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  • Elizaveta Smirnova: "We Prepare Students for International Careers in Big Companies and State Institutions"

Elizaveta Smirnova: "We Prepare Students for International Careers in Big Companies and State Institutions"

Elizaveta Smirnova: "We Prepare Students for International Careers in Big Companies and State Institutions"

In 2021, a new programme "Foreign languages and intercultural communication in business" is opened at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities programme. Head of the programme, Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages Elizaveta Smirnova told us how linguistics and intercultural communication are related to business, where graduates will work, how to enter the programme, and why is it worth participating in the iTell conference.

What does the term "intercultural communication in business" mean?

Intercultural communication is the communication between representatives of different cultures. The ability to build oral and written intercultural communication is one of the key competencies required for successful work in the modern world of a global business. Many books have been written on this topic, hundreds of courses have been created, and thousands of videos have been filmed. But interest does not disappear because new companies that enter the international market are constantly appearing. They make contacts with other companies, and there's a need in specialists in intercultural communication.

What are the advantages of studying on the programme "Foreign languages and intercultural communication in business"?

We offer training in two foreign languages, as well as the basics of doing business. Our programme prepares students for international careers in large companies and government agencies operating in today's economic and political environment. The programme has three training profiles: intercultural business communication, translation science, theory and methods of teaching of foreign languages. The choice of a profile determines the set of disciplines offered to students during the third and fourth years, as well as the place for internship during the fourth year.

What are the features of the programme and what opportunities will students have?

Our educational programme has more hours of the first and the second foreign languages than in similar programmes in other universities. So, students will have up to 8 lessons of English per week and at least 3 lessons of the second foreign language. As the second foreign language we offer Chinese, German or French.

In addition, we make a strong emphasis on teaching Business English. In 2003, the Higher School of Economics opened one of the first centres in the city to prepare for international exams in business English BEC (Business English Certificate). So we have accumulated vast experience in this area. The curriculum of the programme, in addition to subjects related to linguistics and culture of the countries of the studied languages, also includes:

- managerial disciplines that give an idea of how a business works, how a company works, what marketing is, etc.,

- disciplines of the Data Culture cycle, which aim to teach working with data, as well as the basics of programming.

These are the skills that are necessary for a modern linguist, since working with a language today is closely related to digital technologies and large amounts of text data.

Students of our programme will have unique opportunities offered by the Higher School of Economics.

International and inter-campus academic mobility

From the very first year, students will be able to study for one semester at the Moscow campus of the Higher School of Economics on a similar programme, as well as at a foreign partner university. Our university has such partners in more than 25 countries of Europe, Asia and America, so students have a lot to choose from. Such trips are especially important for students of our programme, since they allow you to immerse yourself in the language environment and practice intercultural communication.

Individual learning path

First-year students choose which second foreign language to study and they also have a number of disciplines to choose from. During the second year students need to choose a minor. Minor is a bunch of four disciplines that allow you to get an additional specialty. For our students, it can be a minor in management, economics, law or information technology. The knowledge gained will certainly give graduates an additional competitive advantage in the labor market.

After the second year, students choose a training profile, which allows them to study more in-depth the disciplines of their field of study. As I noted above, our programme has 3 profiles: intercultural business communication, translation studies, theory and methods of teaching foreign languages.

Inter-campus courses

It doesn't matter in which HSE campus a student studies – in Perm, Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg or Moscow – he/she can listen to lectures and attend classes by the best professors at the Higher School of Economics.


The Higher School of Economics pays great attention to project activities. What projects and for which companies the students of the programme will be able to do?

Yes, our students begin to engage in project activities from the very beginning of their studies on the programme, but at the early stages these are educational projects that they carry out as a part of a research seminar. From the third year, their projects acquire an applied character. This can be, for example, developing a programme for a visit of a foreign delegation commissioned by an external organization, working as an interpreter at an event in a partner company of the Higher School of Economics, developing a methodology for digital teaching of a foreign language. Among the partners of the Higher School of Economics are such companies as Nestlé, Sberbank, Lukoil, ER-Telecom, Aviadvigatel. All of them can become potential customers for projects for our students.

Where will the graduates of the programme work?

