions and fears in a public post and to invite my amazing colleague Sandra Slivinskaya to join me. Sandra and I wrote our answers completely independently to provide two perspectives.

Part 1. My questions.1. How did you make the decision to leave a steady job and work on your own? Irina
I didn't really make this decision. It was a series of small decisions. It always made more sense financially to have my own students rather than work for someone else. At one point I had a full schedule as a self-employed teacher and didn’t need a school.

Sandra
Well, first of all, after my graduation as a linguist-interpreter, I have nev…

How to ace your Fulbright interview

Image
Aspiring Fulbrighters have recently received good tidings that they have made it to the second round, the most important and stressful part of which is the interview. So I've decided to put together a list of the most helpful interview tips and asked my fellow Fulbrighter Maria Merziapova to join me. We wrote our top tips completely independently so that you could have two different perspectives.

Top tips by Irina Lutsenko(Fulbright FLTA, 2015-2016, University of New Haven, Connecticut) #1 Be ready to talk about your application, job/studies, program participation, and plans for the future.
To be able to do that:
- Read your application again. Chances are you wrote it 3-5 months ago. Trying to remember what you wrote during the interview is a bad idea.
- Talk to Fulbright alumni or watch/read about their experience. You will get a better understanding of what the interviewers might be looking for.
- Google typical university or even job application questions. These bog standard, …

Don't judge Abook

Image
I am itching to share a story written by Lyudmila Snezhanova in my Creative Writing Club, which is a project for people who share my passion for writing. Lyudmila wrote an incredible piece based on a highly challenging prompt:

✦ Choose one of the following idioms and include it in a story that also includes a literal use of one of the figurative words in the idiom. For example, if I were to choose the phrase “at the drop of a hat,” I would also include a hat or someone dropping something.
- at the drop of a hat
- hit the sack
- judge a book by its cover
- beat around the bush
- steal [someone’s] thunder
- the last straw. ✦
Below is her wonderfully-crafted story with all of these idioms in their literal and figurative meaning! Enjoy! 
✽✽✽ Don't judge Abook“Yes,” said Perry Stalker, gripping his new suspenders, slipping from his stomach, and regretting he had feasted on smoked bream and a six pack of beer last weekend. "With our stainless reputation of the best private bo…

Text. Lexically.

Image
This is a guest post by Alisa Chernikova, my student and an English teacher. The post is about working with text and is the third in a series Reflections on "Lexical Grammar" (a book by Leo Selivan). Follow the links to read the previous two: 1. Chunks and collocations; 2. Grammar acquisition.

The post contains lots of practical activities we did in class. Alisa dug out some activities I had created long ago and had totally forgotten about. But it turns out I've been following the lexical grammar approach for years without even realizing it. You can give these activities a shot too, btw. The key is at the end of the post.   


So we’ve been talking about the lexical approach and lexical grammar in particular. By now we know that chunks and collocations are important both in terms of boosting grammar and vocabulary acquisition. Today let’s have a look at how we can work with text.

According to the author, texts are most usually used for the purposes of reading comprehensio…

Computer-delivered IELTS: totally worth it

Image
This post is an interview with Liubov Vlasova, who is my first student to have taken the computer-delivered IELTS. In this interview, she shares her impressions and the reasons behind her choice.
1 Tell my readers a bit about yourself. My name is Liubov Vlasova. I am an ecologist from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Today I want to share my experience of taking computer-delivered IELTS, which happened on 7th of May.

A couple of months ago I took a very important decision to try to emigrate abroad. I think my professional area is very important today because our environment was totally destroyed the last years, and I hope one day I will do really useful and important job for improving the current situation. According to the media, in foreign countries environmental and particularly ecological engineering are very important and popular branches, which is why I decided to move abroad for achieving my professional and personal goals.
2 Why did you decide to take IELTS? Initially, I found out t…

Soft skills as a survival tool in the 21st century

Image
This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Vera Novikova. The post is inspired by Philip Warwick’s talk at the NATE conference in St Pete.
In this post I would like to share some concerns regarding future employability of millennia generation and a shifting role of an English teacher in particular.

Being a devoted sci-fi fan I have to admit that up until recently ideas of a fully automated world seemed rather futuristic and somewhat improbable. Up until recently… when I realized that certain sci-fi future elements have already been here for some time.

Most people have already turned into some sort of cyborgs, using their smartphones as an extra part of their body. We have been glued to the screen, scrolling down in social networks, streaming videos, exchanging photos and news, jotting down memos, video phoning, e-buying, reading e-books, blogging, plunging into virtual reality and what not. We have turned into digital residents leaving visible digital footprints whenever we po…

Five underestimated words on IELTS assessment criteria (and then some)

Image
IELTS assessment criteria, which are available on the official website, are drowning in myths and stereotypes. When interpreted unprofessionally, they get totally distorted. Some aspects get blown out of proportion and enter the popular consciousness, while others get totally neglected. In this post, I want to look at the ones that are usually overlooked, focusing on bands 7-9.

