Германские языки | Филологический аспект №05 (73) Май 2021

УДК 372.881.111.1

Дата публикации 31.05.2021

Петербурговедение как способ оптимизации обучения иностранным языкам современных школьников

Егорова Елизавета Эдуардовна
магистрантка 2 курса кафедры иностранных языков и лингводидактики, Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, РФ, г. Санкт-Петербург, beth13@mail.ru
Научный руководитель Гетманская Анна Васильевна
канд. пед. наук, доцент кафедры иностранных языков и лингводидактики, Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, РФ, г. Санкт-Петербург

Аннотация: Настоящее исследование рассматривает проблему повышения эффективности обучения иностранному языку школьников в соответствии с тенденциями развития современного мирового сообщества – процессами глобализации и неоглобализации. В качестве результативного способа оптимизации учебного процесса предлагается интегрированный курс «Петербурговедение на английском языке». Обучение по данному курсу основано на тщательно отобранных аутентичных культуроведческих текстах и разработанной системе упражнений, предложенных в пособии «History and Culture of St Petersburg». Целью обучения является развитие иноязычных знаний, навыков и умений учащихся, а также умения самоидентифицироваться в поликультурном мире, способности терпимо относиться к особенностям иноязычных культур и представлять свою страну и культуру в процессе общения с представителями других национальностей. В рамках исследования был проведен эксперимент, подтверждающий эффективность использования интегрированного курса «Петербурговедение на английском языке» в процессе обучения иностранным языкам школьников.
Ключевые слова: глобализация, неоглобализация, интеграция, петербурговедение, эффективность обучения

St Petersburg studies as a way to improve teaching foreign languages to modern students

Egorova Elizaveta Eduardovna
2nd year master student, Department of foreign languages and linguodidactics, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia, Saint Petersburg
Scientific supervisor Getmanskaya Anna Vasil’evna
PhD in Pedagogy, associate professor of Department of foreign languages and linguodidactics, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia, Saint Petersburg

Abstract: This study examines the problem of increasing the effectiveness of teaching foreign languages to schoolchildren in accordance with the development trends of the modern world community – the processes of globalization and neoglobalization. An integrated course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ is proposed as an effective way to improve the educational process. The instruction for this course is based on carefully selected authentic cultural texts and a set of activities suggested in the ‘History and Culture of St Petersburg’ manual. The purpose of training is to develop foreign language knowledge and skills of students, as well as their ability to self-identify in a multicultural world, the ability to tolerate the peculiarities of foreign languages and represent their country and culture in the process of communicating with representatives of other nationalities. As a part of the study, we conducted an experiment that proves the effectiveness of using an integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ in the process of teaching foreign languages to students.
Keywords: globalization, neoglobalization, integration, St Petersburg studies, teaching improvement

Правильная ссылка на статью
Егорова Е.Э. St Petersburg studies as a way to improve teaching foreign languages to modern students // Филологический аспект: международный научно-практический журнал. 2021. № 05 (73). Режим доступа: https://scipress.ru/philology/articles/peterburgovedenie-kak-sposob-optimizatsii-obucheniya-inostrannym-yazykam-sovremennykh-shkolnikov.html (Дата обращения: 31.05.2021)

The processes of globalization and ‘neoglobalization’, that provide not only the dominant position of the English language and culture, but also the growing national identity of different peoples, have changed the requirements for today’s school graduates. Now the personal and professional success of a young professional more than ever depends on his intercultural communication skills and the ability to share his knowledge and experience on the world stage.

The relevance of this study is determined by the need to upgrade training programs for modern schoolchildren who will have to live, study and work under a polylogue of cultures. One of the most effective ways to improve the educational process can be courses developed within the framework of interdisciplinary integration. Therefore, the interconnected teaching of foreign languages and professional disciplines is becoming a leading trend in the modern educational system.

It should be noted that the discipline ‘Foreign language’ and the disciplines of the humanities cycle can be integrated into a single course in the most natural and effective way. This assumption can be confirmed by the fact that all the humanities find their expression through human language, while the distinctive feature of the exact sciences is the existence of a special language (symbols and formulae).

Moreover, in contrast to mathematical formulae, which are the same for all peoples, subjects within the humanistic area (man and society) is interpreted in their own way by representatives of different cultures. Since the time of Wilhelm von Humboldt, scientists have not ceased to highlight that any nation is characterized by “a certain way of thinking, a specific way of sensory perception, a nationally-specific attitude” [1, p. 13], which determine how a person sees the reality around him, forming his linguistic and cultural worldview. Thanks to the study and subsequent use of foreign languages, humanity has the opportunity to compare these different views, accept their right to exist, supplement their worldviews and, as a result, live in intercultural harmony.

