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How Popular is English in Russia?

Popularity of English in Moscow
Language is probably the most important cultural marker and many culturologists argue that our mind sets are affected quite strongly by the language that we speak. In these difficult days for international understanding, is ENGLISH still a popular language in Russia?

To answer this and other related questions, Simon Green, a British private executive English teacher and university lecturer in Moscow joins the program.

Simon starts off the program with stating with an emphatic yes, that English is popular in Russia. He quotes statistics from the Russian newspaper ‘Rossiskaya Gazeta'; "…the number of people speaking English has doubled since 2003, when 16% of Russians had some knowledge of English, and as of this year, that figure has grown to 32%….the biggest increase in numbers are in the 18-24 year old group,…it was more difficult for the older generation to learn English, now with all the online resources available, more people are able to study the language."…Simon describes how English is considered an obligatory language in many institutions of higher education in Russia, and also describes how important the language is for business: "Russians, like anyone else, recognize that English is the business language of the world. No matter what people say, that is a fact." Host John Harrison challenges this view, reflecting on a colder view of Brits and English in France for example, because of Brexit. Simon replies: "If we return to the figures, we see that people who are learning or using English in one way or another has doubled over the last 12-13 years here in Russia, the other languages — you've got German which is spoken by 6% or 7% of Russians, but only 1% speak it fluently, and then you have French, which was 0.5% and is now 1%, and Spanish has increased from 0 to 1%. I think these figures speak for themselves, there is still an upward curve, people still know that despite the situations with Brexit or the political situation, people still want to go to England or English speaking countries, and they realize that if they want to communicate and do business, English is still the language that they need to know."

There is a shortage of native English language teachers in Russia — so much so — that Simon recommends only using a native speaker for speaking practice rather than learning grammar, "people are best learning grammar from a Russian teacher who understand its intricacies so much better than we do, and they can explain it much better….Finding a real native language teacher is actually incredibly difficult. You can find a Russian who can teach you to a certain level, but it is very difficult to find native speakers. There is a little bit of a paradox here, because the Russian teachers tend to be ladies, and 90% of the native speakers are men… as far as demand goes, I am teaching between 21 and 25 lessons a week, and this figure is rising. I have to turn clients down. I don't like to do this particularly when clients come recommended, but I am teaching now for 7 days a week."

It seems as though there is a market in Moscow for more teachers. "There's plenty of work for everyone here," Simon says. "You need to get out and do a bit of networking here, to announce yourself, you have to have a business card here, or else you are nobody, no matter what you are doing. As far as the future goes, I think whatever way it goes, I am very convinced; with the amount of Russian friends and clients I have, that 99% of them are not interested at all in the political fighting from both sides, they'd rather just get on with their lives and do what they've got to do to improve the quality of their lives."

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