Meet our graduates: Iskandar Sattibaev
A comparative literature graduate, Iskandar is the creator of SpeakEng, a mobile application helping over 100,000 people learn English in a fun and accessible way, which won him the British Council’s Study UK Alumni Award 2023 in the category for Culture and Creativity.
Originally from the eastern Andijan region in Uzbekistan, Iskandar Sattibaev moved to Edinburgh in 2007 to do an MSc in Comparative and General Literature after completing a Higher National Diploma in Multimedia Design in Denmark. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in English Philology from the Andijan State Institute of Foreign Languages.
Iskandar now works as a teacher at a public school and is the head of a private language learning centre in his hometown Andijan, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
During his time in Denmark, Iskandar gained skills in designing mobile applications while working on a project for Art Museum Brandts in Odense. This gave him first-hand experience of the concept of mobile apps and creating a seamless user experience.
Iskandar has also written books and articles on language-learning and pedagogy, including 'Soddalashtirilgan ingliz tili grammatikasi' ('A simplified English Grammar'), which has been re-published a number of times, most recently in 2022.
He has translated numerous monographs, books, and stories between Uzbek, Russian and English, using knowledge of comparative literature and translation theory gained while at Edinburgh.
Combining an interest in languages and mobile technology
The Study UK Alumni Awards recognises university alumni who have used their experience of studying in the UK to make an impact on their communities and industries.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Iskandar cleverly found a way to combine his love of languages, teaching experience, and knowledge of mobile technology.
“I could see the isolation of people and the need for entertainment and accessible education. Thankfully, many people still had access to mobile devices, and even outside the context of the pandemic, an increasing number of people are becoming "addicted" to their devices.”
So, Iskandar came up with an idea: “Why not meet people’s need for education via their devices? At the time, there were numerous mobile apps allowing people to learn foreign languages, but none were targeting an Uzbek audience.”
An award-winning idea
Studying at Edinburgh developed both Iskandar’s independent research skills and his ability to work as part of a team, which proved particularly useful in the design process of SpeakEng where he worked closely with colleagues to come up with a concept.
“The original idea behind the app was to provide highly visual and amusing content which would both educate and entertain the users. Therefore there were a lot of audio-visual devices used in the app. Besides, each revision part of the learned material was designed as a game where the user would have to accomplish a task in order to proceed,” he explains.
Talking about the most challenging part of the design, Iskandar stresses the in-app games, or ‘missions’ as they’re called in the SpeakEng app: “The reason is that we had to design a task or game interesting enough to engage the user, but using very limited language material and vocabulary as we were at the very beginning of the project, and there were relatively few grammar structures we could use.“
Bringing a team together and continuously testing and fixing bugs in the code while ensuring that all deadlines were met was another challenge. However, it also gave Iskandar the opportunity to grow his skills in project management – and as a teacher.
“The best side of this project was the fact that I was able to push the boundaries of my abilities as a language specialist. I saw that I was capable of proliferating knowledge outside the classroom.“
Adapting to a changing learning landscape
As a teacher, Iskandar thinks it is very important to be able to adapt to the changing global landscape: “Once one has decided to become an educator, they must be ready to do very hard work. Being a successful teacher means moving forward with an increasing speed. The world is changing rapidly. I believe that teachers must be ahead of these changes.”
Although it is sometimes demanding, it is this same ever-changing landscape that keeps Iskandar inspired to continue his work: “I have always believed that there are huge possibilities out there. What I need to do is to keep moving in order to make the best use of them.”
Iskandar continues: “Thanks to the confidence I got [with SpeakEng], presently I have begun work on another mobile app which focuses solely on learning English vocabulary.”
Never sitting still and always looking forward, Iskandar is also currently working on a book for Uzbekistanis wishing to work or study abroad on how to approach internationally-recognised English language test such as IELTS.
Are you interested in taking an MSc in Comparative Literature with us?
As the first UNESCO World City of Literature, and a major cultural hub, Edinburgh is the ideal place for the comparative study of literature. Bringing together an international community of learners, we live comparative literature in the classroom, where you’ll sharpen your critical, analytical and methodological skills, and explore a range of literary works from different linguistic and cultural systems.