Guy Cook, author of the award-winning applied linguistics book Translation in Language Teaching, considers why using literature to teach English is still worth doing. Guy will discuss this topic in more detail in his upcoming webinar on 14th and 17th January.
Let’s face it. Teaching literature to language learners can be a tough challenge!
- The language can be difficult, unusual or just old-fashioned (you wouldn’t want your learners saying ‘Wherefore art thou Romeo?”).
- It can demand a lot of background knowledge – from an unfamiliar time and place.
- It deals with controversial topics, which may be very personal, embarrassing or culturally divisive.
- It needs a close focus on written text, which may be alien to the ‘internet generation’.
- Lastly it is supremely useless! There are not many jobs demanding an understanding of poetry!
To make matters worse, an inappropriate choice of texts may be forced upon you by an exam syllabus. Or, if you can choose your own, you may end up teaching a text that you love but the students hate – an excruciating experience.
HOWEVER, if you still feel strongly, as I do, that despite all these problems and pitfalls, literature remains supremely worth teaching, and can be very successful in the classroom, then this is a webinar for you.
First, we shall discuss ways of presenting a poem, dealing with its difficulties and subleties, and getting learners to engage with its sound, language and meaning. Next we shall consider what kind of literature is best for the language learner, depending on age, stage, and context. Finally we shall debate some of the cultural and personal issues which arise.
Literature is inspiring, beautiful, eloquent, and memorable. It deals with the big universal experiences of human life: love, death, sexuality, sickness, religion, childhood, friendship, and so forth. As such, it is certainly more interesting than the bland inoffensive materials favoured in ELT classes and textbooks!
I hope you will leave the webinar agreeing with me that, despite its difficulties, literature in the language classroom:
- has a unique educational value;
- is relevant to student contemporary lives and experiences;
- can improve English language knowledge and use;
- is enjoyable and stimulating for both teacher and students.
In short, my webinar argues strongly for the teaching of literature in ELT, but also candidly address the problems that come with it. I look forward to seeing you there, hearing your comments and opinions, and to benefitting from your own insights and experiences, too.
To find out more about using literature in English language teaching, register for Guy’s webinar on 14th or 17th January.