Nowadays it is very important to know at least one foreign language. Technical university students study English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and we should not only rouse their learning interest but also give sound knowledge in the subject. This research emphasises pros and cons of authentic materials in classrooms and provides some practical advice.
There is no doubt that today English teachers have a lot of choices in terms of teaching materials. Choosing them we are to keep in mind that we should focus students’ attention not only on vocabulary and grammar structures but prepare them for real communication where the knowledge of culture is sometimes crucial. Thus the use of authentic materials can help solve this problem. The majority of scholars define authentic materials as materials which are designed for native speakers; they are real texts, designed not for language students, but for the speakers of the language. Basically, authentic materials provide the following benefits:
motivation to learning;
authentic cultural information;
real language presentation;
creative approach to teaching [3, 4, 6, 7].
There exist a lot of authentic materials like reading, newspapers, literature, video, TV, surveys, guest speakers, cultural quizzes / tests, role plays / dramatizations, songs, anecdotes, travel brochures, menus, catalogues, real estate pamphlets, phone books, CDs, the Internet, illustrations and so on.
In this article we are going to deal with the most commonly used materials at EFL classes:
- The use of authentic texts in classrooms is important as it performs a lot of functions:
- widening and reinforcement of language knowledge;
- language material training;
development of abilities in oral speech;
- development of abilities in written speech [1, 5, 7].
- Working with texts, a teacher can use the following exercises:
- pre-reading (aimed at title work, contents prediction, grammar and vocabulary work);
- while-reading (aimed at general perception, identification of interesting parts for a reader, meaningful parts selection);
- post-reading (aimed at comprehension check, text interpretation, abilities to find specific information);
- exercises aimed at the production of a personal utterance (aimed at the development of oral and written abilities) .
Using video materials in classroom environment can favour students’ motivation to learn a foreign language as they present real language, provide students with an aesthetic look at the culture. Undoubtedly, video is very effective in teaching because it:
represents authentic environment;
gives examples of particular language functions in operation;
presents authentic language interaction;
shows the nonverbal components of the language:
eye movements and facial expression;
body language (besides eyes and face, there are multifarious body postures, certain gestures of the neck, hands, limbs);
space language (In general, the distance while talking, many times depends on personal relationship. The distance of space indicates interpersonal relation and closeness of rapport. The distance may be classified into:
close or intimate (where bodies can come in contact with each other also);
flying or avoiding distance;
demonstrates situations that learners are likely to encounter through their day-to-day socio-cultural interaction with native speakers of English [2, 4, 6].
Working with video, a teacher should include the following activities:
pre-viewing (to acquaint students with the material they are going to watch, further better comprehension);
while-viewing (answer teacher’s questions);
post-viewing (discussions, role-playings, writing).
The thought of using computer programs in teaching is not new. Its basic purpose is to make teaching and learning more efficient and productive. With the help of computer programs students can check their knowledge, do different exercises and communicate in a written form. Besides computer-mediated communication gives students additional opportunities to plan their discourse, notice and reflect on language use in the messages they compose and read.
With access to the Internet language learners can communicate with native speakers (or other language learners) all over the world, search through millions of files around the world and access authentic material that answer their personal interests. The examples of authentic materials can be a newspaper or a magazine article, a rock song, a novel, a radio interview, a movie’s review, a traditional fairy story and so on.
Using a computer program a teacher can easily notice the mistakes which a student does. And if he is in the habit of making the same mistakes then some extra exercises must be offered to him to avoid making them any more.
In addition the work with a computer provides the following opportunities, it can:
motivate the studying of different structures, grammar rules and vocabulary by showing how they are needed in communication;
give a student the ability to work in an individual way;
give a chance to return to any task which was left or omitted and correct the answer to any question;
give several exercises in which a certain structure is trained;
provide a chance to involve every student of the class in a studying process;
show the results of the work as soon as the task is done;
give the possibility to organize a self-dependent work.
But in spite of all these advantages the role of a teacher in the educational process is still important. We should remember that a computer program, like any other tool used in teaching (e.g. textbooks, worksheets, newspaper, charts, bulletin boards, educational visual aids, realia, whiteboard, SMART board, overhead projector, tape-recorder, video tape, CD, computer, etc.), does not bring improvements in learning itself. Moreover, there is no any unique book or computer program that can be suitable for everyone. That is why a teacher must select programs which answer definite requirements. The requirements can be quite different depending on the aim which we set.
For example, using computer programs a language learner can do grammar and vocabulary exercises, listen and repeat oral speech as well as read short articles, texts and express his opinion in a written form. So if we want to teach students to communicate in a written form and write their own utterances then while choosing computer programs we should pay a special attention to the following aspects:
correspondence of the program to a definite purpose;
accordance with the topic, vocabulary and grammar that are studied;
usage simplicity and clear explanation of tasks to students;
presence of certain rules which are necessary for correct writing in a foreign language;
presence of appropriate examples.
Thus a proper work with computer programs can contribute to the skills formation and abilities to express oneself in a foreign language.
Planning a lesson, a teacher should try to use authentic materials because they provide the opportunity to demonstrate language and speech material of a foreign language as well as widen learner’s ideas about national peculiarities, mentality of other people; help to know and compare customs and traditions of his own country and the country which language a person studies; broaden the notion about surrounding world; give the source for a future utterance and the basis for the exchange of opinions [1, 3].
However, alongside with various advantages, authentic materials often contain difficult language, unneeded vocabulary items and complex language structures, which cause a burden for the teacher in lower-level classes. In addition, authentic materials may be too culturally biased. . To solve these disadvantages, a teacher should choose materials according to the abilities of his students, provide appropriate exercises which will help overcome difficulties and help students comprehend, remember and use new material.
To summarize aforesaid, it should be noted that authentic materials can play multiple roles in language teaching, enable learners to interact with real language and content rather than the form (grammar and vocabulary). In other words, the proper and systematic use of these materials at classes give students understanding that they are learning a language as it is used outside the classroom, prepare them for real communication.
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