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Interview with Konstantin Krasnolutsky

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Konstantin, I read on your website that you hold an MA in English Linguistics and Translation and you have been working as an interpreter for numerous companies and organizations. In addition, you are a full time professor for business English at the Ukrainian Academy of Barristers. Could you please tell us when and why you started to learn English?

Thanks a lot for your question which evoked a flood of flashback memories of my childhood when I started learning English. Actually it was my mom who inspired me to learn English. During World Word II my mother was in a concentration camp in Oswiecim. While being there she learned Polish and some German and can still remember a lot of words. I started learning English when I was a 10 year old boy. Having finished school I decided to enter Gorky State Teachers'' Training Institute in Russia.

I wasn''t enrolled that year and wanted to enter Chemical College in Ukraine. Alas, it was not meant to be because the Head of the Selection Committee who put me back to my life track said: "I won'' t give you any documents for you to make a mistake. So you may place a complaint to the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation but I am absolutely sure you will be learning foreign languages." His prediction has come true. After I served in the Army I entered Kiev State Teacher''s Training Institute of Foreign Languages, English Department. Later I taught English at Kiev National Linguistic University. I have always been very persistent in learning languages and at the moment I can speak 4 languages: English, French, Spanish and Polish. English has become my top priority.

Frankly speaking I am a very happy person. English has opened so many doors for me that I couldn''t even dream of. I have been to a number of countries: the USA – 8 times, Great Britain – 3 times, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Hungary, Holland, Belgium. I have visited Cambridge, London, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Cape Cod, Brussels, Amsterdam, Taipei, Budapest.

In 1996 I headed the Ukrainian delegation to 30th TESOL Convention in Chicago where I first learned about TOEIC. After that I was so obsessed with this idea that I promised myself I would become a TOEIC Center Director. Finally my dream has come true and I have become a TOEIC Test Center Director. At present I am an Executive Director of Ukrainian Charitable Knowledge Development Foundation. In addition I have been invited to teach Critical Thinking, Information Technologies in the Technotronic Society at the State Academy of Managerial Staff of Culture and Arts. I am very excited to have such an incredible opportunity to bring in new concepts into Ukrainian education.

TOEIC means so much to me because it is a fantastic opportunity to check your knowledge and get a quick start. My elder son who was born in 1990 has already taken TOEIC and demonstrated excellent results. This year when he submitted his documents to enter an Academy, the selection committee welcomed this certificate. English has become my ladder to success and I am extremely grateful to my mom and to those who have helped me to achieve my success.

Many thanks for all this interesting information. It''s great to hear that the English language has had such an impact on your life. You mentioned that your elder son has already taken the TOEIC test. Could you please tell me what he is going to study and how his TOEIC certificate is going to help him achieve his career goals?

Thanks again for your question. TOEIC has become an important milestone in my elder son''s professional development. I am absolutely sure that TOEIC apart from testing language competence itself, it checks critical thinking skills which are becoming increasingly important in our fast changing world. This year he has become a student and he is going to major in management of information technologies and international standards.

It''s interesting to hear that the TOEIC test is gaining importance in Ukraine too. Please tell us a bit more about the language situation in Ukraine. As far as I know, many people speak Russian as their first language and Ukrainian as their second. Do you think that this fact makes it easier for Ukrainians to learn English or any other foreign languages?

Yes, Torsten, you are right, TOEIC is gaining importance not only in Ukraine. We had a customer who even flew from Georgia to take the test. We have some inquiries from other republics. Furthermore State Academy of Managerial Staff in Culture and Arts has become the first Ukrainian institution of higher learning which introduced TOEIC as a compulsory element of the curriculum. The graduates of this department are in high demand and good scores in TOEIC will greatly improve their competitive advantage. The head of this department is my close friend and colleague academician Vladimir Shevtchenko, an outstanding scientist who was a guest speaker at Stanford University, made reports at the White House.

This year two more new disciplines Critical Thinking and Information Technologies will be included into the curriculum. Both of them will be taught in English. As for the linguistic situation in Ukraine I would say it is quite diverse. Ukrainian has become a state language but Russian is still in use and many people speak it. I originally come from Eastern Ukraine where Russian is more common than Ukrainian.

