Following on from the previous two blog posts, which you can read here and here, the third item in conjunction with a student's success in learning a foreign language is, "using authentic materials". Authentic materials are basically any materials that exist in the real world for native English speakers. Sources include: books, magazines, newspapers, videos, internet, etc. All of which are available everywhere. If you're going to use authentic material, let's look at how it can help you.
So, what are the benefits? Well, the main benefits of using authentic materials are pretty clear; by using 'real' English, students will encounter words and sentences that they would otherwise never see or hear in formal material. They will learn abbreviations (when reading), hear true tones and colloquialisms (when listening) and see body language (when watching).
If students are listening to an authentic audio source or watching an authentic video, they will have to filter out background noise which will make them concentrate in order to be able to understand, and this gives them a taste of what’s authentic English is really like.
Authentic materials will, for sure, expose your students to culture so they can actually take the context into consideration instead of just looking at how the language is used. It will also increase students’ motivation and meet their needs. The ultimate goal of learning a foreign language is to be able to understand and use it in real life, therefore using authentic materials will teach the student what they need to know in order to achieve this.
- Having to make sure the content is relevant and/or interesting
- Editing it so that it's not too long (which can cause the students to lose interest)
- Grading the level of the content
- Omitting unnecessary language and difficult words
- Role play is a great way to get students to learn 'real' English and it also encourages them to speak more and interact with others. You could print restaurant menus from the internet and get them to order food, taking it in turns to be the customer and the waiter.
- Get students to be weather forecasters and report the weather conditions at different times of the year.
- Copy paste the lyrics of some well-known songs, omitting some of the words, then play the songs to the students and get them to tell you what the missing words are.
- Play a commercial and ask them questions about it.
- Use comic strips to get the students talking about the characters.
The bottom line is that, despite the drawbacks, using authentic materials do help to allow students to experience 'real life' English as opposed to textbook English (that they may not even use) and it puts them into situations that they could (at some point or other) find themselves in. For example, when watching films, in business, when travelling and employment opportunities.
At Oxbridge TEFL, the material that the teachers use is all authentic material and produced by the teachers. Click here to book an interview if you would like to become part of the Oxbridge TEFL community.