25th anniversary conference

The Challenges of Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language outside the Language Environment

The Russian Language Centre, Pushkin House, London
2-3 November 2017


Registration for RLC's 25th Anniversary Conference officially closed on 31 August, and we are already very close to capacity. However, we are still keen to attract UK-based delegates. An important aim of the conference is to promote Russian language teaching in the UK, and to bring together Russian teachers in this country with experts from around the world. We are therefore holding a small number of places for local delegates, and welcome applications, with or without a paper.

The confirmed principal speakers are:

Professor Serafima Alekseevna Khavronina, RUDN, Moscow
Dr Sarah Smyth, Trinity College Dublin
Professor Derek Offord, Bristol University
Dr Alexander Krasovitsky, University of Oxford
Maria Sibiryakova, Teaching Fellow at UCL SSEES

With over 100 applications from more than 25 countries, this will be a truly international event. We are also delighted to say that we have received applications and papers from major Russian institutions, including MGU, RUDN, the Pushkin Institute, MGIMO and St Petersburg State University.

So far 60 papers have been submitted for inclusion in the conference proceedings. They cover many different aspects of teaching Russian outside the language environment, including: study materials development; task-based language teaching; the treatment of stereotypes; student motivation; multimodal learning; and a number of papers on the use of new technologies to recreate the language environment.

Please follow this link for application forms.

Please click on the headings below for more information.

When the Russian Language Centre (RLC) opened in 1992, one of the school’s founding principles was that teachers should be qualified native-speakers, normally resident in Russia. RLC’s first teachers all found that they had to adapt their techniques and methodology when they arrived in the UK – partly in response to the kind of student they were teaching, but principally because they were now teaching outside a Russian-speaking environment.

RLC believes that foreign language teaching outside the language environment makes particular requirements of teacher, student, materials and methodology. The aim of the RLC 25th Anniversary Conference is therefore to examine how far the teaching of RFL outside the language environment demands a different approach; to share the experience and expertise of those who teach Russian outside Russia, but also to contrast with the experience of those who teach within the language environment.

Papers are invited under three main headings: 'The Teacher outside the Language Environment'; 'The Course Book outside the Language Environment'; 'The Student outside the Language Environment'.

Please note that the suggested topics below are not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive, and interesting papers dealing with any aspect of teaching Russian outside the language environment will be considered for inclusion. While RLC welcomes attendance from teachers of Russian in all kinds of settings, the conference content is aimed at those teaching Russian to adults and students at institutes of higher education.

The Teacher outside the Language Environment

The increased responsibility of the teacher outside the environment: dominant source of information; definer of core and additional teaching materials.

Lack of input from learners (‘I saw this, I heard this, I read this’): how does this affect the role of the teacher?

Practical classroom techniques for use outside the language environment.

How far should the classroom attempt to recreate the language environment? Should teachers accept the limitations of what can be achieved outside the language environment?

The use of technology: in what ways can technology mitigate the effects of being outside the language environment?
Use of source language (e.g. English) in the classroom: the balance between time constraints and the need for maximum exposure to the language.

The Course Book outside the Language Environment

For many learners the course book effectively defines the language. Should steps be taken to counter this essentially artificial situation?

All teaching materials necessarily limit the language taught; is this a particular problem outside the environment, where learners’ access to the language outside the classroom is itself limited?

Should teaching materials attempt to provide cultural/practical information? The risk of becoming dated.
What elements of teaching materials produced in Russia may not work outside the environment?

The role of stereotypes: are they essential to convey basic cross-cultural behaviour, or are they dangerous because the learner may not meet real-life examples to counter the stereotypes?

The importance of homework outside the language environment: content, structure, format.

The importance of testing and exams as external measures of progress.

The Learner outside the Language Environment

The psychological difficulties of studying outside the language environment: lack of motivation; lack of obvious return on investment of time; adjustment of expectations based on other language learning experiences.

Practical difficulties faced by learners outside the language environment: phonetics; vocabulary learning; aural comprehension.

The difference between the language taught and the language as it is spoken. Teachers and learners inside the environment may favour communication at the expense of accuracy; those outside the environment may suffer the opposite problem, valuing accuracy at the expense of communicative skills.
The problem of integration of learners who have learnt their language by assimilation/practice inside the language environment.
Registration opens on 18 April 2017. Participants are invited to apply in the following ways:

Conference attendees who submit a paper for publication in the conference proceedings.
Conference attendees who do not submit a paper.
Absent Author:
Those who submit a paper for inclusion in the conference proceedings but are unable to attend the conference.

Please note that the closing date for submission of papers has been extended to 18 August 2017, and applicants will be informed of the success of their application upon receipt. Papers must be submitted in accordance with the conference paper guidelines on RLC’s website.

The closing date for attendees is 31 August 2017.

Authors (conference attendees who have submitted papers) may be invited to participate as lead speakers in panel discussions, as lead speakers in round table discussions or as supplementary speakers in round table discussions.
The cost of participation is as follows:

Author (attendance with paper)
Attendee (attendance without paper)
Absent Author (paper only)

The conference fee does not cover the cost of travel and accommodation. A list of hotels in the area of Pushkin House will be available on RLC’s website from 1 June 2017.

The conference fee includes the cost of:

visa support

conference administration


certificate of attendance

conference pack

publication of conference proceedings

closing buffet dinner and concert

The conference fee should only be paid after you have received confirmation of acceptance of your registration.

The working language of the conference is Russian.