Considering the possibilities of integrating various humanitarian disciplines, the creation of a culture-based course in English deserves special mention. Since the 19th century, the idea of ​​the close relationship between language and culture has been actively developed by many researchers. Culture is a prism through which a person learns the surrounding reality and which is reflected in the language system of the people. Therefore, it is not surprising that the interconnected teaching of a foreign language and culture is becoming more widespread in the framework of school and university programs.

The creation of a course with a high educational potential provides for a combination of cultural, linguistic and communicative integration processes identified by the modern St Petersburg researcher Evgenia Brazhnik [2, p. 178]. A progressive way of introducing these processes is the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) model, which we define as an educational approach characterized by its dual nature, which means “the simultaneous mastery of knowledge in the subject area and the ability to use this knowledge in a foreign language” [3, p. 283].

The fundamental characteristic of the CLIL approach is the concept of ‘four Cs’ (4 Cs Framework) proposed by Professor Do Coyle, implying the interconnected use of content, communication, cognition and culture within a course. On the basis of this approach, it is expedient to integrate the disciplines ‘St Petersburg Studies’ and ‘English’.

This study examines the feasibility of including an integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ in the modern educational system. This course is distinguished by its instructional and educational nature, it allows students to self-identify in the global cultural space. The aim of the course is to form a spiritually-moral, patriotic-oriented and tolerant personality of a student who thoroughly knows their native culture and respects the culture of other nations. Thus, we can assert that this course makes a great contribution to the formation of general cultural competencies, the importance of which is emphasized in the Federal State Educational Standard.

The term ‘St Petersburg studies’ has appeared quite recently and has not been completely established, however, it is already found in many scientific articles, reports at conferences and educational programs. Following a famous teacher and historian of the city Arkady Veksler, we will identify ‘St Petersburg studies’ as a separate branch of regional history, reflecting the culture of St Petersburg and its environments, which “aims at a comprehensive study of a certain territory by the local population, for which this territory is their native land” [4].

At the present stage of its development, the considered branch of regional history is represented by the richest collection of books about St Petersburg, available in offline and online formats, electronic databases and other information resources. In 2003, on the basis of the Central City Public Library named after V.V. Mayakovsky, the Center for St Petersburg Studies was opened. It provides access to the materials on the history and culture of St Petersburg, conducts thematic conferences and publishes the cultural and historical almanac ‘Fontanka’. Our city is ready to create all conditions for communication and joint creativity of people keen on this branch of regional history, and the aim of the course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ is to motivate students to use these opportunities.

It is important to note that despite the presence of various sources of studying the history and culture of St Petersburg (libraries, museums, archives, etc.), students are often in a state of confusion. A large flow of information does not become a coherent system in their minds, and, therefore, cannot be applied in life. However, teaching foreign languages within the framework of St Petersburg studies helps to transform “scattered educational material into personally meaningful knowledge” [5, p. 129].

The programs developed within the framework of St Petersburg studies are not only instructional, but also educational in nature, since the city has a significant impact on the individual, influences the formation of his personality. For this reason, we can talk about St Petersburg studies as a vector of pedagogical urban studies [6, p. 209].

The main goal of teaching a foreign language using the course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ is the formation of plurilinguocultural competence of students, i.e. the ability of an individual to adequately use the entire linguistic potential of the language systems available to him and rely on knowledge of national traditions, customs and realities of the native country and countries of the studied languages ​​in order to implement effective intercultural interaction.

To reach this goal, it is necessary to achieve the following objectives, which reflect the knowledge and skills of schoolchildren that will be formed at the end of the course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’:

  • developing students’ foreign language knowledge and skills in all aspects of the language (phonetics, lexis and grammar) and four types of speech activity (listening, reading, speaking and writing);
  • teaching culturally-marked lexis;
  • enriching background knowledge about native and world culture;
  • preparing students for participation in professionally oriented events (discussions, conferences, excursions);
  • developing students’ skills of creative and research work;
  • developing students’ skills in interpreting the similarities and differences of the native culture and the foreign culture, as well as developing the ability to give a neutral and critical assessment of various culturally specific phenomena;
  • forming pragmatic skills in selecting the most appropriate language means when communicating with a concrete interlocutor and changing the language or combining several languages, if necessary.

