Published 16th November 2017
We’ve spoken before about authentic materials, but we think they’re so important we’re going to speak about them again!
Why Should We Use Authentic Materials in The EFL Classroom?
Authentic materials provide your students with, well, authentic language. By dealing with authentic texts, our learners are grappling with real language in a real-life context. These texts don’t include the watered down, prescriptively correct language of the coursebook, and in fact, authentic texts can be messy because they reflect the real usage of the language.
This is the reason it’s such a good idea to use authentic texts in the classroom. They are interesting and engaging because we can choose what topics they will cover. Plus, once our students realise they can understand and make sense of authentic language, their motivation and confidence levels will naturally increase.
How Can We Use Authentic Materials in The EFL Classroom?
The next logical question is how can we use authentic materials?
The first step is to identify your students’ needs. Finding out why they want to learn English and specifically what language they need to accomplish their goals will inform what authentic texts you will choose. Are they learning English to travel? Use real menus, tour guides or tourist information brochures. Do they need to do business? Watch video clips which involve business meetings or find examples of real business emails. Maybe they want to learn English to study in English. Find textbooks and websites which are more academically focused.
Once you’ve found your materials, consider the level. Some authentic materials naturally have a higher level of English than others. Don’t use an article from The Economist for your Elementary learners, just as you wouldn’t use a teen magazine for your Business students. You need to be realistic about your choice of materials, but that’s not to say that the text you pick has to be at the exact level of your students.
Instead, you will find that your text should be a bit challenging for your learners, no matter their level. If it’s too challenging, a simple way to lower the level without rewriting it is to shorten it. Also remember, it is the difficulty of the task that is more important than the difficulty of the text.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make extensive use of your materials. Authentic materials provide a wealth of learning opportunities and finding them can take time. Don’t make the mistake of using a text for a five-minute activity and then throwing it away. Find ways to increase the usefulness of the text to make them work for you.
Don’t be put off of using authentic materials because you’re not quite sure what materials to use or how to go about using them. Consider these three points and you’ll find yourself with authentic-sounding students in no time.