Эксклюзивное интервью с Хью Делларом, ч. II

Продолжение интервью Полины Кордик с автором издательства National Geographic Learning  Хью Делларом.

Часть I см. здесь.

Фото вверху  — с личной странички Х. Деллара на Фейсбуке.


P.K. Now we are flooded with different continuous professional development events, courses, workshops etc. Many teachers are just overwhelmed and they can’t make the right choice. Could you give some guidance or some advice for teachers how to pick and choose their CPD path?

H.D. Come to my talks, yeah! [laughing]

P.K. Sure!

H.D. It’s a really difficult question. You can just go to everything and absorb things and see what makes sense to you and what doesn’t. Build on it from there. That’s what I did when I was a young teacher. I don’t think I had a particularly principled approach to what I was absorbing. I was just trying to soak up everything like a human sponge. There are things that annoy you, things you disagree with it’s all part of your development. You can talk to someone once, come away from that guy and think, “That was rubbish!” But you think about why.

Possibly, when you get a bit more mature, or developed, you think about focusing on one particular area. You might say, ‘I’m a bit worried about the way I do X, Y and Z’, so you only go to see CPD events related to using technology in the classroom, or dealing with vocabulary, or teaching pronunciation, or whatever. So you cherry pick the things you go to. I guess, another thing which is also connected to this Russian perfectionist thing is that you can’t go to everything, you can’t keep up with everything, it doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad teacher, don’t kill yourself about it. Be kind to yourself.

P.K. Thank you. That’s good advice, that’s something to start with. The next question, very frequently asked, is, “How much digital should we be in and outside the classroom?”

H.D.: More outside than inside, I think personally. For me, I don’t like to say how much. I think the question would be, ‘Why are you doing it? How do you think it’s better than what you would be doing if you won’t doing it digitally?’

The bottom line for me is if you are doing digital in the classroom because you feel that you have to be seen to be doing digital that’s genuinely a crap reason for doing digital.

If you are doing it because you think it’s something that couldn’t be done in any other way and that the communicative outcomes achieved through using that particularly medium are worthy communicative outcomes, then do it.

In the end, it’s what you are trying to teach, how do you feel that the digital way of doing this is better than the non-digital one, what does the digital add to this experience.

In terms of homework, I think, increasingly quite a lot of digital stuff, whether that’s dictations you are doing through Vocaroo or whether you are doing online flashcards. I think there is a lot of opportunities within the digital round to revise, develop, consolidate, extend practice of particular bits of language and particular kinds of communicative goals or performances.

If you ask me, in the classroom I still hardly ever use digital. I use the coursebook, I talk to the students a lot, I use the board a lot, I use the student output to help me produce new input. I use the CD, we do the listenings, sometimes we might do a video, but generally, the video is part of the course and so it’s integrated and woven into the rest of lesson around it. For me, the real danger is that people feeling that they have to be seen doing digital stuff, and so doing things for the sake of it rather than on any kind of principled level.

P.K. Vocabulary acquisition and recycling at higher levels (C1-C2): how to cope with this ocean of new vocabulary, how to transfer it into your active usage? Give some top advice.

H.D.: Well, you can’t cope with everything, it’s the first thing. You need it to be still principled in what we choose, it needs to be things that are useful. The way you work out if they are useful or not is by thinking about: is it something they might hear or say in their first language, is it something that they have to strive to say in English and you know how to help them say it better? I think, in those contexts, if the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’, it’s probably useful for them.

There’s also lots of language, at that level particularly, that’s not going to be transferred into the productive. Think of your Russian. There’ll be loads and loads of things in Russian you know receptively but you never use productively. There’s a whole slew of language that I don’t use in my spoken or in my written language though I know it when I’m reading. So this going to be a lot more language, and students are omitting it. It’s just on the periphery of what they can do with the language but the important thing is thinking about: is this language worth spending time on? In terms of: does it develop student’s ability to talk about something in particular, or to read something in particular, or is it some random bit of vocabulary, because you can’t teach everything? It has to be embedded within some kind of communicative context, I think. To aid and develop student’s ability to function within that communicative context.


P.K. And some three random questions.

H.D. I like random questions.

P.K. What do you think about Russian sense of humour?

H.D. Ha-ha. Very similar to the English sense of humour in lots of ways, I think.

P.K. Really?

