Letters to the editor

Gazprom article missed the mark
The shocking truth about cross-cultural marriages
Too many unqualified 'native speaking' teachers

Gazprom article missed the mark

Dear Editor,
The tendentious article published last week by Tom Nicholson ["Gazprom demands new Slovak pipeline," Vol. 6 No. 10, Mar. 13-19] contains grossly distorted facts surrounding the construction of a connection through Slovak territory to the gas pipeline known as "Jamal-Western Europe." Because both The Slovak Spectator as well as other mass media publish biased news, we would like to explain this question. This much is required by the principle of transparency in Russian-Slovak relations.
Contrary to what The Slovak Spectator writes, the Chairman of the Board at Gazprom [Rem Viachirev] gave no ultimatum to the Slovak side in his letter to Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda. Mr. Viachirev in his letter informed the Prime Minister of preliminary discussions between Gazprom and the Polish side about the possibilities regarding the construction of a pipeline connection which would connect the "Jamal-Western Europe" pipeline with the existing system for the transport of gas across Slovak territory.
The purpose of the new pipeline is to increase the security and reliability of the supply of gas to European customers, and it becomes one part of the united European gas network. The Gazprom Chairman of the Board requested the Slovak side support this project and participate in its implementation.
In his answer, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda esteemed the project highly and gave the prediction that future co-operation will be advantageous for both sides. He told Mr. Viachirev that he had nominated the minister responsible to carry out further negotiations and at the same time thanked the Russian side for its interesting proposal.
Thus, the fabrications published by various Slovak mass media regarding "dictates and ultimatums from Gazprom" towards Slovakia are absolute lies.

Albert Parfenov, Press Attaché, Embassy of the Russian Federation, Bratislava

The shocking truth about cross-cultural marriages

Dear Editor:
It was with much interest and an enormous sense of good humour and fun that I read your two articles in Culture Shock this week, "Marrying an expat takes patience" [By Renata Stoll and Lucia Nicholsonová, Vol. 6 No. 10, Mar. 13-19]. I am the other side of that proverbial coin - I am an expat married to a Slovak.
I enjoyed the stories, and my own could fill several of your columns for weeks. However, one particular sentence amused me so much, despite the fact that I know it was meant with good spirit and love - "learning to accept a non-Slovak man for what he is takes both patience and training." Loved it! Training where pray tell? And was there a training course available? As a famous American comedian would say, "don't get me started." I laughed out loud thinking of the predicaments we all find ourselves in when we love somebody, especially when that someone is from a different culture than we are.
Cheers to all of us, may we all live long and prosper together!

Maria Miksikova
P.S. Pani Nicholsonová, are Slovak men really that chauvinistic and unfaithful? You got me worried a little.

Too many unqualified 'native speaking' teachers

Dear Editor,
I hope it's not too late to react to an article called "Berlitz teachers bolt for greener pastures" [By Matthew Reynolds, Vol. 6 No.6, Feb. 14-20].
I study English Language and Literature at Comenius University's Faculty of Education. The study programme takes four years, and this year is my final one. Throughout the course our professors have been preparing us for the role of an English teacher. Therefore I found it rather shocking to read that the native speakers coming to Berlitz received only four days of training before they commenced teaching. They did not have to have any previous experience - nothing.
After four years of being professionally trained, I still feel I have a lot to learn through self-study and experience. I would like to see the contents of the four-day-long training the future teachers receive. That means that just about anyone can teach with absolutely no teaching experience and no academic knowledge of the language as such. What is even more surprising is that this is practiced by Bertlitz, a school whose reputation is held to be one of the best in the world. I must say I judged Berlitz mainly by their publications, but since reading your article I have begun to change my mind due to the 'training' they are providing. Basically, the people attending such courses are being bluntly ripped off as they are being taught by amateurs.
I cannot believe that it has taken this country over a decade to get over its awe of the 'native speaker.' What makes a native speaker, I ask? Is it his origin, his skills, his knowledge of English? No, it is a piece of paper called the passport. I spent several years in Britain, studying there as well as in Slovakia. I have been teaching English language to adults in evening courses at a language school in the town centre for two years. It is here (and also at university) that I had encountered representatives of the coveted 'class' of native speakers. It is a shame that those who have a university education in teaching are given a bad name by what I call 'backpackers.' They stumble into our little country on their trip through the world looking for a way to make an easy buck, and hey presto, they start teaching. Not only that - without any education, any test, any knowledge, they suddenly start earning more money per lesson than a Slovak university educated teacher whose only misfortune is that he/she happens to own a Slovak passport. So much for the fight against discrimination.
Times are changing, though. People attending language courses are becoming more sophisticated and experienced. They are now looking for quality and not just 'nativity.' It would therefore be wise for all those cashing in on their citizenships to do something about their training as more and more people that come to the language school I teach at are requesting courses saying "but make sure there is no native speaker." This, of course, is a result of their bad experiences. The language school market is still one that eventually will succumb to the rules of all other markets - if you sell bad goods, you lose your business.

Lenka Sisova

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