AUTHENTIC MATERIALS AND CULTURAL CONTENT IN EFL CLASSROOMS
Licda. Guiselle Weelkly W.
As language teachers we aim to look and give the best to our students as they engage in the learning process. And for that reason, when and how authentic materials should be used in EFL classrooms and the way cultural content plays an important role in the curriculum is what we are going to discuss in this article as we advance.
The following article is divided in two areas which are:
- The first part is the definition of authentic materials along with its advantages and disadvantages.
- The second will be the definition of culture and why and how culture content should be used and discussed.
According to Rogers (1998) authentic materials are defined as " apropriate" and "quality " in terms of goals, objectives, learners needs and interest and "natural" in terms of real life and meaningful communication. On the other hand, Harmer, Matsuta(1991) defined authentic texts as materials which are designed for native speakers; they are real text; designed not for language students, but for the speakers of the language.
Authentic materials should be able to increase the students' motivation for learning as they are exposed to the "real" language.
According to several researchers the advantanges of using and putting in practice authentic materials while dealing with the teaching-learning development of kids are numerous, for example:
- They have a positive effect on learner motivation.
- They provide authentic cultural information.
- They provide exposure to real language.
- They relate more closely to learners' needs.
- They support a more creative approach to teaching.
Along with the advantages of using authentic materials there are some disadvantages likewise, and they are:
- Contains difficult language.
- Unneeded vocabulary items.
- Complex language structures.
- Causes burden on teachers in lower-level classes.
- Too culturally biased.
- Many structures are mixed.
- Lower levels have hard time decoding texts.
After analizing these advantages and disavantages, we definately need to answer an important question which is :at which level can I use authentic materials in the classroom?
Several authors such as Guariento & Morley (2001), Matsuata(n.d.) and others claimed that the best level for using authentic materials within classrooms are at post-intermediate level. With their appreciation, I do not want to say that we should not use authentic materials at lower lever, because according to Chavez(1998) learners enjoy dealing with authentic materials because it permits them to interact with real language and its use, but the students pointed out ,however, that they need pedagogical support especially in listening situations and when reading literary texts are given.
OVERCOMING DIFFICULTIES USING AUTHENTIC MATERIALS
Knowing the fears that students pass when using authentic materials that are not helping them to advance, teachers should at all times, provide them with pedagogical support given them benefits:
- Using authentic materials to listen for the gist of the information presented.
- Encourage students to read for pleasure especially certain topics of their interest.
- By using audio-visual materials, students' comprehension is waiding, preventing them from being frustrated (especially the beginners).
- Using popular and traditional songs will help us to create a non-threatening environment.
- Remember that authentic materials should be used in accordance with students' ability and adds that suitable tasks can be given to the learners in which total understanding is not important, said Guairento & Moley (2001).
Defining the word "culture" to receive a proper view of the further information is ver important. Westerhuis defines this word as customs, values, laws, technology, artifacts and art of a particular time or people. Taking in consideration that it will foster learner's motivation.
WHY SHOULD WE USE CULTURE CONTENT?
Successful language learning requires language users to know that culture underlys language in order to get the meaning across. It effects changes in individuals' perceptions expanding their perspective of the world.
Also, Shanahan stated that cultural content provides exposure to living language that a foreign language student lacks, so it is a helpful tool to make learners feel the need to speak and use the target language.
Dealing with the problem takes time, effort from teachers and interest to help students understand culture and its relevances in this multicultural and interculturality environment.
We as teachers must:
- Help students respect other people's culture.
- Discussed students' own culture together with target culture.
- Teachers keep in mind that English is an international language, and culture is an aid to motivate our students rather than something to be taught.
Creating a relaxing environment where our students can discuss their own culture together with the target culture in meaningful and communicative tasks and activities.
Taking advantage of technological developments and printed materials that are available at the internet in electronic forms, the cultural content in classroom will be enhance and appreciated.
Here is a list of sources of cultural information:
- Role play/dramatizations
- Culture quizzes/test.
Finally, I would say that learning about culture creates in the students interest towards the target language so we should include a variety of culture materials and not only stick to a specific one. Help them to grow, and they will achieve what's there for them in a meaningful and communicative way according to the Worlds' Global assumptions.