Bridging the Gap
Between the Classroom
and the Real World:
Using authentic texts in the
languages classroom
Wei Qu ([email protected])
Kathy Purvis ([email protected])
Authentic texts and authentic tasks
 Authentic materials “reflect the outside world” and “have
been produced for purposes other than to teach language”
(Nunan, 1988. p99).
 Authentic texts are “substitutes for the community of native
speakers within which ‘naturalistic’ language acquisition
occurs” (Little, Devitt and Slingleton, 1988).
 Authentic texts are written and read by native speakers for
real communication rather than to teach language (Maxim
III, 2002).
 Authentic tasks allow students to respond to a resource in an
authentic way.
Aims of using authentic texts are to
 enhance students’ understanding of meaning and
communication in the target language
teach students about the nature of the language such as social
purpose, linguistic items, cultural understanding and
authentic natural language.
allow students to read updated language.
inspire and motivate students by providing relevant and
engaging texts
“bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world”
(Guariento & Morley, 2001).
Selected authentic texts
 Letters from Chinese Year 12 students. Each target student
received a different letter.
 Job advertisements
1. Photos of five short advertisements were taken in
Adelaide’s China Town.
2. A complete job advertisement, to which students replied
by writing an application letter and CV , was sourced from
a Russian/Asian food stall in Adelaide Central Market
owned by a Chinese.
Teaching and learning with authentic texts
Working with the letters
 For the first task, a one on one conversation with the teacher
about future careers and aspirations.
Start with the textbook
Read and discuss the letters
Write an English email in reply
Write a Chinese email in reply
The job application
 Starting with textbook
 Using the five short job advertisements
 Preparing for the major task using the job advertisement
supplied by the researcher’s friend
Students backgrounds
English speaking background
Born in Australia and of Malaysian background
English speaking background
Born in Australian and has only a smattering of Cantonese language
Born in Australia and of Chinese-Vietnamese background
Born in Australia and of Malaysian background
Born in Australia and of Malaysian background
Born in Korea. Recently arrived in Australia
Born in Cambodia. Recently arrived in Australia
English speaking background
Students’ overall reflection of
reading authentic texts
 All students provided positive reflections on
reading authentic text.
 Generally, they reasoned that they could not only
learn about how Chinese people think, but also
real Chinese language use.
The intercultural reflection (the primary
purpose of reading Chinese students’
letters ):
 “I thought the cultural exchange of thoughts was helpful in
broadening our perspectives of how the Chinese see the world and our
future”. (S1)
 “understand how Chinese people think” (S3)
 “the nature of the jobs in China and what jobs the students are
interested in at their level of study” (S10)
 “a person’s life, opinions and thoughts on the current world” (S2)
students’ reflections of the content of the
Two questions about content of the letters:
What have you learnt from the letter about Chinese students’
thoughts about the future?
What differences and or similarities are there between the way
you think about the future as a young Australian person and the
way the Chinese student thinks in your letter?
S1’s reflection to these two questions:
 “I thought the cultural exchange of thoughts was helpful in
broadening our perspectives of how the Chinese see the world and our
 He then continued to comment:
“The student used phrases that we would almost never use in English,
such as ‘我要用我微薄 的力量去关系我爱的和爱我的
人,去回报 社会。’ (I want to use my small ability to
look after the people who love me and whom I love and to
give something back to society.) I don’t think this student
thought very highly of herself. She seemed confident in her future but
didn’t think her life was worth much. I thought this is quite opposite
to much of Australians who quite like themselves.”
S6’s reflection to the two questions:
 “I have learned that Chinese students really take much consideration about their future
and that their parents may or may not have influences on the career path that they
choose to take – my student said that her parents hoped for her to study medicine but
just like a lot of us, she wanted to get into something she was interested in doing which
for her was an occupation that involved economics….They also have a clear image on
the kind of family they want; in my student’s case, marrying a husband that loves her
along with a beautiful baby…Young Chinese students also take into consideration
their parents which shows that they have much respect for them.”
 “My student said that she’d like to help out her parents in any way – for example buy
her dad a car because she knows he has a love and passion for cars. I don’t know
whether it is because I come from a Malaysian background but I do find myself
wondering about my parents after I have settled with a job and family and what I
could do to help them out – I think there is this Asian custom to look after parents
when they reach old age whereas there are such places like nursing homes here in
Students’ reflection on language
learning from authentic texts
 the majority of the students (7 of 9) found that they learned
“real”, “generally used” and “updated” language not found in
1) “textbooks only show a piece of time that’s not up-to-date
and doesn’t give people the colloquial words or grammar”.
2) “It was good to have been exposed to authentic text
because not everyone speaks or writes like how text is
presented in the Chinese textbooks”. (S6)
3) “The way Chinese is being presented is changing time to
time”. (S7)
Task authenticity
Not all students considered that writing a job
application for a real job ad is a real task.
Year 12 students: an assessment task
 “did not want to work”, “not an appealing job” and “time
frame inconvenient” (S2).
 “The letter wouldn’t be truly treated like an application”
Year 11 students:
4 students: to convey information
1 student: to complete an
assessment task
The real stall and the pictures on the job advertisement made
the task real.
2. They were informed that their letters would be submitted to
the boss.
 From teacher’s perspective, using authentic texts in the
classroom is time consuming.
 From students’ perspective, they enjoyed the challenge of
reading ‘real’ Chinese written by real and identifiable
Chinese people.
There is no doubt that, if well chosen and
suitably adapted, engagement with authentic
texts does indeed “bridge the gap between the
classroom and the real world”.
Guariento, W & Morley, J 2001, 'Text and task authenticity in the EFL classroom', ELT Journal, vol. 55, no. 4, pp.
Lee, WY-c 1995, 'Authenticity revisited: Text authenticity and learner authenticity', ELT Journal, vol. 49, no. 4, pp.
Liddicoat, AJ, Papademetre, L, Scarino, A & Kohler, M 2003, Report on intercultural language learning, DEST,
Little, D, Devitt, S & Singleton, DM 1988, Authentic texts in foreign language teaching: theory and practice, Authentik.
Maxim III, H 2002, 'A study into the feasibility and effects of reading extended authentic discourse in the
beginning German language classroom', The Modern Language Journal, vol. 86, no. 1, pp. 20-35.
Nunan, D 1988, The learner-centred curriculum, Cambridge University Press, NY.
Scarino, A & Liddicoat, AJ 2009, Teaching and learning laguage: A Guide, Australia,

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