Authentic language learning with the Conti method

Our new Russian tutor, Elena, has a vast experience of teaching Russian in the UK and abroad. Elena completed a PGCE at Bath Spa University, where she first implemented Dr. Gianfranco Conti’s teaching style, which emphasizes metacognitive and communication skills. In this article, Elena shares her experience with the application of this style.


My teaching approach blends my own research on emotional attachment and online learning with work by Barry Smith and Dr. Gianfranco Conti.  I provide students with translations, so they do not have to ‘guess’ and have a scaffold on which to build.  I find that students build confidence to use phrases with lots of guided practice. During the initial stages of learning, my approach is quite controlled, with significant teacher input (reading aloud lots, as opposed to textbook type listening).  With the ‘control’ slowly being taken away at a later stage (images instead of words/picture stories), students develop ‘self-efficacy’ leading to increased engagement and improved learning results.


As with the Conti method, rather than prioritizing language structure or grammar, I emphasize metacognitive and communication skills.  My authentic language learning with the Conti method (ALLCM) accelerates learning. It embeds culturally authentic resources that really inspire students and enhance their learning in an informal and relaxed way. For example, after mastering a short text with high-frequency structures (“I like doing something”), students are immersed into a culture by watching a short video extract, where they can recognize the same learned structures in an authentic context (e.g. from interviews taken in the streets of St. Petersburg, what typical Russians like doing, or from Russian songs). Interviews and songs are quite repetitive, and students are not only exposed to high-frequency phrases but also have an opportunity to enrich their vocabulary in a relaxed way. This method works quite well in mixed ability groups, where more confident students build their own sentences whilst their peers benefit from repetition.

ALLCM approach

Specifically, my ALLCM approach involves:

  • Building sentences that resonate with real-life communicative situations. 
  • Applying and recycling high-frequency vocabulary in an activated learning community, so students achieve fluency. This is achieved by carefully selecting opportunities to revisit key vocabulary, and recycling what has been learned in different contexts. For example, endings in the Russian genitive case can be applied in a variety of real situations, highlighting the multi-functionality of this case. Rather than just remembering genitive endings, students visualize the functions where it can be used. Cognates provide a good starting point for introducing endings without throwing students out of their “comfort zone” with unfamiliar foreign words.
  • Working with parallel texts in both the target language and English enables students to compare differences and similarities between the two languages (gap fills, tangled translations, different sentence order).
  • Pre-teaching material to prime students for future learning (this technique facilitates the acquisition of the to-be-taught items from authentic texts).
  • Delivering legible and logical presentations with strong visuals to support the learning with dual coding of images/words for retention. Replacing the English translation with pictures promotes self-efficacy.
  • Segmenting content by unpacking target collocations/colligations to underscore linguistic patterns. This relies on the inclusion of the pattern connecting high-frequency collocations in each column of the sentence builder.
  • Chunking, so students notice phonological and phonotactic patterns (e.g. French/Russian: which chunks include liaison or assimilation which could be useful for the student to notice).


In conclusion, my ALLCM lessons creatively blend science with art. My Russian and German lessons are underpinned by sound pedagogy and use advanced instructional techniques. I carefully select authentic resources that build new, but also recycle acquired language, so students can engage in spontaneous communication for target language fluency.


By Elena Huston BEdu(Hons), PGCE (MFL); MCIL(CL). ALL, MBA (IB), Russian Teacher on the Whitehall Programme


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Image sourced from,Definition%20of%20colligate,facts)%20under%20a%20general%20concept

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