The Local Scoop: Engaging Russian Tourists in Visits to Singapore

A Project Prototype by Amanda Lerner

published on Oct 28, 2017

Pan Pacific Singapore

Singapore is increasingly a popular tourism destination for Russians and Russian-speakers, and yet few hotels cater specifically to Russian tourists. Hotel websites are largely available in English with no Russian version, and the guides available online for Russian tourists rely largely on the typical site-seeing descriptions and the same pictures as every other site. There is a need in Singapore for locally-written, culturally-targeted tourism materials for Russian visitors to Singapore. My students teamed up with the Pan-Pacific hotel to produce a tourism guide for Russian speakers, keeping in mind the cultural contexts of both Singapore and Russia. They utilized their own knowledge of Singapore and their experiences as non-natives navigating the city (none of the students are originally from Singapore) to create their materials.

This 10-week project was designed for Russian First Year, Second Semester learners with Intermediate Low proficiency. The learners are enrolled in a YIL1202R (Beginning Russian 2) in a 4-year program at a Yale-NUS College in a Urban Singapore setting, although our class meets via teledistance. The course meets 3 times per week for two sessions of ninety minutes, one section of sixty minutes, and a sixty-minute session with a local language tutor each week. The students designed tourism materials for Russian tourists staying at the Pan-Pacific Singapore hotel.

This project covers all three modes of communication. Students interact with one another in the TL to create the project. Additionally, by interviewing native TL speakers, students navigate the interpersonal mode of communication in an interview setting. Further, by assigning examples of Russian tourism sites to students and asking them to compare and contrast the resources, students engage in the interpretive mode of communication. Finally, at the end of the project, the students presented their own individual contribution to the larger project to both me and their peers in the TL, engaging in the presentational mode of communication.

My students were most interested in the Marketing Career Cluster, and so decided to design a tourist pamphlet. Using Adobe InDesign, the students formatted need-to-know information about 12 different tourism sites in Singapore. Additionally, by working with the Pan Pacific hotel, the students learned more and became engaged in the Hospitality and Tourism Career Cluster. They thoroughly researched what Russian tourism habits entail, asked professionals at the Pan Pacific about the perceived needs of their guests, and created content to meet those needs.

Overview files comments

Preparing for the Project

What do you like about your city?

Launching the Project

Showing off Singapore! - Entry Event

Managing the Project

Get the Lay of the Land

Field Trip to Pan-Pacific Preparation

Interview a Russian speaker

Assessment

Assessment - Self and Teacher

Implementation Info

Reflecting on teledistance PBLL

Preparing for the Project

What do you like about your city?

During a unit in which we covered the grammatical construction on 'what do you have in your city? what do you not have?' I assigned a short essay asking students to describe what they do have in Singapore and why they like it. None of them are native Singaporeans. After completing the assignment, I had them share their essays by reading them out loud to another. As I had planned, this sparked a rather intense discussion between my students on which restaurants they liked the best, which parts of the city are worth exploring, and where they like to go in their free time.

Technology Tips

Because this course is teledistance, the students all submitted their essays via Canvas. If I were to implement this again, I would likely faciliate discussion by adding in a Canvas discussion board.

Task Extension

The extension of task was largely the discussion. I further extended the discussion by creating a FlipGrid for my students, where they could pick one city that they loved and explain why they love it (what features it has that they enjoy as visitors).

Launching the Project

Showing off Singapore! - Entry Event

After having my students complete their writing assignment, I began a discussion the following week about how they first approached Singapore when they moved here. They had very strong ideas about what places they loved now, but they came to Singapore knowing almost nothing about what awaited them. What things did they wish they had known? What sorts of resources were helpful for them? Who did they turn to for advice? At the end of the discussion, I told them that they would be creating that resource for others - that is, for Russian tourists staying at the Pan-Pacific Singapore hotel.

Technology Tips

This particular task did not require any technology.

Task Extension

After this discussion, I had them go home and do a short writing assignment to tell me three places in Singapore that they would like to tell other people, specifically Russian tourists about, and why.

Managing the Project

Get the Lay of the Land

Students were given a list of sites to peruse in Russian, targeted to Russian visitors to Singapore. Some were tourism sites, others were travel agencies, and a few were personal experiences of Singapore. While several of the sites were above the students' comprehension levels, I asked them to provide general feedback: did the descriptions seem to long or too short? Were the pictures descriptive and helpful? Was there information about hours, ticket prices, and neighborhood? I asked the students to briefly describe, in 8-10 sentences, what they found helpful and unhelpful in the sites.

 

Resources:

http://www.travel-sgp.ru/sights/

http://www.travel-sgp.ru/rest-options/

https://ruspo.ru/countries/singapur/\

http://www.mirtravel.com/geo/singapur/poleznaja_informatsija

http://olgatravel.com/2017/07/dostoprimechatelnosti-singapura-foto-opisanie/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aGoBt1SyBM

http://turist.chitaem.info/topics/singapur-iznutri/

https://www.factroom.ru/facts/24403

Technology Tips

Students will need internet access to complete this task. There is also a YouTube video, so students should be prepared with headphones or with speakers.

