TESOL for Russian business clients

During the first semester of my online MA in Applied Linguistics with TESOL, I took two modules. The second of these was on Second Language Teaching.

This covered the various teaching approaches which have been used for teaching second languages, both historically and currently. At present, most English Language schools favour the Communicative approach, but there are of course others.

For my assignment, I decided to address the question: “How can theory help a teacher to provide appropriate teaching to high-level corporate students in Russia? Could this approach be useful elsewhere?”

This covered a wide range of topics. It involved reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of a number of teaching approaches, including Task-Based, Process-Based, Dogme, etc.

However, the choice of an appropriate teaching method depends very much on the needs of the students. I do not believe that one size fits all in teaching, and particularly in teaching English. I can’t help but feel that the literature on language teaching and theory has a tendency to focus on what academics feel is ‘best’, without considering that the students have views of their own – and that they usually have alternative schools to go to if they don’t like a particular school’s teaching methodology.

Students are thus not only language learners, they are also customers, and this has to be taken into account. Of course, a language school offering mass-market general English classes will probably not have the luxury of offering anything other than communicative, textbook-based courses – but schools and teachers working with higher-value clients must address this.

Since I have an MBA and a background as a lecturer in Strategic Management and Marketing, I approached this topic from a Services Marketing viewpoint, using the 7-point Services Marketing Mix, and SERVQUAL tools.

I also needed to understand the target market, which in this case is the Russian corporate market – one in which I have worked in the past, and hope to work in in the future. For this, I surveyed the academic literature to understand both the teaching of English in the Russian education sector, as well as the available literature on corporate culture in Russia, the needs and motivations of Russian professionals, and so on.

I was very pleased with the outcome, in which I was able to identify several different teaching approaches as being preferable for various different scenarios. My assignment as submitted was really too heavy on business theory for a module on language teaching, but I also explored the theory on teaching thoroughly, and learned a great deal from it. The grade awarded was respectable, though not brilliant, reflecting the paper’s hybrid nature. However, the point of doing the course is to acquire useful understanding and actionable knowledge, which I most certainly did in this module – and that’s more important than the grade.

Image credits: Wolfvision Corporate Application by WolfVision GmbH on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons licence.

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