Gender for ‘coffee’

Moscow international contest names senior lecturer at Belarusian State University’s Philology Department, Gordey Khomich, as ‘Best Foreign Philology Teacher’ alongside colleagues from China and Moldova

Moscow international contest names senior lecturer at Belarusian State University’s Philology Department, Gordey Khomich, as ‘Best Foreign Philology Teacher’ alongside colleagues from China and Moldova.

Gordey Khomich surpasses 600 rivals from 60 nations

Belarus also received first place in 2013, when Inna Vinnik, a teacher from the agro-town of Snov, took the honour. The current award holder saw an advertisement for the contest on an educational site and ended by surpassing around 600 rivals from 60 countries.

Only 15 went through to the finals, being required to submit records of their teaching activity and methods used to inspire students. Gordey prepared a 6-minute lecture on the topic ‘Russians in Russian Literature’. He explains that he chose to speak of ‘conscience’, which he views as central to Russian mentality, as explored in literature, and closely linked to the Christian topic. He illustrated with examples from Ostrovsky’s Thunderstorm, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Bulgakov’s White Guard. 

What would you have spoken of if the task had focused on Belarusian psyche?

I think our patriotism and love of nature, using Kolas’ ‘New Land’, Kupala’s plays — such as ‘Broken Nest’, and Melezh’s novels.

You’ve worked at school and university level. Are there any differences in how students of these ages apprehend language?

There are many differences; they are variously motivated, with younger pupils wishing to pass their centralised tests and older students being eager to become specialists in the language sphere. You use different resources of course, and rely on youngsters being familiar with certain story formats, such as fairy-tales. As regards students, I try to show them the practical significance of stylistics and speech, including such activities as how to write a CV (what information should be stated and how to demonstrate strengths advantageously).

Simply, you teach language as more than a set of rules...

Truly. It’s an instrument to be studied as part of culture in general, demonstrating how texts are created in a certain language: why one becomes significant and another not.

Russian language lesson at village school in Zhitkovichi District

Which Russian literature texts do you view as most significant?

That’s a tricky question. From my individual preferences as a reader, I’d chose such authors as Chekhov, Gogol, and Russian writers who lived abroad — such as Osorgin. I prefer realism, rather than avant-garde literature.

Soviet newspapers used to analyse Belarusian literature (which was a priori viewed as less important) through Russian literature. For example, echoes of Dostoevsky were sought in the texts of Yakub Kolas. How do you view this approach?

I don’t view Belarusian literature as less important. As I’ve said, Belarusians are rather more connected to their native land. Accordingly, their focus is perhaps more narrow, allowing greater detail. Russian literature enjoys a wider scope, while Belarusian describes in detail the topics close to our hearts.

Do you also prefer realism in Belarusian literature?

Yes. I love classical writers such as Ivan Melezh and Kuzma Chorny. I also appreciate some works by Vasil Bykov.

The Uchitelskaya Gazeta (Teachers’ Newspaper) contest awarded you a special prize: ‘For the Art of Persuasion’. Unsurprisingly, you are also a specialist in rhetoric. You’re now working on a scientific paper on teaching communicative speech. Why do you believe young people need rhetoric and philology?

Communication is a great tool of our modern times. I also use some elements of rhetoric in style classes. For example, working with future translators, I focus on debate and persuasion. Like a scientific article, you need a thesis, argument and conclusion. I propose debate topics and ask them to find arguments and counter-arguments.

As regards public speaking, do you teach your students to rely on their own thoughts or to draw on great minds?

I suggest a balance, with examples used to set the tone or illustrate an idea. An orator builds their ideas piece by piece, using facts from the lives of famous people, proverbs or wise sayings.

What’s your secret for persuasive speaking?

It’s important to take into consideration your listeners, since one and the same speech can generate different results depending on the audience. During the contest, I tried to make my lecture substantial, well structured and interesting: a universal recipe for most listeners. Serious preparation is also important. No good speech is possible without this — even if it looks impromptu.

By Olga Pasiyak

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