Download Statement of Grant Purpose Brian V. Souders, Estonia, English

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Statement of Grant Purpose
Brian V. Souders, Estonia, English Teaching Assistant Program
Eesti vabaks (Free Estonia) was the refrain shouted by slightly intoxicated Finnish
tourists departing on the Georg Ots for the short cruise back to Helsinki. As a high-school
exchange student, I barely understood the complicated set of political and cultural
negotiations Estonians endured during fifty years of Soviet rule. Six years, a BA in
political science and Russian, and graduate work in post-Soviet politics make this interest
in serving this rapidly changing country more concrete.
As a returnee volunteer for Youth for Understanding, a US-based high-school
exchange organization, I have made presentations to multiple constituencies throughout
Central Pennsylvania on the benefits of high school cultural exchange. I have made
similar presentations about contemporary life and culture in the United States during my
year as a exchange student in central Finland. I volunteered weekly for two years at
Indiana University’s English Language Institute, working as a conversation partner for
one-on-one and small-group tutoring with international students from across the world.
Having served as a teaching assistant for American Politics at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, I am able to explain US politics from both historic and
contemporary contexts.
With advanced proficiency in Russian and Finnish, as well as intermediate
proficiency in Estonian, I bring to the ETA assignment a unique set of linguistic skills.
Both Russian and Estonian are widely different than English at the structural level. With
substantial training in both languages as well as advanced course work in structural and
applied linguistics, giving me a depth of understanding of language acquisition at a
theoretical and practical level. I am broadly familiar with TESOL instruction
methodology and plan to bring the lessons of teaching English to speakers of other
languages to the multiple communities I will teach during the coming academic year.
Getting shy high school students to engage in active learning is always a
challenge. While following the national curriculum for teaching English, I plan to use
examples from contemporary popular culture to get students to engage in active usage of
English. Teaching English through television shows widely available on Estonian
television, which are subtitled in both domestic languages, can allow for language
acquisition using natural language – and allow for a more nuanced and realistic
understanding of contemporary American culture.
Estonia’s increased integration through its membership in the European Union
means that more local students are planning for educational and professional activities
outside of the country, where English is the common language. I plan to create an English
writing club at the American Cultural Center in Tallinn, offering the change for students
of all ages to learn in an active, fun way to write for academic and professional purposes.
I also am enthusiastic about volunteer conversation partner opportunities at local
Russian-language high schools, giving students who may feel pressured to acquire
Estonian as a second language in addition to English as part of the national curriculum,
the opportunity to work on conversational English in a more relaxed, informal manner.
Working in both linguistic communities can also give me the chance to gain a
greater understanding of the complexities of linguistic and cultural realities of post-Soviet
Estonia – far more so than empty slogans shouted by foreign visitors.