My teaching experience in Ukraine
Reflective Diary submitted by Karolina, Madrid.
What’s next for me?
I suppose this is one of the most frequently asked questions after graduating from High School. I also asked myself this question when I graduated. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to be a volunteer in a small city in Ukraine, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, where I had the opportunity to teach English with a small organisation that helped children living in poverty, whose parents could not afford to send them to school, let alone private lessons in English (something very common in Ukraine).
Despite being a neighbouring country to Poland, I never had the chance to visit it before. I thought that Ukraine was a beautiful country with rich history and culture, however, there were many differences to my own country that I found surprising. Firstly, it’s poorer, which is sadly evident in their education system. An example of this is the teaching time dedicated to foreign languages, like English language.
In my opinion, the biggest, but also the most serious problem, is lack of materials that the schools have: lack of appropriate educational materials is tantamount to lack of students motivation. This experience was a great and instructive challenge that taught me a lot about effective teaching.
One of the biggest and the most noticeable mistakes that Ukrainian speakers make is with their pronunciation. Ukrainian speakers pronunciation can be hard to understand for some listeners, sometimes near impossible, even when they speak quite good English. One of the biggest challenges I have faced while teaching in Ukraine was distinction of sound ‘th’ and schwa sound ‘ə’ and confusing the ‘r’ and the ‘l’.
I’ll give this one student that I taught as an example: the student was a 20 years old male, whose English level was around a B1 level, however, he just could not pronounce the ‘th’ and schwa sound. No matter how many times I explained it to him and demonstrated it in different ways, he just simply did not get it. It took a long time for him to understand it. Initially, I did not know what the source of the problem was. However, through discussions with other teachers and online sources, I found out that this is a common problem among Slavic students. From there I was able to create specialised tasks and games that helped him to cope with it.
- Podvysotska, Tamara. ‘Ukraine’s education system in critical need of overhaul’. Kyiv Post. 30 August 2012. Access: 20.08.2017: https://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinion/op-ed/all-key-stakeholders-should-reset-the-education-system-311972.html
- Hudson, Joseph. ‘10 English Pronunciation Errors by Russian Speakers’. Pronunciation Studio. 12 May 2015. Access: 20.08.2017: https://pronunciationstudio.com/russian-speakers-english-pronunciation-errors/