Field Trip to Pan-Pacific Preparation

I planned a field trip for my students to the actual hotel for which they'll be producing materials in order for them to meet with the Senior Marketing Communications Manager. She will give them a tour of the facilities and also answer any questions that they may have. Because of the potential obstacle of writing for the right audience, I asked my students to come up with a list of questions to ask while on the field trip to get a better idea of the audience. The parameters I gave them were to come up with questions that will help them understand who will be using their materials, and how Russian guests at the hotel usually behave. They submitted these questions to me, and we will review them together in the week prior to the fieldtrip.

Technology Tips

Besides the normal technology used to facilitate teledistance, no extra technology was used here.

Task Extension

After they return from the field trip, I will have them utilize the answers they receive to these questions to select what they want to include in their pamphlets.

Interview a Russian speaker

Whereas the data that the students collect on their fieldtrip will help them generally understand the habits of Russian tourists staying at that hotel, I want them to have a more personal connection as well. I have asked them and they all know native Russian speakers currently in Singapore. For a week prior to when the assignment is due, I am going to ask my students to brainstorm questions to ask native Russians about their travel habits and what they like to do while on vacation. I will caution them that a sample size of one is not meant to be representative of all of Russian culture, but that one-on-one conversations can also be revealing and teach them something they won't know. I have done a similar assignment in the past and the interviews become quite stilted, so I want to take great care to practice backchanneling with them and encourage them to not simply read from a script.

Technology Tips

Students will need to record these interviews. My students tend to use their cell phones to record their interviews, and then send me the files for review.

Task Extension

After they conduct their interviews, we will have a discussion in class about what they've learned and what they think they now better understand about Russian travel habits.

Assessment

Assessment - Self and Teacher

The rubric for the project has been available since we launched the project via Canvas. Once students have created a rough draft of their project, I will direct them to the rubric and ask them to self-assess. Based on their self-assessments, I will ask them to go back to their projects and edit to get their projects to the 'exceeding' guidelines. After that, I will ask for that version of the project, look for any egregious errors, and hand it back to them for a final pass.

Technology Tips

I used Quick Rubric for my own rubric, but I haven't loved it. I can't print out the rubric on a single sheet of paper. For a teledistance course this is not actually a significant hurdle, but I am still looking for a printable version of this site for any future in-person classes I may teach.

Task Extension

The task extension lies in the iteration that students will take part in based on the self-assessment.

Implementation Info

Reflecting on teledistance PBLL

The project was ultimately successful, but there were a few areas that could, upon reflection, have used improvement. Because of the size of the class, all four of the students worked together as one group. This presented some challenges for both the students and for me as their instructor. Having the entire class work on a largely self-directed project resulted in an uneven distribution of work; although each student contributed approximately the same amount of text to the project, I was informed after the submission of the project that one of the students was tasked with all of the design work. In future projects, I will utilize a peer evaluation rubric that I will have students submit twice, once mid-project and once at the conclusion of the project.

            Additionally, the students were given a rubric for the project at the conclusion of the entry event. However, due to a simple miscommunication, the students were unable to find the rubric and did not ask about it until approximately one week before the project was due. The rubric was available under the ‘Files’ section of Canvas, and the students did not think to look there for the rubric. I intend to redesign the rubric to include more direction on the group component of the project, as well as the design component. Currently, the rubric is focused almost exclusively on the written output that the students produced.

            The field trip – as well as the community partner in general – was problematic. I submitted a query to the general contact email address regarding partnership on this project; the senior marketing manager of the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel replied. She was also the leader of the field trip, which I unfortunately could not attend due to the distance. Although the students had prepared a list of questions for the senior marketing manager, she apparently had a very different understanding of the aim of the project than my students did. She strongly encouraged the students to use the project as a means to promote the hotel, which they felt uncomfortable doing. They also felt a lot of pressure to design their tourism guide in the same style as the hotel’s materials.

            Finally, the entire concept of community is central to Project Based Language Learning, and my students and I didn't share a physical community. Although in many ways the advanced teledistance software and hardware afforded the illusion of a face-to-face classroom environment, in fact our class was entirely mediated via technology. This was not usually problematic in the day-to-day of classwork. While it may often have felt that my students and I shared a community, the community we created was fully virtual. This brings up the question of what kind of community a DL class should connect with in the scope of a PBLL project. When I designed the project for this course, I automatically assumed that the most relevant community for my students would be their physical community. Therefore, I went to great lengths to facilitate a project in Singapore. As far as I have been able to find in my research, no other DL course has attempted a PBLL Gold Standard project, and so I relied on my peer’s advice in designing the project to be in Singapore.

            Because my class was afforded many of the benefits of face-to-face instruction, I assumed that the community my students should connect with should be physical. However, I ignored the advantages that DL community creation could afford in terms of Project Based Language Learning. Going forward, I would attempt to leverage the digital community that the Yale-NUS language partnership creates. My students gave me very positive feedback about utilizing a project in place of a final exam, but were less enthusiastic about the community partner with whom they worked. By reframing the community to include digital partners, I could open up many new possibilities for both community partners and authentic projects.

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