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Want to learn to teach Russian pronunciation? 
So do I!

Kira, smiling because it's a relief not to feel ashamed!

I have always loved studying pronunciation, in spite of the mountain of frustration I encountered in failing over and over again to produce what I thought I was hearing. 

 

When I was writing my dissertation, New Russian Frontiers: An Empirical Investigation of Russian Interlanguage at the Superior Level, I thought about focusing on pronunciation, but I decided that it would be too difficult to pin down all of the subtleties involved.  I didn't want to dissect something that was both incredibly nebulous and something I loved.  So I actually dismissed it from consideration entirely and instead focused on a host of other issues.

I think my avoidance of pronunciation in my dissertation is probably something many teachers can relate to.  Dealing with pronunciation is hard!  It's difficult to learn, it's difficult to teach, and for those of us who are both non-native speakers and teachers, it can be a minefield. 

I have been thinking about all the emotions we feel as learners and teachers related to pronunciation. 

  • Native Russian teachers want to motivate and educate their students to sound close to native.  If this isn't happening, it's easy to feel frustrated. 

  • Non-native Russian-speaking professionals want to sound native and devote tremendous time & energy to this end.  When our pronunciation remains imperfect, we often feel frustrated and ashamed.

  • Teachers of Russian who are not native speakers often experience both issues and we can feel frustrated, ashamed, and guilty. 

These are heavy feelings to deal with!  I'm not aware of many places where we feel comfortable discussing these emotions, and I think a lot of us end up carrying them with us as we try our best to do our jobs well. 

I have been in education my whole life.  I currently teach gifted education in a high school setting, in addition to the pronunciation teaching I do on the side.  Probably my greatest wish as a teacher is to humanize the process of learning and teaching.  I want to reframe learning as play, mistakes as data, and all of us as learner-companions worthy of love and self-respect. 

To that end, I offer you the resources on this website and myself as a traveling companion. 

Please come observe my Master Class live on Zoom or in video format.  Watch me succeed, watch me fail, and tell me what you notice.  Become a Master Class apprentice, learn how I give feedback, and let's think together about what could be helpful going forward.  Come to special events on Zoom, like Mini Boot Camp and Pop-Up Phonetics Office Hours (once I get that going!)  Check out my Teaching Pronunciation 101 guide and let me know what you think.  Take a look at the materials I've created for students, designed for use in the context of a language course or as stand-alone resources, including the guide I've written specifically for students.  I always benefit so much from what others have to say – teachers and students, native speakers and non-native speakers. 

As a non-native speaker and teacher of Russian, I used to feel ashamed that I was not a native speaker, that I could never be what my students must really want me to be.  It is true that I will never be a total "insider" when it comes to Russian language and culture.  But I have learned that we all need each other in language learning. 

 

Non-native speakers need native-speakers as our north star.  We need them to model what it is we are striving for and to help us walk the path, providing education, inspiration, and kindness. 

 

Native speakers need non-native speakers, too.  They need us to tell them what it's like to learn Russian from our point of view.  They need us to tell them what helps and what hinders.  They need us to tell them what the mysteries turned out to be after we've solved them.  And although we are not native speakers, our students need us to show them what worked for us and what it means to walk the path with courage, humility, and self-love. 

Hmm, this is all easy to say!  It's harder to do, but I feel like I'm making progress.  I am excited about the ways in which I've been incorporating this mindset into my Master Class and it will be the foundation of my next project, currently titled Фонетика на уроке с Кирой.  My intention with this project is to create a resource teachers can use immediately in class that will allow you to gradually develop your skills and knowledge as we go without putting in a lot of time outside of class.  I will do the teaching, I'll ask native speakers to provide the practice, and you can gradually take the reins to the degree that you want while getting the full benefit of beautiful results from students in class. 

Please join me in the classes and events whenever you can.  Definitely sign up for my mailing list so you don't miss anything.  I'm looking forward to our future collaboration and lots of good times together!

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