If you need to study German or Russian to help with your career growth, to study/work abroad, for language tests, for upcoming business trips, or just for your personal satisfaction, then it would be my pleasure to embark on that journey with you. For me, each new student’s enthusiasm is a source of inspiration that propels me to new heights.
I am a professional teacher of German, having received an M.A . in teaching German as a foreign language one of Russia’s top-notch linguistics universities and research centers in 1993. My specialty is teaching German and English as a second language, and in 1994 I underwent training to teach Russian as a second language.
Over my more than 20 years in teaching, I have trained people of all stripes for all kinds of personal goals: to improve their grades at school, to pass university entrance exams, to help American-born kids return to their roots, or just to boost their self-confidence.
My teaching approach is comprehensive, and includes all the components of language: phonetics (working on correct pronunciation), grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, reading, speaking fluently without a script.
Preparing for foreign language tests such as the DaF (for admittance to German universities) or for Russian tests at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow involves work that I place in its own category. I am very proud of all my students who successfully passed their entrance examinations. The cornerstone of my impressive success rate lies in the fact that, during this stage, besides working on language training, I pay special attention to both the psychological preparation and the time management skills that are needed to pass. This is based on my own personal experience as someone who has taken a preparatory course on how to pass the DaF examination and passed it.
While teaching, I rely on not only my extensive experience, but also try to keep up to date with the latest textbooks, methodologies, multi-media programs, and other tools for teaching foreign languages. In order to do this, I constantly attend seminars, Webinars, and other education-related forums that are devoted to these topics.
Besides all this, for 9 years I worked as a translator in Moscow in the office of a major German equipment manufacturer, and have hands-on, “real world” experience participating in the everyday life of a German corporation – along with participating in international conferences in Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Munich.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I have been a foreign language teacher for 20 years and studying foreign languages for more than 35! My philosophy of teaching, therefore, has been influenced by my own reflections on studying languages, both as a teacher and as a student. My philosophy is that teaching must be both comprehensive and customized to each individual student. I believe learning should occur naturally, and that everyone can reach their learning potential and meet high expectations, if given the necessary support and opportunities. I believe that learning is not only an academic process - it is an emotional and social one and that a teacher should be a facilitator or a guide to learning, and not just transmit knowledge.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The most important thing during the first lesson is to establish clear goals; without that, it is impossible to predict the results of teaching. I always start by clearly defining our objectives as defined by the student's expectations. I then tell the student what kind of teaching approach I have so that they can see whether this meets their requirements. It is very important that, starting from day one, the student and I understand whether we will be comfortable with each other.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I really believe that one secret to teaching can be summarized by an old Chinese proverb: Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember. Involve me, and I will understand. Step back, and I will act. Teaching is a caring relationship that is based on empathy. This empathy can be transmitted by paying attention to the emotions that arise during the learning process and understanding their root causes. With this in mind, I then develop a plan to overcome any perceived obstacles. I let the student do the work and hand over control of the process. I am convinced that by giving ownership of the process to the student it turns them into independent and critical thinkers.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I believe motivation is one of the key elements of success in foreign language learning. For this reason, I like to discuss with my students why they have chosen this foreign language and encourage them to reflect on their choice. I change my approach or technique from time to time in order to create new challenges for the student. Avoiding boredom goes a long way to helping the student stay motivated. People stay motivated when they see quick results, so goals should be set high but be attainable. The student should be able to track his/her progress versus these goals.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would identify the lack of understanding and determine whether or not we simply need to review the material or take a fresh approach to the concept to be learned. If reviewing the material is insufficient, then I would present the material in another way because I always keep in mind that what works for some may not work for others.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading is a complicated process, and since someone cannot be forced to read, problems arise when teachers force students to read materials that are not interesting for them. I select materials that are in accordance with the students' preferences, and I often let them bring in their own reading materials.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
A learner-centered approach seems to suit most students, but not all of them. I am well aware that each learner has her/his own learning style. I tend to offer a variety of activities that appeal to different learning styles. In addition, I discuss learning styles with students so that they become aware of what their own is. I also suggest learning strategies based on different styles, and I often give examples drawn from my own experience as a language learner.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
If a student is struggling with a particular subject, then I always try to show the student that they know a lot more than they think they do. I start presenting the material that the student is struggling with it in smaller, more manageable steps instead of administering a large dose all at once. This gives them a series of triumphs and, as we all know, everyone loves a victory.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I use the Socratic method -- a method of questioning. I try to choose effective questions that will allow me to gauge what exactly the student understands - the more effective the question, the better the response I receive from the student. Another technique I often use is the 'reverse teaching method', whereby I have the student teach me what has been covered in order to see how effectively it has been absorbed. I always focus on what my student knows, not what they don't know.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
No two students are the same, so I always change my teaching style to fit each new student. I realize that different people study foreign languages for different purposes. I help them find their preferred learning style. Then, I adjust my tutoring to that learning style, and help learners develop strategies for studying that match their preferred learning styles.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
For German, I use fundamental textbooks and multimedia materials published by the leading German publishing houses Hueber Verlag, Klett Verlag, and Schubert Verlag that have been endorsed by the Goethe Institute and Friedrich-Schiller University, Deutsche Welle materials, and also those that I developed. For Russian, I use textbooks and multimedia materials that have been approved by the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute for use in teaching Russian as a foreign language. Then, I supplement them with real-world printed, audio, and video materials that show the language in action. These tactics are justified because the ideal textbook that fits absolutely everyone, be it for German or for Russian, simply does not exist.