Depending on the profile chosen, graduates can occupy positions such as a specialist in intercultural communication in an international company, a specialist in working with existing and potential foreign partners, a specialist in interpretation and translation, a manager or a head of a language center, a teacher of foreign languages in secondary and higher school.

What exams to pass to enter the programme?

To enroll at our educational programme, you need to pass the unified state exams in three subjects: foreign language, Russian language and social studies.

How to prepare for the Unified State Exam in English? What would you advice to applicants?

At the beginning of February, we will host a winter school, where experts on the United State exam on English language will share the secrets of passing the oral and written part of the exam successfully. In addition, we invite senior pupils to attend the annual iTELL conference on February 26th. For school children, this is a useful experience of public speaking in English, you can listen to other speakers and immerse yourself in the academic atmosphere of our university.

And to prepare for the United State Exam, I propose to watch the video of the autumn school in linguistics (it also includes the presentation of the programme).

In your opinion, how does linguistics help business today?

Linguistic research is increasingly focusing on business discourse, and its results

interest not only linguists, but also entrepreneurs. This can be various studies related to the image of a brand or consumer preferences based on the material of discussions on social networks, assistance in drafting effective advertising texts using data from psycholinguistics and NLP, etc. I can give you an example from my own scientific work. We recently analyzed a large corpus of hotel reviews posted on Booking.com to find out which conditions of staying are more important for men and which for women. The research results can be useful for hotel owners to develop an advertising strategy and improve the level of service.

What are the current trends in linguistics?

I think the main trend is interdisciplinarity. Such areas as psycholinguistics (works at the intersection of linguistics and psychology), gender linguistics (combines the methods of linguistics and sociology), forensic linguistics (applies linguistic tools in the context of forensic science) are gaining popularity.

What is your area of expertise?

For several years now, I have been studying academic discourse. There is a scientific and educational laboratory for academic buildings at HSE, where I work as a research assistant. This is a joint project of the HSE Faculty of Humanities (Moscow) and the Perm campus of the HSE. My colleagues and I are engaged in the collection of language data and the development of software for working with them.

Why did you choose to build a career in education?

I started my studies in science when I got hired at the HSE. It was necessary to get an academic degree, and I began to write a dissertation under the guidance of Svetlana Shustova. My research is carried out in line with functional grammar on the material of the English language. The topic is very interesting, after my thesis defense I continued to study it for some time. I think I would love to continue to work in this direction, but so far there is simply not enough time for this.

What attracted you to corpus linguistics?

My acquaintance with corpus linguistics began thanks to my scientific advisor, who showed me the University of Leipzig and taught me how to work with it. Then there was an online course on corpus linguistics at Lancaster University, which I mentioned among the major scientific centers in linguistics. The course made a huge impression on me and finally convinced me that this is exactly what I want to do. After some time, I went to Lancaster and was able to personally meet the professors - the authors of the online course. It was great!

Corpus linguistics gives the researcher almost limitless possibilities for the researcher. You can study Dickens' language and teen social media posts, scientific articles and oral recollections using corpuses of several hundred thousand words. Previously, processing such a volume of data would have taken years, but now, thanks to special computer programmes used in corpus linguistics, it takes a few minutes to obtain quantitative results.

Corpus methods are closely related to statistics, which I also like, although there is still a lot to learn. The use of statistical analysis methods allows one to obtain the most accurate and objective results, which is not very typical for the humanities. In our scientific and educational laboratory, we collect corpora of academic texts for further study of this type of discourse. We focus on the trends set by the world's leading centres of corpus linguistics, for example, the universities of Lancaster and Birmingham, and try to work in the spirit of the global agenda in this area.

Interview by Alexander Herzen, Master's student in Digital Methods in the Humanities


If you still have questions about admission and study at the programme "Foreign languages and intercultural communication in business", you can ask an academic supervisor Elizaveta Smirnova via email - easmirnova@hse.ru.

Information on the rules for admission to the Higher School of Economics - Perm in 2021 is posted in a special section for undergraduate applicants.

More information about the admission and education of foreign citizens is in the special section for applicants from other countries. If you have any questions, you can contact us via e-mail admissionsperm@hse.ru or phones +7 (342) 254 41 64, +7 (919) 486 61 31.