H.D. Very much so. Russia, for various historical reasons, has a very dark sense of humour. This is a kind of gallows humour. Particularly the older generation. They’ve lived through the whole changes of the 80s and 90s, and all of that. There’s a very specific humour that was created through all of that kind of context, I think. This is very similar to English humour.

There are certain differences: “blonde jokes” and what I would call “racist jokes” are still more commonly told here and accepted here in a way that as an English person I find vaguely distasteful. That’s also partly because I grew up hearing all that stuff in the 70s in England. I think that element of humour is about 30 or 40 years behind where we got to in England with those jokes, which are now seen as beyond the pale. I wouldn’t also hear jokes about people being called “monkeys” or anything like that. But you do here this kind of jokes and especially guys having other guys… But generally, the funniest things for me in Russia are not actually “the jokes”. You have this formalized joke-telling tradition. There’s also lots of comments that people make in their everyday speech that are very dry and very understated and funny. For me it feels very, very similar to my English humour.

P.K. Three most surprising facts you found about life in Norilsk.

H.D. Ha-ha. Well, the first one is the fact they call the rest of Russia “the Mainland”. And it’s literally because they are so cut off that if the airport closes, they are stuck. You cannot drive from Norilsk to the rest of Russia and you can’t get a train from Norilsk to the rest of Russia. So, it is an incredibly isolated place.

The second thing was the amazing amount of reindeer meat available. Basically, for a week all I had was reindeer meat. A lot of the locals said they didn’t trust the rest of the meat that’s available because they thought it might have been adulterated, whereas the reindeer meat comes from the local tribes, people tied up in the tundra, and they really trust it.

The third thing would be… It’s the one place I’ve been in Russia where the Gulag is most openly discussed and is most obviously a part of the city’s history and life. The school I was teaching in is a very old famous historical school in Norilsk. There’s a big plaque outside commemorating the fact it was built by Gulag prisoners in 1950. There’s an amazing museum in Dudinka, not only about the Gulag, but the Gulag section is incredible. A lot of the people I met were the grandchildren of various Gulag survivors. There’s lots of mad stories of the woman who was running one of the programs I was working on. Her grandfather was from Azerbaijan, he was sent to the Gulag, fell in love with one of the prison guards. When the Gulag ended in 1953-1954, he eloped with this woman, they married each other – that were her grandparents. There’s a lot of those kind of stories that you hear from people about. And it’s quite weird, because a lot of the rest of the time in Russia the Gulag’s not as openly discussed as perhaps it might be, whereas in Norilsk and Dudinka it’s absolutely integral to the history of those places and they’re very clear about the fact the city was built on bones. That was really remarkable.

P.K. The very last question. Where else would you like to go in Russia and why?

H.D. Oh, a lot of places. I still have a list of places I really want to go to. I’d like to go to Archangelsk, because I like the north and I’ve never been up there. I’d really like to go to Kamchatka. I’ve got a lot of older Russian mates who’ve done their military service in Kamchatka in the 70s and the 80s. And so I’ve heard stories about Kamchatka. I’d like to go to … What’s the name of the Buddhist republic?

P.K. Buryatia.

H.D. Yeah, Buryatia. I’d like to go there. I’ve never been to Kazan yet so I’d like to go there. Never been to Sochi. I’d like to go to Sochi.

P.K. (disgruntled grimace)

H.D. Yeah, that’s what everyone says, but I’d still like to go there. And I’ve never been to Dagestan. I’d like to go to Dagestan.

P.K. Be careful.

H.D. I’m from South London, I could look after myself. I’ve met some really good people from Dagestan on various trips round Russia and I thought, “Oh, I like you a lot, you’re quite unusual. Where’re you people from?” – “Dagestan”. – “That’s got to be worth visiting at some point!”

And then, apart from that, I’d like to go and see the Far East a little bit more, because I really haven’t seen much of it. I’ve been to Vladivostok very briefly.

They’re the main ones I still want to go and see. You know, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of the places I wanted to see initially, but particularly those ones I’d like to go to. So I have a few more trips to Russia to do yet.

St. Petersburg, March 2017

P.S. Polina would like to cordially thank Anastasia Gvozd, Svetlana Bogolepova, Elizaveta Firsova, Marina Gilli, Irina Kuznetsova and Ludmila Vasilieva for their help in transcribing the interview.

In the photo: Hugh Dellar and Polina Kordik