I asked a dozen teaching colleagues (identified below by their initials) for reflections on the advantages and disadvantages of using authentic materials in the classroom. From their comments – many of which were generously long and thoughtful – three main ideas emerged:
1) We need to define the term ‘authentic’ and also include in the discussion the ideas of ‘adapted’ and ‘semi-authentic’ materials.
2) Authentic materials offer great advantage over materials written for the purpose of language learning.
3) There are also many disadvantages to using them.
In this post, I’ll discuss what we mean by ‘authentic materials’ and look at some of the advantages they offer in the classroom. My next post will explore disadvantages and how to address them, including a discussion of semi-authentic materials.
What do we mean by ‘authentic’?
DM (whose work focuses on test preparation): ‘First, we need to define terms. What are “authentic materials”? For me, “authentic materials” are reading texts that were written by native speakers and published in contexts designed specifically for native-speaker consumption, with no thought given to non-native accessibility. The topics, language, syntax, structure, etc., are all pitched at a target audience of native speakers and offered through media intended primarily for native speakers.’