Later I started speaking Ukrainian more often than Russian. I have always considered Ukrainian a bridge to other languages and it helped me learn Polish which is very close to Ukrainian. Ideally, English is easier to learn for Ukrainians than for Russians but it is commitment that really counts.

From my prospective if you are ambitious, dedicated and hardworking you will be able to learn any language. Nothing is impossible!

Konstantin, many people want to know how to prepare for the TOEIC. You mentioned that State Academy of Managerial Staff in Culture and Arts has made TOEIC part of their curriculum. What kind of materials and methods do you think are useful to achieve a high TOEIC score?

Nice to hear from you again. Hope you are enjoying summertime. Summer is very hot here in terms of business since we have a lot of enquiries this summer. As far as your question is concerned I would like to name several resources I might recommend. I have been using your tests for TOEIC preparation, grammar revision, vocabulary enhancement. I find the format you have created extremely convenient and easy to use.

Additionally I might thoroughly recommend the TOEIC online preparation system created by my friend Rob and his team. We have started fruitful cooperation and this product has already been very successfully tested both in Ukraine and Georgia.

Apart from these forms we recommend traditional exam preparation guides by Barron''s, a leader in publishing preparation books for TOEFL, TOEIC, GRE, GMAT and others but life is diverse and I have just received information about a new resource which will add up to the wealth of state-of-the-art preparation resources. I will keep you updated about new resources. Have a nice day!

It''s great to hear you are using a variety of resources to prepare your students for the TOEIC test. What do you think about using authentic media such as CNN, BBC, NBC, audio books, etc? In other words, how important is it for a learner of English to use the same resources as native speakers of English?

Sure, my friend, authentic resources are of special importance since they provide refined examples of native speakers'' creativity. The logic of a foreign language is not always evident and you have to learn some structures as is because not all of them are existent in your native language.

I have always been keen on using the latest technological inventions to make teaching and learning more exciting and CNN, BBC, NBC provide a wealth of educational resources. Imagine a huge army of correspondents travelling all over the world and carefully scrutinizing every piece of information and it is done for you, dear reader and/listener. They have even gone further: they ave created educational quizzes and a lot more.

I am a sheer fan of podcasting: I have already delivered a series of lectures on podcasting in Western Ukraine. They have been a great success. Additionally with some software you can create optional resources: listening comprehension quizzes, you name it. Educational technology has become a part of my life and it has substantially contributed to the success I have achieved.

Please tell us more about your Podcasting seminars. Who are the attendees and what exactly do you tell them?

I learnt about podcasting several years ago and I was so thrilled with the idea that I started exploring numerous sources. Luckily I managed to find a lot. Later on I created a presentation which included a number of podcastas on a number of topics ranging from Anatomy to Nuclear Physics and Business English and Communication Skills. I launched this series of seminars in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk together with my close friend Natalya Dyachuk.

The events were such a success that we made a decision to continue them in Kiev and elsewhere. Before the seminars I try to get as much information as possible to design a specific program for a certain kind of audience. Let''s take ESL professors as an example. Most of them find it difficult to come up with resources on business communication and business etiquette and I try and find these resources and demonstrate how they can be used during their classes.

In addition, I offer some resources related to cultural issues and promote cultural awareness and introduction into modern art and culture of the modern world. Next step I distribute handouts with special tasks which show how a small notebook can be turned into a multifunctional device which may expand your teaching possibilities endlessly. As for the audiences they are numerous: University professors, school teachers, students. I have got something for everybody.

So in the training programs and seminars you have been designing you use podcasts to deliver your ideas. What languages do you produce your podcasts and how long are they? Also, how do you distribute your recordings?

The idea of something like podcasting flashed into my mind about at least 12 years ago. Of course it was very much different from what podcasting is now but nevertheless somewhere deep inside I was ready to accept this form of distributing and sharing information. Later on I learnt more about podcasting and found what exactly I needed for my presentations. Since my top priority is English I use podcasts in English.

At the moment I am just only planning to experiment with my own podcasts. As for distribution I believe the easiest way would be to place them on YouTube. There are a number of other resources which you can use to save your data and to teach online or to give presentations online if you wish. I love exploring news ways of teaching. Possibilities are boundless just apply your imagination!

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Next:ESL Cafe: Interview with Phil Burk

Author: Konstantin Krasnolutsky

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