TeachingEnglish
Authentic Texts

Good morning (at least it is morning for me here in Macedonia!),After using any kind of authentic materials for the EFL classroom I can get my hands on I have come to some conclusions which should be valuable to all English teachers.First of all, I am certain that all you reading this text are familiar with the term 'authentic text' in the framework of the ET classroom: this kind of text represents a true to life, genuine, original text that originates from the written or spoken aspects of everyday life in the target culture, employed for EFL classroom use. This is just an abridged explanation of the term.I am a follower of the idea that authentic texts should be included in the classroom as much as they can, yet sometimes the text itself must be changed in places and shortened depending on the knowledge of English the students have acquired and the level they are presently at. I use authentic texts as often as I can, even when translating from Macedonian into English they receive a text several sentences long extracted from a local newsaper. My aim is to make them aware of the presence of language in every segment of life (which is pretty clear!) and to make them utilize as much as they can from the surroundings when they become English teachers in the future. I tend to present myself as a role model for them, and to make myself stick out from the rest by my originality .. so why not they be original one day!There are so many sources for authentic materials in the present age: Internet resources (blogs, web pages, online debates and discussion groups - revolutionizing the access all teachers have), published resources (the international press, teen publications and magazines). Can you add other kinds of authentic materials to this list?Now it's up to the teacher to apply authentic materials to class activities. What do you think? Aneta 

teacherjoe's picture
teacherjoe

I agree 100% Aneta. Authentic Materials bring so much to the classroom, including the kind of "linguistic complexity" that students rarely see in textbook as well as interesting topics that are currently "hot". Yesterday in my school in Beijing, I led something called "English Corner" which is a popular kind of discussion group that you can find almost anywhere China. Students normally discuss broad topics that are always of interest. With the authentic news stories I found on Google News yesterday morning, my students were talking about exploding iPhones, wildfires in Greece and California, as well as the President of Columbia contracting swine flu. Authentic texts made the discussions real because the topics are real, rather than being somewhat forced re-discussions of old, classic topics.  One point we might discuss here is the way to use authentic texts. I like having some simple comprehension questions that help our lower level students understand the text while encouraging more advanced students to try some of the language from the text in their answers. At the same time, I want to have discussion questions that get students to think about the story and ask other students their opinions.Joe

anaumoska's picture
anaumoska

Hi Teacher Joe,I like your ideas about what kinds of authentic texts are appropriate and should be suggested ... and if you read my Forum Topic called News Monday you'll see that I actually expanded a bit more on your ideas about Google News.:)Regarding the use of authentic texts in the English Language classroom, it really depends on the material I am using. In the textbook we use in classes there is a topic on weather (have in mind that my students are FC level), and I always photocopy a few weather forecasts that can be found in British newspapers so that they just have a look at them ... because what they have in their textbook usually is not a true-to-life example of an authentic text, since it must slightly be altered to correspond to their level. Judging from the looks on their faces, they seem pleased to have a copy of that in their hands that even though parts of the language in the text might not be understandable to them, in class they first silently read the whole text then we read it sentence by sentence explaining any word they might find unfamiliar. They aren't given dictionaries but they try to use their mind and utilize any previous knowledge they have to get to the meaning of the word put in context, and with a picture too!So I'd say that just the concept of their having something real in their hands makes them feel confident since I, as the teacher, have given such a responsible assignment to them!Anything you'd do differently!P.S. I love the tips that you give on your website! They'll certainly help me out in my future teaching!Best, Aneta

littlemissbossy's picture
littlemissbossy

Hi Guys,I was recently working on both good and bad points of using authentic materials. In my view it's crucial to know positive and negative points of an issue or idea before we start making use of it extensively.Here are some basic advantages:·        ‘real’ language exposure with language change/variation being reflected ·        students are informed about what is happening in the world ·        textbook tend not to include incidental/ improper English and become improper very quickly ·        the same piece of material can be used for different tasks ·        ideal for teaching/ practicing mini-skills-skimming/scanning ·        contain a wide variety of text types, language styles not easily found in conventional teaching materials ·        encourage reading for pleasure, likely to contain topics of interest ·        are best preparation for reading authentic texts ·        may give students a sense of achievement and encourage further reading being thus highly motivating ·        contribute to the development of an individual learning style and learner autonomy ·        give authentic cultural information ·        relate more closely to students’ needsAnd here are some disadvantages: ·        Often too culturally biased, difficult to understand outside the classroom community ·        A good knowledge of cultural background is required while reading ·        Vocabulary might not be relevant to the student’s immediate needs ·        Too many structures are mixed so lower levels have problems decoding the text ·        Special preparation is necessary, can be time consuming ·        Can become outdated easily e.g. news stories, articles ·        Can hurt or impede foreign language reading development. An authentic text at too difficult a level of language forces the reader to focus on the code instead of helping the reader to read for the meaning of the message·        They might discourage, frustrate the students and may make them dislike or hate reading in the foreign languageTake a look at there articles as well: Sacha Anthony Berardo. The Use of Authentic Materials in the Teaching of Reading.  www.readingmatrix.com/articles/berardo/article.pdf     Richard R. Day. Using Authentic Materials. http://www.cape.edu/docs/ttalkday1.pdf   Maria Neikova. Using Authentic Reading Materials in FLT. www.beta-iatefl.hit.bg/.../M_Neikova_Using%20Authentic%20Reading%20materials%20in%20FLT.doc   

anaumoska's picture
anaumoska

Thanks to both of you, teacherjoe and littlemissbossy, for your comments!I'll take a look at all the web sites you gave littlemissbossy and read through what is said. And for this topic I'd just like to add a bit more of what think brings about an atmosphere of constructiveness in the classroom, and that is that primarily students love when you bring them a piece of writing that has not been constructed simply for the purpose of learning the English language itself, they feel mighty, as if the teacher has considered them to be mature enough to be placed in a real-life setting .... and bringing over another teacher from abroad (if it's possible) who can speak on a certain topic (depending on what vocabulary unit they are discussing at the moment) just for the sake of making one class more vivid, would be an excellent idea.I try to bring an authentic piece of writing for every class, but certainly there are classes when it is impossible because of how you've structured the class, so at least I try! And their questionnaires only confirm the fact that they want more, so what provide it yet at the same time making it useful.All the best,A.