One of the important goals of modern teachers is to prepare students for the use of foreign languages in everyday and professional life. In this regard, teachers are constantly looking for suitable materials that are effective in teaching a foreign language. This often makes teachers think about the facts, it is enough to use materials for textbooks specifically issued for learning a foreign language, or there is a need to use authentic materials to develop and improve various students' skills, especially reading skills. According to D. Noonan authentic materials are “information in oral or written form that is created in the process of natural communication, and not specifically for use in learning the language” .
Considering the feasibility of using authentic materials, H. Widhawson notes that earlier when learning a language, it was thought that it was necessary to use simplified materials for classes to facilitate the perception and assimilation of the language. However, the materials must be authentic . According to the professor of the Institute of English Language at the University of Michigan. Larsen Freeman, authentic materials are an integral part of language learning . If authentic materials used in teaching a foreign language are related to the subject matter of the focus and profile of training, then to motivate students to learn a foreign language increases. Authentic materials are more effective, interesting and stimulating . In addition, they learn the language of the culture of the language being studied. Texts adapted for more convenient perception, focused on information that teachers plan to teach students, and often contain perfectly formulated sentences, correct statements, questions related to pretexts, corrective detailed answers. Specially edited lexical and grammatical structures imply that they should be used in real life. Adapted texts for studying the studied vocabulary and grammar, but they are ineffective for improving reading skills, one of the basic skills in learning a foreign language. Experts put forward the main reasons that require the use of authentic materials in the classroom: with the help of authentic materials, students learn the language for real communication; authentic materials meet the interests of students, have a positive impact on the motivation of students; teaching efficiency increases; authentic materials introduce students to the culture of the language being studied .
They say otherwise, authentic materials help to bridge the gap between the language that is taught in the classroom, and in which people communicate in different life situations.
All they want to understand is time travel, study abroad, participation in international conferences or in other situations requiring the use of language. Consider the fact that authentic texts should be taught in foreign languages. Belonging to the «real” language, authentic materials may be unsuitable for studying and help reduce the student's motivation to learn a foreign language. There are original texts taken from newspapers, magazines, television programs, films, songs and literary works. Also currently, materials from the global Internet are often used, the indisputable advantage of which is regular updating, visual appeal and interactivity, which provides a different approach to reading. From a practical point of view, the Internet as a modern reality is available to most students and teachers and provides easy access to an infinite amount of materials. Moreover, the purchase of authentic materials abroad is often two to three times more expensive than their normal cost, and sometimes the quality of these materials may be lower than expected.
However, searching and downloading resources from the Internet, especially with unrestricted access to the network, is practically free and requires only time.
Authentic materials allow students to use a lively spoken language in communication, rather than formal, specially formulated phrases. When choosing materials from various sources, it is necessary to take into account that the purpose of reading them should be an understanding of the meaning, not a form of presentation, especially when using texts of literary works. K. Nuttel identifies three main criteria for choosing texts as materials for a lesson: relevance (appropriateness) of the content, the ability to use the text in the lesson and the presentation available for reading . Compliance with content can be considered the most important of the three mentioned criteria, since it is the content that stimulates students' interest in reading, especially if it meets their needs.
The ability to use text in class involves options for working with text in order to develop reading skills. Text that does not correspond to the purpose and objectives of the lesson will be useless when learning. In other words, the material cannot be useful only because it is in English.
Affordable reading implies a combination of stylistic and lexical complexity of the text, the number of unfamiliar words and the presence of unknown grammatical forms. It is very important to correctly assess the level of complexity of materials in accordance with the level of preparedness of students.
Variety and presentation also influence the choice of authentic materials. Reading materials becomes more interesting using a variety of texts. It is often boring for students to work with texts on only one specific topic. Teaching students the English language, we are faced with this. There is an advantage in using texts on the same subject: it allows students to work out already familiar vocabulary, more confidently use it in other types of speech activity. Specialization in a specific topic does not always allow students to expand vocabulary in another field. The method of presenting the text to students is also very important. Authentic presentation of the text, including original photographs, graphics and drawings, helps to more effectively absorb the proposed information (not only the meaning of the text itself, but also to understand the possibility of further use of the content). More «attractively” the presented text encourages more interest among students to read it. The visual form of presenting information is what the student pays attention to first of all, it is the “appearance” of the text that can attract the student’s attention to the content, and can push it away from reading this material.
The followings are the criteria for selecting authentic materials for teaching reading skills to students, along with questions that, according to the specified criteria, help determine whether authentic materials meet the objectives of a scheduled lesson. Criteria and key issues for the selection of authentic reading materials:
- Content Compliance — Does the text meet student needs? Is the text interesting to students? Does the text contain material that the student will use outside the classroom?
- Possibilities for use — Is the text suitable for use in the educational process? What is the purpose of the text? What skills / strategies can be developed using this text?
- Available reading — Does the text contain a large number of unfamiliar words? Is the vocabulary relevant, meaningful? Will the text be too easy / difficult for a student? Is the structure of the text complex?
- Presentation — Is the presentation “authentic”? Do students grab attention visually? Do students want to read the text further?
Preparation for the lesson should include finding the right one material and development assignments. The role of the teacher in the classroom after explaining the assignment was limited only to observation, counseling and subsequent comments and evaluation of the results of the students' work.
In the process of using original texts in the teaching of a foreign language course, effective development of students' reading skills was observed, which allowed us to confirm that authentic materials are one of the important resources for effective teaching of a foreign language, possessing several advantages over specially prepared teaching materials. First, they contain words and expressions that are widely used in real life situations. Secondly, they encourage students to memorize such vocabulary for further use. Third, they help learners to feel more confident in the case of communication in a foreign language, since they contain information that most or completely meets the requirements of real life. Among the variety of sources of authentic materials, the main and most actively used resources are the Internet, especially if we are talking about developing reading skills, because any information presented in printed form must first be read and comprehended, then it will be assimilated and analyzed.
In addition, some researchers note the motivating role of authentic materials, which is one of the main factors influencing success in studying any discipline in general and in studying a foreign language in particular .
As the experience shows, students study original, non-adapted articles rather than textbook texts with great enthusiasm, viewing authentic materials as a source of “real” language. Taking into account the above, the positive effect from the use of authentic materials in teaching a foreign language and in its study is obvious provided that they are correctly selected in accordance with the purpose of the lesson and the needs of the students.
- Gilmore A. Authentic Materials and Foreign Language Learning // Language Teaching. 2007. Vol. 40 (2). P. 97–118.
- Larsen-Freeman D. Techniques and Principals in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 189 p.
- Nunan D. Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston: Heinle and Heinle Publishers, 1999. 330 p.
- Nuttall C. Teaching Reading Skills in a foreign language. New Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 282 p.
- Peacock M. The Effects of Authentic Materials on the Motivation of EFL Learners // ELT Journal. 1997. No. 51 (2). P. 144–156.