The Chair of Foreign Languages resulted from a merger of the Chairs of Foreign Languages of ITMO University and the Institute of Refrigeration and Biotechnologies (formerly the University of Low Temperature and Food Technologies) in April 2015, so, formally, it is a new one. However, both of the above chairs have a long history of teaching foreign languages for students of both universities – for Academic and Specific Purposes – and many of the teaching staff of both Chairs have been with the University for years, contributing their experience and eager to take up new tasks and meet new objectives.
Throughout years, the Chairs were working in close co-operation with the professional staff of the Universities teaching special disciplines, to blend a thorough training in foreign languages and the disciplines students choose for majoring. Teaching foreign languages for specific purposes has remained the know-how and one of the targets of the chair, however, with the new trends in teaching and learning within the ITMO University strategy of development, the communicative approach (that has always been implicitly present) has become a must and an explicit goal.
The new strategic aim of the Chair in terms of undergraduate programs is to teach students all the basic skills – both productive (Speaking and Writing) and receptive (Listening and Reading) to make them able to cope with any situation they may face in their professional career. For this purpose, authentic printed and digital resources, state-of-the-art technologies and charismatic teachers with certified level of English and with certificates for teaching English on a professional level make up a proper combination to meet the goal.
The Chair of foreign languages is one of the biggest at ITMO University in the number of staff. Each lecturer and teacher is able to deliver any of the sub-disciplines of the course:
- general English
- English for specific purposes
- Academic writing
- Dynamic presentations
However, some of the teaching staff develop certain aspects of methodology and practice of teaching foreign languages more specifically, thus forming the theoretic foundation for the education process and its incorporation in the modern framework of the development of ITMO University in keeping with the general trends of higher education in the world.
Practical aspects of developing the methodology of teaching foreign languages by the Chair include:
- Introduction and ample use of online and blended learning techniques
- development of the Academic Writing course
- new level of co-operation with departments and chairs teaching special disciplines involving integration in both the content and the methods of teaching, to be able to have novel lecturing staff teaching both undergraduate and post-graduate students.
The new approach for teaching has been successfully implemented for the programs for bachelor students, and the experience is under analysis now to adjust and create the corresponding programs for master programs. Business English taught to post-graduate students is also a novelty successfully introduced in 2015.
English as the language of international communication and a must within the strategy of the University is certainly dominating at the department. However, German and French are not neglected either. Modern world requires specialists speaking languages other than English, and although the number of students is small compared to those studying English, the tradition of a thorough training in those languages is carefully preserved producing real “gems” of graduates, mastering fluently more than one foreign language.