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S. Polskaya

Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
With the world becoming more and more global nowadays, the knowledge of the English language is essential for everyone. In Russia, we do understand the importance of knowing a foreign language, however, even in Moscow, the largest city of Russia, very few people will be able to explain themselves in English properly if one happens to ask them directions on the street. The aim of our study was to discover the reasons for the existing situation and to analyze the ways of overcoming this tendency.

During those years under the Soviet Union, no foreign language was needed at all, and the ability to speak a foreign language was the prerogative of a very limited circle of people (diplomats, interpreters, teachers of English). People were not motivated to learn a foreign language as they knew there wouldn’t be a chance to apply such knowledge. At schools, they taught how to read and to write in English paying much less attention to speaking and listening skills – Soviet people were not supposed to communicate with foreigners.

Things were expected to change after the collapse of the Soviet Union: the country became open, trying to integrate into the world system, with joint ventures being established and foreign tourism gaining popularity. There seemed to be more motivation to learn English for traveling, interacting with foreign partners etc. However, one can’t say that throughout the recent 25 years, the number of people who speak English fluently has noticeably increased. Certain improvements can be observed due to spreading Internet, young people traveling more, more children studying abroad, however, an average Russian still finds it difficult to speak this language.

According to the results of the latest all-Russian Census of 2010, only 7 574303 people out of 138 312 535 population know English (less than 6% of those living in Russia). However, this figure may not be accurate as many respondents might have mentioned they knew English only because they had learned it at school, while others who really knew the language might have considered their knowledge to be not enough.

While doing this study, we got an access to 100 resumes received by a Moscow-based recruitment agency. All 100 candidates mentioned they spoke English fluently (which seems to be a standard thing for everyone’s resume irrespective of the fact if they needed English for their job or not.) We were allowed then to attend the agency’s interviews with those candidates and, moreover, given an opportunity to check their knowledge of English during the interview. Striking discrepancy between ‘fluent English’ mentioned in the resume and the actual knowledge of English checked serves as another proof of a low level of the English language knowledge among the young Russian people aged 23-29. Another part of our study included surveying recent university graduates with a bachelor degree (who graduated from 5 Moscow Universities in 2016) who estimated their level of English as B2 (according to CEFR)

In our research we analyzed the possible reasons for such a situation as well as extrinsic and intrinsic motivation of Russian learners to learn English as a foreign language. Evidently, this issue requires consistent state support as well as developing principally new approaches towards teaching English in Russia.