The learning process for the course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ is based on the manual ‘History and Culture of St Petersburg’ (designed by us), which includes authentic materials / texts, as well as a set of activities aimed at improving students’ skills in all aspects of the language (lexis, grammar, phonetics) and types of speech activities (listening, speaking, reading, writing).

Each unit consists of a cultural text, a list of new lexical units, a set of non-communicative exercises and communicative activities, as well as a creative project task. The training is accompanied by the use of videos on the history and culture of St Petersburg, digital art collections and virtual tours around the main city attractions.

The methodology for working with the manual ‘History and Culture of St Petersburg’ is very diverse. It assumes both traditional forms of work in the classroom (introductory reading of texts about the culture and history of St Petersburg and its main attractions, answering questions, performing lexical and grammatical exercises), and innovative forms of educational activity (communicative tasks for finding and checking information about famous people, making up a dialogue or a monologue on one of the cultural topics, watching and discussing videos, completing a creative project task using various digital tools and Internet resources). The combination of traditional forms of education and digital technologies makes it possible to “actualize the cultural potential of St Petersburg” [7, p. 151] and create an innovative educational course that is aimed at forming the internal connection between a person and a modern city.

Thus, the structure of each unit of an integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ consists of five sections:

1) Lead-in;

2) Reading;

3) Vocabulary and Grammar;

4) Language skills;

5) Project.

The first section – Lead-in – involves a number of introductory questions, which allow to update the background knowledge and personal experience of students, prepare them for the content of the upcoming unit, and determine the depth of their knowledge on a particular topic and the level of their language proficiency. An example of this section can be the following questions: What do you know about the foundation of St Petersburg? How did the country’s population react to Peter I’s decision to create a new capital? How would you feel about moving to St Petersburg at the very beginning of its creation?

The second section of each unit – Reading – includes the main cultural text aimed at “introducing relevant information and creating a solid foundation for critical thinking and discussions” [8, p. 5]. Reading the text is of great importance, since it concentrates the main culturally-marked lexis of the unit and provides its introduction in context, which is important in the process of initial acquaintance of students with new lexical units. Moreover, the introductory information is presented in the form of an authentic text, “which was supposed to be used by native speakers, but later found application in the educational process focused on a communicative approach to teaching a foreign language outside the linguistic environment” [9, p. 307].

The reason why we chose authentic texts as teaching material is that materials of this kind “offer a much richer source of input for learners and have the potential to be exploited in different ways and on different levels to develop learners’ communicative competence” [10, p. 22]. Moreover, authentic materials contribute to expanding students’ awareness of the specifics of their native and foreign language culture, have significant motivating power and are recognized as more interesting in comparison with intentionally created instructional texts, since they are intended to convey a real message, and not to master certain linguistic phenomena.

The Reading section also involves ‘Vocabulary’, which includes the most significant lexical units, their transcription and translation into Russian, and ‘Answer the questions’, aimed at checking students’ understanding of the content.

The section ‘Vocabulary and Grammar’ contains a set of non-communicative exercises aimed at working out language skills (lexical and grammatical). The tasks included in this block are quite diverse in their form and level of complexity, which allows to individualize the educational process. Examples of these execsices can be formulated as follows: Match the definitions with the words / Find one word that fits all sentences in each set / Match the words to their antonyms / Put the verbs in the right form / Choose the correct preposition / Fill in the gaps with the words from the box.

The ‘Language skills’ section consists of various communicative activities that contribute to the development of students’ skills in dialogue and monologue speaking, listening and writing. The tasks in this section are situational, discussional, descriptive, initiative or playful. For example: Look through the useful language for making a dialogue (inviting somebody to give their opinion) ... Now create your own dialogue using these expressions and the list of key words and phrases ...

The last section of each unit – Project – involves the creative and research work of students aimed at finding additional cultural information, using various digital tools and authentic resources, making their own excursion / project / concept of an exhibition / presentation / brochure / poster, etc. These activities implies the subsequent presentation of the results (individual / pair / group) in front of other students. Below are the examples of project activities that are included in the ‘History and Culture of St Petersburg’ manual.

One of the most valuable authentic materials that can be used in teaching foreign languages is an English-language tourist portal. An example of such a resource is the official city portal ‘Visit Petersburg’, which provides foreign tourists with a wide range of information – from attractions and current cultural events to gastronomic locations and shopping routes. A project assignment based on working with this portal and aimed at improving students’ writing skills may be as follows: students should write an e-mail to their English-speaking friend and give useful advice about his trip to St Petersburg. It is necessary to take into account various nuances of preparing for the trip, as well as the peculiarities of staying in the city. It is important to take into account the mentality of an English-speaking friend and help him feel comfortable in a foreign cultural space.

