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14 - 16 June 2013, Viena (Austria)

Seminar and Partner Meeting Viena, Austria

15 June 2013

The meeting was hosted by Viktor Anders and Tatjana Mahler of the Weltsprachen Institute. Also in attendance were partners and representatives from the partner organisations: France (J. Feougier), Germany (E. Koudrjavtseva), Switzerland (E. Denisova-Schmidt), the United Kingdom (O. and G. Bramley), Sweden (I. Khromova) and the Netherlands (O. Sterensis).

Viktor Anders welcomed the participants and started the meeting by giving some background information and basic statistics on multilingualism in Austria. For example, in a recent competition for schoolchildren, who had to give a talk in both German and their native language, 45 languages were represented, the main ones being Bosnian, Turkish, Arabic, Polish and Hungarian. There are at present over 22,000 schoolchildren in Austria whose mother tongue is not German. This figure represents a little over 19% of all schoolchildren. Other studies have also shown that there are high numbers of speakers of these languages in the country.

Ekaterina Koudrjavtseva reminded the partners of the importance of submitting the interim report (by post and electronically) by the end of June.

Internet sites (with material in English) should be mentioned in the report. Viktor needs the partners’ Skype addresses to create a group site.

The EST database details must also be completed on-line by the 1st October 2013.

There then followed an update and discussion of the work done to date by the partners on the first module of the project; to devise a new teaching programme for use in kindergartens and pre-schools.

An initial questionnaire had been devised for teaching staff involved in teaching multilingual children (at main-stream and supplementary schools) for the purpose of gaining an initial general picture of teaching practices, approaches and methodology in the respective countries. This was presented to the participants and discussed in detail. Olga Bramley proposed that two separate questionnaires are produced; one for self-employed teachers and another for use by school directors, which would be more useful for all concerned. It was also suggested that the wording in some of the questions is changed. Moreover, the document needs to be written in English.

It was agreed that the partners would examine the questionnaire and get back to Ekaterina, Project Coordinator, with objective recommendations by the 1st July 2013, so that the form can be distributed by the 10 July. Completed forms will then need to be returned to Ekaterina by the 1st September 2013.

Compilation of the full written material is nearing completion but it will need to be translated into English. It was agreed that George Bramley would carry out thorough proof-reading/editing, but would not be in a position to translate the document.

The complete material needs to be sent to print by the 1st August, and the deadline for publishing the results of the 1st Module is the 1st October 2013.

Olga Bramley proposed creating a Facebook page for the group.

The partners then went on to discuss the overall situation of Russian language teaching at schools throughout Europe. Current issues affecting teaching programmes are typically challenges presented by contemporary life and the modern age, e.g. new technology, in the face of traditional methods and approaches. In Germany, there are noticeable differences in the typical approach to teaching of Russian teaching staff and their German peers. For example, German teachers are more likely to recognise that languages, including Russian, have evolved over time, and their relationship with the children is rather more formal or reserved than their Russian counterparts, who are typically on more familiar terms with the children.

There are a good number of supplementary schools teaching Russian throughout Europe, in which the high standard of teaching has been acknowledged. Examples were given of schools in France, Germany and Spain.

The next meeting will be held in London on the 13 July at the London School of Russian Language and Literature.

George Bramley
London School of Russian Language and Literature