Number one for English language teachers

Romania: 'We evolve'

Diana Nastasia talks about her mixed bag of professional experiences in her homeland and the country’s development since 1989.

Romania is one of the countries fighting fiercely to get out of the communist totalitarian regime and to join the family of democracies.

Before the Revolution in 1989, learning foreign languages was quite pointless, as people could not travel freely around the world and were not allowed to have contacts with Westerners. Romanians used to be taught two modern languages at school, from the second to the twelfth grade, even during the faculty years. But, since manuals were dull, full of propagandist texts, and teachers of modern languages were marginalized and traumatised, not having access to fresh information and not having the opportunity of talking to foreigners, classes didn't have much impact on the learners. Reading texts and doing grammar exercises were the main activities, listening and speaking strategies were rarely used, so trainees did not acknowledge the importance of communicating in English, French or German.

Since 1989, things have changed, being improved on the way, sometimes at the initiative of the teachers and students prior to the occurrence of structural transformations in the educational system. We have experienced good and bad times, in certain moments trying to import European or American models, during other periods striving to adapt various patterns to the Romanian realities. There have appeared new handbooks, most of them accompanied by exercise books and teachers’ books, even audiocassettes, videocassettes or multimedia materials. Now teachers can choose their methods, texts and practices, according to the profile of the school, their own interests, the preoccupations of the students and the level of knowledge in the class. Focus has started to be placed on technologies of interaction, conversation, individual and collective projects, focus groups.

Although I am young, like the Romanian democracy, I have had a lot of good and bad experiences in teaching within higher education institutions in Romania. After having graduated from the Faculty of Letters at Bucharest University and having taken Master courses, in 1996, I was employed at the Romanian-American University, the Management-Marketing Faculty, to deliver seminars of English language and commercial correspondence for first and second year undergraduate students. At the same time, I became a visiting teaching assistant at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, the Faculty of Public Administration and the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations, delivering practical courses of English, teaching specialised languages for public administration, mass-communication, social-political communication. The first university was private, one of the first attempts to implement private higher education in Romania, the second one was funded with state funds, but also a new initiative, because during communism public administration, political analysis, public relations and advertising were not issues to be openly studied at a university. At the beginning, the struggle to teach effectively was difficult for me (and probably for other lecturers of English). I had to come to class with photocopies of the materials, for each student, paid from my own money, I was always bringing a bag full of books with me in order to at least show them to the students, materials for teaching English through specialised languages and vocational education were scarce, there wasn’t even a tape recorder or a video-player in the faculties, trainees were not accustomed and were sometimes ashamed to have vivid discussions on their topics of interest.

At the “David Ogilvy” Faculty of Communication and Public Relations, where I finally settled, I have had to be not only a lecturer, but also an initiator of activities and an administrator of resources. Thus, I devised teaching plans for the four years of undergraduate studies and two years of graduate studies. I co-ordinated a group of students to translate into English the presentation booklets and the website of the Faculty. I have taken part in the organisation of international events and conceived projects for fund raising for the Faculty. I have already written two courses (one on communication and PR terminology and one on political thinking) and accomplished a set of multimedia tests, in order to cover the need for teaching specialised languages in the field of communication. When we succeeded to equip a multimedia laboratory for information sciences and foreign languages, I not only worked intellectually, but also carried desks and arranged computers on top of them, together with other colleagues of mine and with students. I was a founding member and I am an adviser of the “Ethos” group of debates for students (kept in Romanian and English), with the purpose of enabling them to talk in front of an audience, to have a logically organised and persuasive speech.

At the seminars of English language, we now have the grammar part conducted to the most advanced methods of teaching and evaluation, our goal being to train the students for internationally recognised tests, and the communication part achieved through projects and debates we film, view and discuss.

It has been a harsh and tiring battle, we have experienced a lot, we have made mistakes sometimes. But we evolve.

Multe salutari din Romania!

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