As the primary aim of teaching process is to embolden learners to master the target language well, instructors strive to infuse vitality into teaching process by bringing different sources to classroom. Materials utilized in teaching are of paramount importance in terms of promoting learning. Therefore, a language instructor is supposed to be very careful and selective whilst choosing teaching materials and presenting them to learners. However, it is not an easy task to deal with selection of teaching materials if it is concerned that the procedure can set a major challenge for instructors regarding appropriateness and reliability of sources. Instructors are supposed to seek for such suitable materials with the help of which learners come close to using language in real life situations. In other words, learners should experience actual usage of the language with the help of sources generally referred as “authentic” materials.
In fact, the term “authentic material” is a central point of heated debates for the last period as scholars hold diverse opinions concerning whether to present these materials into classroom or not. So, it is highly advised to define the term “authentic” prior to illustrating viewpoints on authentic materials: what is meant under the term of “authentic material”? So, the word “authentic” is defined as “real, not false or copied, accurate or based in fact”  or “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features; not false or imitation” .
The premise derived from the above mentioned definitions can be expressed that “authentic” implies something created for real purposes and free from imitation. Bearing this in mind, scholars provided their own explanations for authentic materials. According to Harmer (1991), authentic texts are «real designed not for language students, but for the speakers of the language in questions» . The idea can be implemented in a way that authentic text is created to fulfill some social intentions rather than teaching learners. D. Nunan also tackles the issue presenting the point: “a rule of thumb for authenticity here is any material which has not been specifically produced for the purposes of language teaching” . Here, the scope of authenticity is expressed quite concisely with reference to any material not for language teaching. Although other language experts define the term “authentic materials” as non-class-intended, some differences can easily be detected when it comes to explaining main features of authenticity. To be more precise, M. Peacock pays a close attention to social aspect of the term while defining it: “Authentic materials are the materials that have been produced to fulfill some social purpose in the language community”. In our opinion, Peacock tries to generalize the notion of authentic materials by deliberately excluding the implication to classroom usage, more patently, the idea of accomplishing “social purpose” denotes that it is not intended for teaching.
Coming out of the above mentioned scholars’ opinions, it can be emphasized that authentic materials are considered to be sources that are produced by native speakers of the language and not initially designed for the purpose of teaching. At the same time, according to Clark (1987:178) authentic reading and listening materials (such as announcements, instructions, timetables, pricelist, newsflashes, weather reports, etc.) are incorporated into a variety of multi-skill communicative activities such as games, simulations, projects, and drama activities.
Without doubt, authentic materials are valuable sources of information to arise learner’s interest and motivation if they are applied appropriately during lessons. However, to bring those teaching sources into classroom the teacher should select them according to certain criteria.
Criteria for selecting authentic materials vary as scholars suggest different views on the issue. Some consider that authentic sources are supposed to match students’ interest in all respects while others think that they should present new information. To illustrate, Maria Spelleri (2002) considers the following two factors as important ones during material selection: «novelty of information and its suitability» . Not all authentic materials but the ones which present new information to learners should be brought into classroom: they help to elevate learners’ motivation and grab attention of audience with ease. Under the term of suitability, careful consideration about the degree of source difficulty is implied. In other words, presented data needs to be free from complicated words that don’t match a target level at all. Although these factors are of paramount importance in the choice of authentic materials, some other detailed aspects of selection are also suggested. In addition to suitability of content, exploitability and readability of sources need to be considered (Nuttall, 1996). In this criterion, Nuttal puts the term of suitability a little bit differently that sources should correspond with learning needs (so suitability is merely confined to learning needs). Exploitability means a source is supposed to be useful for enhancing skills and adequately interesting to elicit learners’ attention while readability refers to coincidence of materials with students’ current level. Another scholar, Lee (2002) suggests the fourth factor, to be more precise, while choosing authentic materials, textual authenticity should also be followed alongside with above mentioned aspects. Textual authenticity is implemented as an initial factor of material selection because any material brought into classroom should firstly be authentic in nature. It is a primary aspect because there is no need thinking about suitability of source if the material is refined or adjusted to a teaching purpose.
Although some general factors for the choice of authentic materials spanning textual authenticity, suitability, compatibility with course objectives and exploitability prevail, they patently need to be specified in terms of their role in developing language skills (i.e. listening or reading skills). Some scholars, therefore, put their own criteria forward tackling this issue in detail. To illustrate, Mc Grath (2002) points out some major aspects of material selection including its relevance to learners’ needs, cultural appropriateness, linguistic demands, cognitive demands and exploitability. According to the author, any authentic listening source should correspond with learning needs and avoid context that is «too specific to a certain culture»  (it surely makes demands on comprehension of people of another culture). Moreover, it is supposed to encompass vocabulary that is known to learners to some extent. In turn, the term “cognitive demands” refers to presence of complicated ideas in a source and their density (whether ideas can easily be perceived by learners or not). This criterion obviously contains the most essential aspects of selection process, but there are some other factors to take into consideration.
Agreeing with Maria Spelleri and Nuttal's opinions, Ji Lingzhu and Zhang Yuanyuan assert that learners’«language proficiency level and their interest»  must be considered to choose appropriate sources. English Language Proficiency (ELP) refers to the ability of communicating in English including proficiency in both academic English or academic literacy as the data by Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (2013) defines. So, learners’ level of English is supposed to be a key point to bring appropriate authentic sources into classroom; otherwise, it causes learners’ confusion or frustration during teaching process. Additionally, the authors propose that presented data should engage listeners so that they will be motivated to receive information. Indeed, motivation and interest serve to enhance learning process in most respect. Mc Grath also mentions about learners’ level when explaining linguistic demands; however, Ji Lingzhu and Zhang Yuanyuan’ criteria make a specific emphasis on learners’ interest as a major aspect of selecting authentic materials.
Concerning all opinions, it can be concluded that an instructor should bear in mind the following criteria while choosing authentic sources for class:
a) To be relevant learners’ needs and their levels;
b) To be in accordance with the course objectives;
c) To be skill-oriented (they need to target at developing certain skills);
d) To be gripping enough for learners (they should attract learners’ attention);
e) To be informative (they should provide new information).
- Clark J. L. Curriculum renewal in school. Foreign language learning.// Oxford University Press, 1987.
- Harmer. The practice of English Language Teaching. Oxford, 1991.
- Ji Lingzhu and Zhang Yuanyuan (2010) The Use of Authentic Materials in Teaching EFL Listening // P. R. China
- Lee S. Y. Selected papers from the Eleventh International Symposium on English Teaching/Fourth Pan-Asian Conference. 2002. pp.432–139.
- Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners. 2nd edition. Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2007.
- Mc Grath, I. (2002). Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching. Edinburgh: EUP
- Nunan D. Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston: Heinle and Heinle Publishers, 1999.
- Nuttall C. Teaching Reading Skills in a foreign language. Oxford: Heinemann, 1996.
- Peacock M. The Effect of Authentic Materials on the Motivation of EFL Learners.// English Language Teaching Journal. 1997, 51. pp 2–6.
- Spelleri M. From Lesson to Life: Authentic Materials Bridge the Gap.// ESL Magazine. 2002, V. 5/4. pp. 16–18.
- Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (2013) ‘Quality Assessment: English Language Proficiency: http://www.teqsa.gov.au/for-providers/quality-assessments.
- Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. 11-th ed. Merriam-Webster, incorporated, 2003.