Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет



February 9, 2008


POISK Centre and the Centre for Scientific Languages hosted an open English-language meeting aimed at preparation to forthcoming national and international Young Physicists’ Tournaments. The focus was on acquisition and enhancing proficiency in Scientific English, but also on developing skills in scientific reasoning and discussion. The event included a training Physics Fight among advanced teams. CSL and POISK Centre confirm their plans for active long term partnership.




Primary goals of the meetings focused on the «foreign languages of science»

The POISK Centre encourages YPT participants to learn languages and considers it very important to maintain activities that help Russian teams achieve not only some best results in physics, but also the maximum proficiency in English language.

«We are convinced in the necessity of repeated, open and university-supervisedwarming-upmeetings for YPT participants that provide everyone with an opportunity of discussing their results with other physics enthusiasts. It is our great pleasure and our responsibility to assist our students in developing, besides all, best skills in English language. When a student is at a start point of his research project, his language skills are valuable for background reading. When a student looks for a reference and searches for an article in a peer-reviewed magazine, for a survey, for a Wikipedia entry or for a science book, his language skills are necessary. Any further international scientific activity is simply impossible without fluent English language», said a POISK Centre statement.

International practice convinces that the teams at international Tournaments may focus on discussing physics only if there is no need to struggle with overcoming language barriers. POISK Centre applies much effort to hold regular training seminars, discussion tables and conferences that might ensure that this problem is solved.

An example of related international activities are Preparation Camps and Physics Schools with Polish teams (such as in 2007), that are held in English language and enjoy extremely positive feedback of the students and activists from both countries. An annual Summer Physics Camp for Russian students and many smaller seminars and workshops play their roles as well.

«In 2008, when a growing number of Russian schools and IYPT enthusiasts join the preparation, it is necessary to hold such meetings more frequently and attract a maximum range of participating students. It is, above all, a way for maintaining their competitive spirit, giving them an impetus in their research projects and selecting the most able of them», POISK Centre confirmed.

«I highly rate the approach used by POISK Centre […] to help students learning «foreign languages of science», aimed at a clear understanding during the international competitions, conferences and exchanges», head of the Centre for Scientific Languages Dr. Dmitry Lisachenko noted in his open 2007 letter. CSL in a language centre founded at Saint Petersburg State University in 1998. Dr. Dmitry Lisachenko, a physicist who works at both Philological Faculty and Department of Physics of Saint Petersburg State University and holds active membership in the Union of Translators of Russia, is the head of the Centre.

One of the points that CSL and POISK Centre stand for is the importance of content-based instruction, when the meetings and discussions are organized around physics rather than grammar or any other language point. «When we speak in a native language about physics, or love, we never consider grammar. Why it must be otherwise when we speak in a foreign language?» Dr. Dmitry Lisachenko says.


Organization of the meeting on February 9, 2008

The plenary session included keynotes by POISK Centre members and a training Physics Fight hosted by Ilya Martchenko. Three advanced teams of Physico-Mathematical School 30, Akademicheskaya Gimnaziya and Physico-Mathematical Lyceum 239 took part in this Physics Fight.

The working language at the plenary session and during discussions was English.

Like other meetings focused on the «languages of science», this event was held in cooperation with the Centre for Scientific Languages (still better known as the Centre du Français Scientifique) and with a conceptual support from its partners, such as the Philological Faculty of Saint Petersburg State University.

Download video 1: One of the reports presented on February 9, 2008

Download video 2: Fragment of an opposition presented on February 9, 2008


Opinions of YPT activists

«Languages are fascinating. Such events as we have today are a great practice. Even if I consider my own experience, I may say that such meetings convince that English is not a marginal unpleasant subject that we are forced to study. You just can’t survive without it. For example, if we meet a colleague from another country, we couldn’t speak to him otherwise», a team coach of School 30 Ekaterina Mikhailova underlined.

«Here is my opinion. When a person speaks in Russian, he may say anything, much nonsense. And when he speaks in English, he speaks in more reasonable way, weighting words. It he is familiar with English language, he knows it in certain limits, being familiar for example with simple words. Therefore he explains all phenomena in simple words. That greatly helps in achieving understanding and in making speech clear and easily understandable», her colleague Dmitry Luzin said.


Results of the Physics Fight


Rank Team Report Opposition Review Total
1 Physico-Mathematical School 30 25.50 14.29 7.36 47.14
2 Akademicheskaya Gimnaziya 22.29 15.00 8.50 45.79
3 Physico-Mathematical Lyceum 239 20.57 13.86 6.79 41.21

Best individual reporter is George Oblapenko

Best individual opponent is Alexei Schekochikhin


Distant support from Dr. Robert Kolalis

Jury Chair and Honorary Head of the POISK Centre Dr. Robert Kolalis who is known for his great enthusiasm in physics education and for his bright interpretations of many curious physical phenomena, was not present at the meeting because of certain health issues. He rejected to remain unaware of what happens at the Physics Fight and proposed to organize a direct telephone line between him and the attendees of the event.

He asked questions to the participants via telephone and actively participated in discussions.

«That was an extraordinary step and we are very grateful to Dr. Kolalis for his fantastic enthusiasm», POISK Centre president Dr. Elena Lebedeva said. «It would be so boring if I stay here and don’t find out what happens at your meeting», Dr. Robert Kolalis responded.

The practice of distant communication is, however, a cornerstone for POISK Centre that interacts with its distant participants via internet. The information exchange, correspondence, mutual review, exchange of research data, reports, guidelines and advice kits continue on a permanent basis.



Conclusions and further work

Due to the active cooperation with language centres and research institutions, POISK Centre is constantly affiliated with research in second language acquisition. Earlier reports by Dr. Dmitry Lisachenko and Ilya Martchenko at the philological and linguistic conferences have led to several peer-reviewed publications in this filed.

These reports have outlined and analyzed methods that are believed to help physicists when they have a genuine, immediate need to learn a language. Such concepts, above all, encourage IYPT participants to learn English and keep an open minded approach to other languages as well.

«With all my skepticism and with no attempt to exaggerate, I must claim that the current language proficiency of our participants is, at least, very good», Ilya Martchenko said on February 9, 2008.

Dr. Dmitry Lisachenko and Ilya Martchenko have contributed talks in applied linguistics to forthcoming research conferences that will take place in March 2008.


See also

[March 16, 2007] Ilya Martchenko has taken part in the 36th International Philological Conference (March12—17, 2007) with a report in applied linguistics that covered language programs at POISK Centre.

[March 14, 2006] Ilya Martchenko is co-author of a research in applied linguistics presented at the 35th International Philological Conference (Saint Petersburg State University, March13—18, 2006).




Ответственный за содержание: специалист управления по связям с общественностью С. С. Смирнова, s.s.smirnova@spbu.ru