ANASTASIA ZHURAVLEVA: “Knowledge of english is a necessity and common courtesy”

BYTEX is the largest exporter of IT services in Mordovia. A lot of orders come from abroad. Our partners are companies located around the world. For successful communication with our foreign customers we use English language, which is the language of international communication. That’s why it’s very important that all the employees of BYTEX speak English on a decent level and constantly improve their skills in interpreting and understanding their objectives competently. For this purpose we have organized free English courses in Bytex and they have already been in effect for five years.

A teacher from The Training and Staff Development Department Anastasia Zhuravleva tells about the importance of learning English, the structure of English lessons and student success in this article.

Anastasia, why did you decide to connect your life with English?

Foreign Language Faculty chose me itself – I applied for six faculties (various knowledge and skills that I got at school made it possible). Finally I had enough points to enter Foreign Language Faculty and was very glad about it. The process of education was easy and interesting.
When I was on the second course I got an opportunity to participate in an exchange program and communicate with native speakers. I have been to the Hawaiian islands. The English speaking environment, exciting and exotic culture of this place was a great chance to improve my language skill.

Did you have a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of English in communication with foreigners during FIFA World Cup that was held in Saransk?

I worked as an interpreter with famous football analysts who came to the championship. For me it was a unique opportunity not only to watch a football match from a guest lodge but also to observe the work of professional football strategists. They were doing the analysis, making predictions and explaining to me what was happening on the pitch as the game processes. Frankly speaking, I’m not a fan of this game but due to the comments of true professionals I had a new look at the football match. Off the field we spoke about many different things like our countries, cultures and history. We became friends and sometimes chat via the Internet.

What new opportunities are available if you know English very well?

IT specialists often have to look for the solutions of the problems on thematic resources by their colleagues. Mostly communication on such forums in English. The solution of the problem can be found on another continent and it’s hardly possible that somebody speaks Russian there.

As we know, nowadays there are many Internet translators and artificial intelligence-based translations that can eliminate the need to learn foreign languages. Is it really so?

In the foreseeable future such ways of translation can be seen only as support. Namely IT specialists know that you shouldn’t completely rely on computer translation. There can be fundamental errors that can harm the work.

How can you evaluate the cooperation with BYTEX?

I have always been lucky at work. It’s very pleasant to open up the exciting world of English to your students, show the perspectives and help to develop in the right way. I am lucky to join BYTEX team. I can’t say it’s easy to work with adult students but we are on the same wavelength and each class is a particular step in learning English both for them and for me.
It’s worth mentioning that our students are very motivated, they always strive to grasp the essence, dutifully do their homework and practice in their free time.

How do you feel about computer games?

It’s hard to say that I’m far from computer games. When I was at school and university, I played regularly. But today it’s difficult to find enough time to plunge into a really exciting game because it takes a lot of time to complete the game. Though when I download a visual novel or a quest where e hear many dialogues in English, I never switch from English to Russian. It’s much more interesting because you can experience the original author’s version and improve your language skill at the same time. Certainly it helps to enlarge your vocabulary because there are very many rarely used specific English words in foreign games.

It’s considered that IT specialists usually know English well, but they all have different levels…

There are several levels of English. The first one is called “beginner”, the next one is “elementary”, then “pre-intermediate”, “intermediate” and “upper-intermediate”. Those who are confident in their language skills go to the next level – “advanced”. Nowadays it’s easy to test your knowledge of English on the Internet where you can find a great number of tests that are able to check your grammar, vocabulary and listening skills. At the end of the test you get the information about your level of English.
To feel confident in the communication with foreigners or take a guided tour of the city or the office of Bytex you need to be an intermediate student. It’s the average level of English.

However, if you want just to speak it’s not necessary to know a great number of words and perfectly master all twelve English tenses. The main thing is not to be afraid of speaking English. It’s obvious that communication is based on vocabulary. Every person has active and passive vocabulary. But in fact we use not so many words in our speech and the most part of the words we learn will be used rarely. That’s why I advise you to focus on 200 most common words as a start and use them in your speech. It’s already possible to speak with such a vocabulary.

What is the emphasis of the course of English in BYTEX?

We always have feedback with students in BYTEX. I strive to give them knowledge that will be useful in their work. We learn words from diverse topics because all of them work on different projects. It’s difficult to guess what words they need to describe the particular bug.
At our lessons we mostly pay attention to grammar then work on vocabulary skills and speaking English. Mastering grammar enables the students to make sentences without mistakes, and use tenses correctly when writing bug reports. Mastering vocabulary goes into the background because all the words you need can be easily found in a dictionary during the preparation of the document.

Among the partners of BYTEX there are a lot of companies located in countries where English is not commonly used. How can people communicate if the language they speak is not the mother tongue for both of them?

Even if people live in the same city, they can speak differently. They can speak at different speed, with different accents and pronunciation. Sometimes specific words and slang can be used too. E can see absolutely the same situation in English. There is generally accepted English but it doesn’t mean that all foreigners use it. For example, Londoners from different areas of London can pronounce the same word differently. British English and American English are two different languages too and sometimes people just don’t understand each other. I always tell my students not to make their sentences too complicated while chatting. It’s more important to convey the correct meaning of the phrase. Even if you mix the tenses or forget some words, most likely you will be understood. Moreover, foreigners are more tolerant to your mistakes than Russians.

Now imagine the following situation: an employee is not going to work on a project connected with English. Where will he use English apart from work?

For example, while travelling. Starting with finding your way around at the airport by reading signs, finishing with speaking with local people. If you know English well, you get an opportunity to take part in international conferences where there is a chance to learn your colleagues’ experience and speak at the conference yourself. I strive to persuade people that being able to speak English is common courtesy nowadays. The knowledge of English should be taken for granted.

Every job has its own difficulties…

Sometimes when we read an unfamiliar text, even self-confident students can have problems with the correct pronunciation of the particular words. The same letter can be pronounced differently in different positions.
I’m learning with my students too. While I had been preparing for working in BYTEX and tailoring the English course to the needs of the IT company, I read several books about software testing and about IT in general. But it didn’t help me much because BYTEX doesn’t just work with the most modern projects. This company moves faster than current practice, they check the products that will be released in the future.
Thus everything that is analyzed and written is outdated information for testers.

How are English lessons organized?

BYTEX employees who attend the course are divided into groups according to their level of English: Beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate and Intermediate. If a person used to study French or German at school, he will start learning English in the group “Beginner”. But it isn’t something that you have to be shy about. We specially form groups of people with the same level to make the educational process comfortable for everybody. Usually we start with learning the most common verbs and tenses and make simple sentences with the use of them. As soon as a student feels confident he can go to the next level in another group.
It’s worth mentioning that all the classes are made during the working day (if an employee doesn’t have any important tasks to do). Therefore the company executives encourage learning English without taking away people’s free time.
The group “Intermediate” is mostly made of Upper-Intermediate students in fact. Their lessons are the most productive because they already have a complete understanding of English grammar, extensive vocabulary and they speak English fluently. They are able to describe even the most intricate bug in English. We work more precisely focusing on specific points.
Every class covers a particular topic. We usually work on the chosen topic as part of the class, then we deal with students’ questions and revise the topic that wasn’t completely understood.
It’s very pleasant for me as a teacher to see how students improve their skills and go to the next level: from Beginner to Elementary, from Elementary to Pre-intermediate and from Pre-intermediate to Intermediate.