Dec 24, 2008

thoughts on authenticity

taken from "SpeakYourMind: an introduction and practical teaching guide."

"CLT has appropriated the good words. The word ‘communicative’ itself is a good example; one implication somehow being that any other method either doesn’t aim to, or fails to, teach people how to communicate. ‘Authentic’ is another powerfully persuasive word. It is another ‘good’ word. If you go to a Moroccan restaurant you’d expect ‘authentic’ Moroccan food and if you spend a lot of money on an antique chair you want to be sure it is ‘authentic’. In our own experience of the world, if something is not ‘authentic’ it is ‘fake’ or ‘pretend’, in other words ‘bad’.
The notion of ‘authenticity’ in EFL has gained a considerable and enthusiastic following. The goals of many CLT teachers are to teach ‘authentic’ language, to foster ‘authentic’ relationships and, in lessons and replicate ‘authentic’ situations.
This all sounds reassuringly good: let’s face it who would want to learn or teach ‘unauthentic’ language? But there are objections.
Firstly, the value of authenticity is in proportion to its availability. You can’t find authentic Moroccan cooking on every street corner (outside Morocco) and authentic antique chairs are hard to find and are set to become harder to find as time passes. Language is different: you don’t need to be a trained cook or a long-dead craftsman to produce it. All of us produce and are exposed to authentic language in authentic situations almost constantly. ‘Authentic language’ is not a rare commodity and we are all experienced experts in the authentic communication field.
There was a recent thread on an internet ESL forum by a teacher who was asking for help and advice: he was having trouble finding useful samples of ‘authentic language’ that he could use in classes at beginner and elementary levels. He could find samples of authentic language that contained elementary structures but in term of lexis and/or style were too inaccessible to low-level learners. What could he do? The reasoning behind this search was that the materials and texts used in published course-books are not ‘authentic’: it all is specially written for a specific teaching situation. Being ‘unauthentic’ they lose their value and their use in teaching is therefore illegitimate."

1 comment:

George Machlan said...

You refer to a recent post.... placing the actual link in your article makes it friendlier to me (for finding it), makes you sound more authoritative (some bloggers make up supportive stories) and finally real links to similar/pertinent articles builds your search engine stats. ..................Oh, by the way, I agree with you on your premise.