Review of Educa Language School, St Petersburg, Russia

Educa Language School gets good online reviews but I think this is more a function of their campaign to encourage happy clients to write reviews than the quality of the program offered. Having participated in over 25 language programs in the last 25 years, I would rate their program overall as average.

Positive Points

They get good marks for their pre-trip communication. After my first inquiry I had a contact person who promptly answered all my questions about their program. That contact disappeared once I arrived at the school. One casual inquiry was made to check that things were going OK, but since I made no complaints there was no follow up either.

A second plus was the school’s flexibility with my schedule. In some schools if you ask for 10 hours of private instruction they double up the hours on just a few days, meaning you end up with 3-4 hours on 3 days rather than 2 hours for 5 days. The former is is far more tiring and less productive than the later. I therefore requested 2 private lessons a day and was given that schedule.

Third, the teaching program gives students the opportunity to speak Russian freely if they so choose. You might think this would be automatic in a language school but I have experienced curriculums that are so tightly controlled that students don’t get much of a chance to just speak the language. This was particularly true in Japan.

The downside to this open approach to teaching is the in-class conversation frequently got off topic and above the competency level of the students, requiring both the students and teacher to revert to English to explain their point.

Fourth, our instructor was extremely positive and encouraging. She was always upbeat and energetic even when the students were tired and rather listless. Genuinely interested about her students she would pull more and more information from them. Generally this encouraged them to speak more Russian, but sometimes the details were beyond the student’s vocabulary resulting in more English being used.

Negative Points

Despite what their website advertises this is not a communicative program. This is a grammar based programs where structures are introduced and then practiced using mostly controlled exercises and then a sort of free for all, make up your own sentences activity. Often too many uses of a particular grammar structure are given at the same time making the explanation confusing even though they were most often explained in English.

I was hoping to experience a communicative program based on language functions where grammar is taught as a tool to complete a particular communication task. These are organized around a lesson goal such as students will use x and y to describe their plans for the weekend and ask about other students’ plans.

Second, there is a much too heavy reliance on English in the classroom. While I’m not opposed to limited explanations and some vocabulary being given in English, too much English by the instructor and students over complicates the discussion. It becomes a conversation in English about Russian grammar and not a lesson in which Russian grammar is learned and praticed.

Third, while the two instructors I had were both impressively knowledgeable about Russian grammar, they were less so about current teaching methodology. In talking with them I don’t know that either of them had any idea about what communicative teaching is. How can you say you run a communicative program if your teachers don’t even know what it is?

Class Size

Class size is limited to 8 students. I was lucky our group ranged from 2 to 4 students. Some classes did have 8.

Other Activities

The school offers a Wednesday lunch for new students and a canal boat tour on your first week. Both activities were given with little explanation from the person coordinating the excursions and students spoke nearly entirely in English.

The school also offers weekend excursions to popular destinations near the city. I did not participate, mostly because of the summer tourist crowds.

Studying Russian in St Petersburg

When I first started doing language immersion programs 25 years ago I made a point of never studying a language in a big tourist city unless I was already competent. I stayed out of Paris until I could hold a conversation in French. I should have taken my own advice and tried to find a smaller city for studying Russian. Way too much English is spoken in the city center where the school is located to be able to practice much Russian on the street.

August 2019

For links to all the posts in this series see the St Petersburg page.

For more posts on travel in Russia see the Russia page.