First things first, here are the links to the public version of the assessment criteria:
- Speaking;  - Writing Task 1; - Writing Task 2.  1. Skillfully
2. Naturally  Speaking. Lexical resource 8-9:  - uses less common and idiomatic vocabulary skillfully, with occasional inaccuracies (8);
- uses idiomatic language naturally and accurately (9).

For some reason people focus on “idiomatic” and totally ignore “skillfully/naturally.” This results in students memorizing insane lists of idioms and bending over backwards to use them. For one thing, vocabulary memorized without any context or real usage tends to go out t…

Living in a country whose language you don't speak

Image
This post is an interview with my awesome friend Petr Filippov who lives in Zurich, Switzerland, where he works for Google. He is fluent in English, but doesn't speak a word of German. In this interview he talks about living in a country whose language he doesn't speak.

This is my second interview with Petr. Follow this link to read our first interview in which he talks about his experience of living in Ireland and gives advice on learning English.

1 Tell my readers a bit about yourself. I am software engineer from Russia. I moved to Ireland about 3 years ago, when got a job in Microsoft. Ireland is nice place to live, but when I decided to change my job, it turned out that Google doesn't have SWE vacancies in Dublin, so I had to move. Finally I moved to Zurich at the beginning of December 2018.
2 Were you nervous about moving to a German-speaking country? Not so much, but I considered it as a disadvantage when had thoughts about the step. I am not extrovert, and living …

Insights into the Fulbright FLTA application process

Image
The competition for the Fulbright FLTA program is currently in progress. As a proud participant, I’ve written extensively about my experience (see the links at the end of the post). But I realized that one important piece of the puzzle was missing, so I decided to add that piece. In this post, I want to describe what happens before the program starts and give some recommendations on what to do along the way.

Disclaimer: This post is based on my Fulbright FLTA experience (2015-16). I suspect the process is more or less the same every year, but please always check everything with official sources and program officers.
Application So the competition has been announced. The deadline is on 1 June. It might look like plenty of time, but if there is one single most important tip I can give it is: start preparing now.

The first step is writing essays. I wrote three:
Objectives and motivations (1274 words);
Sharing your culture (924 words);
Teaching language of nomination (463 words).

My firs…

Why I love my yoga teacher

Image
Teachers are the worst students. They judge, question, and find faults. Whenever I'm taught, I do too. I'm also choosy and I have high standards. It's hard to win me over as a student. Not impossible though. In this post, I want to share why I like my yoga teacher.
1. Her class is one continuous flow. The class is one long uninterrupted exercise. She always knows what to do next. I take it as a sign of confidence and experience. The reason I value it is it allows me to stay fully focused for 90 minutes.
2. The exercises are in the right order. I actually don’t know the right order, but even to me the order makes sense. There is always a warm-up and a cool-down. Some exercises are meant to prepare us for other, more complicated exercises later in class. The difficulty of exercises grows gradually. This is how any learning works. This is also the reason the class is easy to survive.
3. Her instructions are clear and meticulous. Instructions in yoga are particularly vital …

Use it or lose it. On forgetting vocabulary.

Image
Tell me if it sounds familiar: “There must be something wrong with me. I must have Alzheimer's. I forget vocabulary!” I hear something like that on a regular basis. Unfortunately, vocabulary is not learnt once and for all. It’s normal to forget it. In this post, I want to talk about how not to. The post is aimed at high level learners whose vocabulary is large, but they feel like they are losing it.

My strong recommendation is: always assume you might forget any vocabulary at any time. With this in mind, take the steps below to prevent vocabulary loss.
Part 1. Lay the groundwork. Step 1. Record the word. Write it down in your notebook or on an old receipt. Type it. Repeat the word out loud five times. Record the word in some form. If you don’t, consider it gone.
Step 2. Explore the word. A. When I said, “Record the word,” I actually meant, “Record the whole phrase or sentence that the word was used in.” The words around your target word will help you recall it when you need it.

Cracking Britain. Part 2.

Image
This is Part 2 of Olesya Komarova's guest post about travelling in Britain on a tight budget.

It is the second part of a story on how to make your dream trip come at a dream price and not only in your dreams. In part 1 I told about my Wwoofing experience and some hidden gems of Somerset, in this part we’ll get across the whole island from the very South to the North.

As if amending for the hideous amount of tourists, August in GB repays with warm pleasant weather, becoming the only month for beach season. Yes, they put up tents on the beaches because of the never-ending wind. Yes, the water is bitter cold and you WON’T get used to it. Still, English coastline has some magnificent charm that captures you for good.


It was supposed to be a direct trip from Bristol to Swanage - a tiny scenic sea-town I learned about by hanging on Airbnb. Then it turned out you need to make two changes for a ferry to get there. Also, just in the middle of the route was Salisbury with its splendorous cat…