English for developers. How we created the course


Our interlocutors were developers 28-40 years old, working on a freelance basis or in small companies, who studied some English at school or University, sometimes returning to study the language on corporate courses or individually with a teacher. Most of them want to work in international companies, and many of them want to move to another country. The results of our CustDev helped to create the structure of the program and influenced the selection of content.

We think this will be useful not only for those who want to launch similar online courses, but also for corporate training specialists. We will be grateful for feedback from both developers and experts in the field of teaching English.

Why are those who want to get a job in an international company not there yet?

There are two main reasons:

  • the language barrier that prevents from effectively organizing a job search and passing an interview. In addition, the upcoming communication in English with the new team usually scares.

  • the system of work organization is stressful (especially often noted by those who have not yet tried to work in international projects, but have heard from colleagues)

What kind of English does developers need?

In the process of CustDev, we found out that practicing developers do not need technical English, and everyone can understand the documentation. Perhaps they need to improve their General English? No, most people are not ready to spend time on General English either. The ideal option is to get practical language skills in the shortest time, which will allow to start looking for a job on the international market immediately. At the same time, it is desirable to practice these skills on interesting profile or popular content in the IT environment.

What are the specifics of teaching English to developers? What should be the focus?

From our conversations with developers, we realized that an educational product aimed at them should be as concise as possible and at the same time rich in useful knowledge. The key metrics for creating the course were:

  • The shortest possible time, allowing you combine the program with work (we stopped at 1 month of training, 3 classes of 1.5 hours per week with homework).

  • Refusal to use ready-made textbooks (we have not found a fully appropriate textbook for our purposes, and the use of any other requires compromise solutions: either increase the number of classes, or cut IT content in favor of a common language).

  • Working on language skills on educational content that is relevant to the audience (we used professional news and articles, speeches of HR IT companies, fragments of real correspondence with employers to compose the exercises).

  • References to the usual it-environment terminology and structuring of information, where it is justified (for example, we divided the course into 2 sprints: in the first we train the skills of written communication, in the second — oral).

  • The development of the program from the usual to the more stressful (first we write, then we talk, and the most stressful part — preparation for various types of interviews).

  • Reducing psychological discomfort about the upcoming job search and interviewing (all situations are first played out with a fictional character Frank, then everyone tries them on personally and performs individual tasks).

  • Specific results that a person can apply to achieve their goals while they are still in the process of training (preparing a CV, Cover letter, LinkedIn profile, working out business correspondence with an employer, telephone and face-to-face interviews).

  • Selective approach to the recruitment of students (we can not take everyone who wants to take such a short-term intensive course, so we focus only on those who already work in the IT industry with a Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate language level).

What is the best way to practice? In groups or one at a time? If groups, then how many students should be there?

Group training was noted by the majority of respondents. From a psychological point of view it is the most comfortable. Moreover, the communicative method of learning foreign languages is considered the most effective. At the same time, online training of adults in foreign languages is optimally carried out in groups of 5-6 people.

How to find the right teacher?

The expert teacher who develops the course should not only be fluent in English, but also have experience working in an English-speaking IT environment, a native speaker even better. We have heard this request from all respondents. If the teacher is "not from the environment", there is a question of trust in him and in his ability to teach professional English. For our part, we understood that the expert should have experience in teaching English and, even more importantly, the desire to grow in this direction. If the expert starts working from the position "I have a lot of experience, I understand all about it", they will not be able to hear the potential target audience and adapt the program to the current request.

In order for students to feel comfortable, it is desirable that the teacher understands Russian. Of course, there are immersion programs where the native teacher does not know the language of the students, or individual classes with a native speaker, but for highly specialized intensive courses in small groups, we thought it important to insure students from falling out of the process as much as possible.

What else should we pay attention to?

To remove language and communication constraints, we develop the program from simple and familiar to complex and stressful. For example, we start the course by working on the text, and then proceed to work on the speech. One of the first tasks is to update your CV in English. It, in one form or another, is available to all, special knowledge of grammar does not require, so nothing prevents the participants of the course to post an updated competent CV after the first lesson. Thus, the first sprint is dedicated to working with texts and documents. In the second — we add oral communication: from the ability to tell abstract stories to the skills of presenting yourself and your results. The second sprint is completed with training sessions for various types of interviews: telephone, behavioral, and situational.

Where is English?

Once, presenting the program, when we described what logic it follows, a colleague asked why we focus so much on the professional-applied component, and not on the fundamental study of the language. But "building the foundation" takes at least a year, while we are expecting to receive letters from graduates who successfully work in foreign companies in a couple of week after the course. And, of course, once they get into an international company, and especially after moving to another country, their English will improve much faster than in any course. We solve a specific task — we help to use the language more boldly and actively when applying for a job and be ready to build your personal brand in the international IT environment.

Dennis Sarkar, author and teacher of the course "English for developers".
Yulia Shirina, Methodist of the online educational platform Polygled.
Link to the course — https://it.polygled.com/.

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