St Petersburg University recently played host to a roundtable conference entitled “Current Issues in the Teaching of the Russian Language and the State Testing System”.  This event drew more than 30 experts from Russia, Latvia, Greece, Italy and Germany.

During this meeting, questions were raised about recognition of the certificate given for successful completion of the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL) in eleven countries throughout the world, including Russia.  Other testing systems of Russian as a foreign language used in Europe and Asia were also considered, along with opportunities for improving the TORFL system and the experience of the Zlatoust Publishing House in providing textbooks that support this system.

“We can say that this conference was unique.  Unfortunately, at the vast majority of events devoted to Russian as a foreign language, the testing system is not given as much attention as it deserves.  In this case, however, TORFL became the focal point,”- confided Dmitrii Ptiushkin, Acting Director of the St Petersburg University Language Testing Centre

Ultimately, we showed that, based on our work here at St Petersburg University, it is obvious that the TORFL system works, that it is improving and that it provides a real contribution to the advancement of Russian as a foreign language.

Dmitrii Ptiushkin, Acting Director of the St Petersburg University Language Testing Centre

Mr Ptiushkin noted that the main focus at this event was on the practical experience that our foreign colleagues have with testing Russian as a foreign language.  The University’s experience in Greece, for instance, has shown that if you start out simply by conducting tests, you can then set up a big project that will grant foreigners access to all the educational opportunities the University has to offer as a single window policy.  In Latvia, testing acts as an indicator of the status the Russian language has in this country, especially among those who consider themselves to be native speakers of Russian.  In Italy, certification exams have already gone beyond the bounds of a specific target audience and have become a kind of “road” project.  And in Germany, the testing of Russian for schoolchildren is especially developed.

A very interesting report on several aspects of the Cambridge English Language Assessment, a testing system for the English language, was prepared especially for the roundtable conference.  It touched on how this test is conducted in Russia and how the Cambridge English certificates are processed in the Russian Federation.

It was noted during the conference that not only do such events reinforce international cooperation and provide methodological support for teachers, but, thanks to the interesting and innovative presentations, they also increase participants’ interest in working together.