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Use of Authentic Texts in Language Learning

What?

Interactive reading and listening comprehension tasks should be designed and carried out using authentic cultural texts of various kinds with appropriate scaffolding and follow-up tasks that promote interpretation. Authentic texts are defined as “written by members of a language and culture group for members of the same language and culture group” (Galloway, 1998, p. 133, as cited in Glisan). Scaffolding refers to the support provided for learners to promote acquisition of skills and concepts.  Follow-up tasks include activities that provide learners with the opportunity to apply or practice the new skill or concept.  

Why?

Authentic materials provide real-life examples of language used in everyday situations. They can be used to add more interest for the learner. They can serve as a reminder to learners that there is an entire population who use the target language in their everyday lives. Authentic materials can provide information about the target culture and provide that culture’s perspective on an issue or event. The rich language found in authentic materials provides a source of input language learners need for acquisition.

How?

The interpretive mode is receptive communication and the learner must negotiate meaning with the document itself. Since the reader, viewer, or listener is using both content and context to interpret and comprehend what they are reading, viewing, or listening to, learners benefit from making meaning from   authentic cultural texts of various kinds with appropriate scaffolding and follow-up tasks that promote accurate interpretation.

  • Choose authentic texts that are
    • context appropriate
    • age appropriate
    • fit the students’ linguistic level (with scaffolding as necessary)
  • Tailor the task to the proficiency level of the student (use the same text but change what you ask learners at each level to do with the text)
  • Give opportunities to make meaning with a text
  • Help learners use background knowledge, contextual cues, and interpretive strategies (many times the ones acquired in their first language) to construct meaning
  • Comprehension tasks might be done in the learners’ first language if students are able to comprehend more than they can say.  This is a limited use of first language in order for students to demonstrate their comprehension
  • Since the purpose of interpretive tasks is to assess learners’ ability to deal with language that may be new for them in an authentic text, glossing or translating new words and expressions in the text should be avoided, as well as translation activities that do not demonstrate interpretation abilities. In authentic situations, students will not have such assistance, but use any strategy possible to make meaning to accomplish their purpose in the interpretive task
  • When giving feedback to students, they should have an opportunity to analyze their interpretation of the text so that they can see how well their strategies work.  This involves examining the evidence that was used to make their conclusions about meaning or to verify an inference.

Find Out More:

Adair-Hauck, B., Glisan, E. W., & Troyan, F. J. (2013). Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment.  Alexandria, VA: ACTFL.

Glisan, E. (2015). Core Practices Webinars. Alexandria, VA: ACTFL. Access at: https://www.pathlms.com/actfl/courses/2074

The National Standards Collaborative Board. (2015). World-readiness standards for learning languages. Alexandria, VA: Author. (See: http://standards4languages.org)


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