Russians from the regions began learning English more actively after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine — in hopes of emigration and finding a job abroad. Teachers have noticed growing interest in foreign languages among adults, but in general, the demand for their services is subject to seasonal fluctuations. 7x7’s correspondent talked to people learning the language and tutors in the regions.
Who needs English
Content manager and ceramics master Marina Stepanova lives in Tomsk. She had been meaning to improve her English for a long time and signed up for the first lesson on February 18. She started practicing the foreign language in order to be able to stay in a warm country for a couple of months one day. But Marina changed her priorities after the hostilities began in Ukraine.
“As the teacher and I were outlining the goals of learning the foreign language, I indicated ‘emigration to an English-speaking country in a few years’ at the very end of the list,” the young woman said. “This goal has now taken an honorable first place in the list.”
She is glad that she decided to learn the foreign language in peacetime: the young woman started classes without a sense of fear and panic. She is not going to give up learning the language, even if the tutor increases prices.
Marina from Yekaterinburg is a fitness instructor. At the end of 2021, she and her boyfriend went to spend the winter on the island of Bali, but she decided to stay abroad for a few more months after the events of February 24. She signed up for English courses in early February to practice and take the first step in working with English-speaking clients.
“I just wanted to improve my spoken English, and I planned to reach an English-speaking audience in about two years. However, due to the fluctuations in the ruble and dollar exchange rate, life in Bali has become more expensive, Russian clients have left, and I realized that I had to start working with foreigners faster. Therefore, I accelerated the process, I am studying fitness vocabulary,” says Marina.
The young woman gives free classes to English-speaking clients in Bali to improve her language skills.
Polina from Nizhny Novgorod used to be an IT product manager. She left Russia on March 5, lives in Phuket and is not thinking of returning yet. She is learning English to live and work abroad.
"When my mother asks me how many friends of mine have left Russia, I start counting, and it feels like everyone has left.
I left because it was important for me to speak out against what was happening. But one cannot speak out loud, otherwise they will be under investigation. Therefore, I chose this way — as quietly and as eloquently as possible," Polina told 7x7.
Polina has online lessons with two tutors from Russia at once. She wanted to enroll in an online English language school, but it turned out that there were no gaps for classes there yet: the schedule was packed.
Anna, the editor of the charity organization's website, decided to emigrate from Russia to Serbia. Probably permanently. She used to live in St. Petersburg, and as soon as the special operation in Ukraine began, the young woman realized that she and her boyfriend could no longer stay in the country.
“It was very difficult to make this decision, because we have already settled here [in St. Petersburg] and we understand that we are leaving for worse conditions,” says Anna. “Most likely, it will be difficult to find a job, we will have to look for something new. We are not moving. We are escaping from the regime.”
Anna has not attended English classes for four years, since having graduated from university. She has lessons with a tutor twice a week, and each lesson lasts one hour. Her tutor is also preparing to leave Russia.
What tutors say
Ekaterina Geshelina lives in Yaroslavl and has been teaching English for more than seven years. The schedule of her classes changed a lot after February 24 — the day when the special operation of Russian troops started in Ukraine.
“I noticed a big decline during the first week,” the young woman explained. “I used to have up to 35 lessons a week, but after February 24, the number decreased to 25. I even thought about how I was supposed to make a living if the interest in English fell significantly.”
Many students resumed lessons during the second decade of March. Most of them are programmers and paid in dollars. Perhaps it just took people a while to realize that their income level has not changed, and they can still invest in knowledge.
New people began reaching out to Ekaterina, and this continues to this day. The teacher receives at least a couple of applications per day, but she can no longer take new students: the schedule is too tight. Geshelina drew attention to the increased motivation. Usually, people canceled or rescheduled classes after the first spring sun, but this spring, most students continue attending them regularly.
Teacher Konstantin Drachkov from Ivanovo noticed that there had been more adults and fewer children in his classes over the past month. He attributed this to a drop in income of his younger students' parents. But the tutor says that there is no hype demand: the number of calls from potential students remains the same.
Tutors from eight regions, whom 7x7’s correspondent contacted randomly using Internet ads, do not notice much interest in their services. For example, Maria Steshina from Saransk receives calls from new customers, but there are almost as many of them as always.
“I have to refuse, because the group was mustered in September-October and the schedule is packed,” the young woman explained.
Ekaterina Shikunova from Belgorod has the same situation. She even had to remove ads from the Yula and Avito services, as her schedule is packed. Alexandra Zvereva from Tambov receives one call every two to three weeks. She does not refuse new students, there are some gaps in her schedule.
The demand for some tutors’ classes is starting to fall. Anna Petelina from Kirov has fewer students now — this always happens closer to summer. Elena Kargina from Syktyvkar confirmed that the demand was falling, and the increase was expected in the autumn.