Project. Writing.

Write an e-mail to your English friend who asked you for advice on a trip to St Petersburg. Use the notes below and useful language to give your friend valuable advice. Check out the official travel portal of the city ‘Visit Petersburg’ [11], where you can find useful information about attractions, events, possible routes, gastronomic tips, hotels and transport options, etc. Notes:

1. Before leaving: passport, visa, accommodation, tickets

2. While being in St Petersburg: places to go, tour guide, food, weather, souvenirs

Useful language: it’s always a good idea to; you should (shouldn’t); make sure you (don’t); if I were you, I would; another suggestion is to.

Another useful Internet resource is audio and video materials posted on the official websites of museums or on separate platforms. At the disposal of the methodologists are recordings of lectures, video descriptions of museum masterpieces, podcasts, on the basis of which a lot of communicative activities can be developed in order to improve listening and speaking skills. An incredibly interesting digital resource was created by the staff of the Louvre Museum. This is a series of animated videos ‘Louvre Kids’, where we can find stories related to various works of art, the secrets of their creation, acquisition, storage and restoration. The project assignment implies creating a concept for presenting information about the masterpieces of the Hermitage collection and recording a similar video / audio. Students should choose a storyteller who would be suitable for playing the role of a museum curator, and write a fascinating story about one work of art.

Project. Speaking.

Create a concept of presenting the information about the masterpieces of the Hermitage Museum. Use ‘Louvre Kids’ project as an example [12]. There you can find stories about works of art, secrets of their creation, acquisition, storage and restoration. Think about a personality who would present the Hermitage collection. Write a short story about one of the museum masterpieces and create an audio that lasts 1-2 minutes.

We also conduct an experiment in order to prove the effectiveness of the integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ and the hypothesis that the proposed course contributes to improving teaching a foreign language. The experimental base of the study was Lyceum No. 179 of the Kalininsky district in St Petersburg, which specializes in the implementation of various innovative projects in the educational process and is a regional experimental platform (01.01.2020 - 31.12.2022). The pedagogical experiment involved 20 students of the 11th grade, who were studying in three classes of different specializations (medical, technical and humanitarian). The age of the students was 17-18 years old, among them there were 12 girls and 8 boys.

For the experiment, an entrance test was developed to determine the actual level of students’ foreign language skills. The test involved checking skills in choosing lexical units in accordance with the proposed context, in the competent use of grammatical phenomena (verb forms, parts of speech, preposition), in choosing the correct speech formulae depending on the given communication situation. It also tested the students’ knowledge of their native (St Petersburg) culture, as well as basic information about the phenomena of the world culture. Moreover, the proposed test was aimed at determining the ability of students to use the entire potential of linguistic means of the studied foreign languages ​​available to them.

The next stage implied teaching the experimental group (10 students) on the basis of the integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’. The training process lasted one month and was carried out using the Zoom platform. The content of the training was the first module of the manual ‘St Petersburg History and Culture’, which includes 4 units devoted to the introduction to the culture of St Petersburg, the construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Cathedral, the main events and personalities associated with the sight. Each unit lasted two academic hours, and the classes were set on different days (one academic hour each) to provide students with additional time to independently complete some exercises and prepare project activities.

During the final stage of the experiment, all students (an experimental group – 10 people, a control group – 10 people) were offered to complete the final test, the content of which fully correlated with the entrance test.

The analysis of the experiment results allows us to assert that the students who completed a month’s training in a foreign language using the integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ acquired knowledge, skills and abilities that helped them to improve the level of their foreign language skills. The average progress of the experimental group was 34% (Fig. 1), while the students of the control group showed approximately the same results (Fig. 2) as during the entrance testing (the average progress was 5%). The results of the experiment are presented below.

In conclusion, the data obtained allows us to assert that the experimental teaching in the group of 11-graders had a positive effect on the level of their foreign language skills. It should be mentioned that in the course of training the students were able to improve not only their language skills, but also the level of their cultural awareness, including knowledge about their native (St Petersburg) and world culture. This fact demonstrates that an integrated culture-based course ‘St Petersburg Studies in English’ has a great educational contribution to the formation of the students’ personality.

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List of resources
11. Visit Petersburg [Electronic resource] : Official city tourist portal of St Petersburg. URL: https://www.visit-petersburg.ru/en/ (accessed at: 30.05.2021)
12. Louvre Kids [Electronic resource] : The Louvre Kids application. URL: https://louvrekids.louvre.fr (accessed at: 30.05.2021)

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