The work of the conference will be conducted in the following formats:

Keynote address (plenary session)
Panel discussion: up to three lead papers (15 minutes each) followed by open discussion led by a designated discussant.
Round tables: up to two opening papers (10 minutes) followed by moderated open discussion; the discussion may include brief presentations by supplementary speakers (5 minutes)
Follow-up break-out sessions: the conference will include designated times to allow participants to follow up points arising from formal discussion sessions.

18 April
Call for Papers
18 April
Conference registration opens
31 July
Deadline for enrolment of participants requiring visa support
14 August
Visa support letters issued
18 August
Deadline for submission of papers
31 August
Conference registration closes

Please note the timetable below is a draft only and may be subject to modification

Wednesday 1 November:

18.00 - 20.00 Registration of attendance

Thursday 2 November

09.00 - 10.30 Registration of attendance
10.45 - 11.00 Conference opening and welcome
11.00 - 12.00 Keynote address 1
12.15 - 13.00 Round tables 1
13.00 - 14.30 Lunch
14.30 - 15.45 Panel discussions 1
16.00 - 17.00 Break-out session 1

Friday 3 November

10.00 - 11.30 Panel discussions 2
12.00 - 13.00 Keynote address 2
13.00 - 14.30 Lunch
15.00 - 16.00 Round tables 2
16.00 - 17.00 Break-out session 2
17.15 Conference closure
18.00 Concert and buffet dinner

Saturday 4 November

10.00 - 13.00 London tour with Russian-speaking guide
I quickly found out that the RLC is unique from institutions I had studied at previously in that my teacher individualizes the course structure to the student's needs.
One thing I really like about learning at RLC is that the whole experience is about Russian language and culture.
The course book produced by the RLC makes learning Russian really interesting, and gives a student plenty of opportunity to practice reading, writing and speaking skills.
My teacher also has a very engaging and supportive style and is very passionate and enthusiastic about the Russian language and its culture.
Our diverse and stimulating daytime group receives high quality, engaging tuition which matches our interests and needs.
I'm just finishing my first term and feel really inspired and enthusiastic about continuing.
Our tutor Dmitri Antonov has been an excellent guide to the complexities of the language.
The RLC appealed to me due to its central location and wide range of day and evening classes.
The quality of teaching and course material at the Centre is exceptional.
The use of different teachers also offers different accents, voices and opinions so that one's ears become more attuned to the patterns and rhythms essential to understanding what to me at least is a new language.
I've stuck at it, and my class goers have become friends as well as fellow students. We struggle through our grammar together!
Familiarity leads to greater confidence, which has also been bolstered by our excellent and extraordinarily patient teacher!
The class was young professional people and it was fun but learning was serious and the teacher maintained a strong pace.
After careful research on the internet, RLC seemed the most impressive of the options available. And what a good choice it was.
RLC at Pushkin House means there is a cultural aspect to your learning as it is in the Russian cultural centre of London so I could attend political talks or music recitals and meet others interested in Russian language and culture.
I do definitely recommend RLC. Classes are intense and demanding, but also a good fun, something really important when taking evening lessons after work.
What made me actually enrol was the relaxed, friendly, yet efficient meeting with the course director to establish my level of knowledge.
So when I learned that all the teachers at the Russian Language Centre were Russian I felt confident that I would be in good hands not only learning to speak Russian but also understanding it.
The people in my group are friendly and supportive of each other which is also important as it creates an atmosphere of shared learning.
I joined a group and, unlike large language schools, the groups are small and everyone has plenty of time to practice the language with the teacher's input.
If you are interested in learning Russian, whether as a beginner or someone who might have studied a little before, the RLC is the place to do it.
I chose the RLC after looking at several schools because I liked the flexibility of the courses, and the possibility of having one-to-one tuition, which is the option I took.
The centre has its own set of course books that I've found very effective in helping me to learn.
My teacher also has a very engaging and supportive style and is very passionate and enthusiastic about the Russian language and its culture.
One of the things I most enjoy about the course is that we can now tailor the lessons to meet our various interests.
I would recommend the RLC both for its focus on rigorous learning of the grammar (which is essential to make any real progress in Russian) and then at a later stage for its flexibility in allowing students to pursue their own interests.
I have found the atmosphere at the RLC to be very open and supportive.
From the beginning, the teachers have been motivational and invested in their students' success, giving them confidence to improve. What began as a spontaneous decision to try something new slowly became a serious hobby and then a passion.
I would recommend RLC to anyone wanting to begin learning or improve their Russian language skills.  It's an inclusive and friendly environment.
The course is very practically based and combines grammar and themes which build on the grammar with further vocabulary; for example, travel and directions, conversation about families, the weather, shopping, ordering in a restaurant and much more!
Having completed four terms, I am now having a break from studying, but may return after another few weeks travelling in Russia, for which I am even better equipped than before.
I was pleased to pass my first exams last summer as did the other two of my classmates who took the exam.  I would strongly recommend the school to other potential students.
After less than a year I was able to attend Euro 2012 in Ukraine with a friend and manage my way around without having to resort to English - and more recently, I was able to give half my wedding speech in Russian which went down very well with the in-laws!
After two years people have come and gone from the group but the core few along with our tutor have all become good friends, usually finishing each term with a visit to a Russian restaurant to toast our progress!
I am soon to visit Russia for the first time to take extra lessons and try out my linguistic abilities on the locals! This would not have been possible had it not been for the progress I am making at the RLC.