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 Student background 1 English speaking background 2 Born in Australia and of Malaysian background 3 English speaking background 4 Born in Australian and has only a smattering of Cantonese language background 5 Born in Australia and of Chinese-Vietnamese background 6 Born in Australia and of Malaysian background 7 Born in Australia and of Malaysian background 8 Born in Korea. Recently arrived in Australia 9 Born in Cambodia. Recently arrived in Australia 10 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 letters Two questions about content of the letters: 1. What have you learnt from the letter about Chinese students’ thoughts about the future? 2. 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 future.” 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 Australia.” 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 textbooks. 1) “textbooks only show a piece of time that’s not up-to-date and doesn’t give people the colloquial words or grammar”. (S2) 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” (S4) 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. 1. Conclusion 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”. 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