The Creative Use of Authentic Documents with Artistic Value in Foreign Language Education

By Tarabuzan, Elena Odette; Popa, Nicoleta Laura | Review of Artistic Education, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Creative Use of Authentic Documents with Artistic Value in Foreign Language Education


Tarabuzan, Elena Odette, Popa, Nicoleta Laura, Review of Artistic Education


1. New and old in the debate on authentic documents

Although intensive efforts have been invested towards the creation of innovative tools for language education, authentic documents still remain a central theme for debates in the field, and numerous training courses for language teachers address the issue. At the very heart of the continuous debate lies the name of the discussed learning tool itself - authentic document. Beyond any doubt, the international debate over authentic document it is far from absolute novelty, as it started and intensified since early twentieth century, with the apparition of the phonograph, and later of the tape, tape-recorders and slides; audio documents are also traditionally used in teaching and learning of foreign languages, being viewed as a sources or reference materials in learning pronunciation and enriching vocabulary.

Authentic documents are currently opposed to documents produced for the foreign language classrooms, especially textbooks based on various pedagogical approaches. Authentic documents are considered genuine creations, designed for a variety of purposes and therefore less didactically biased, meant to entertain, to inform, and to stimulate deep aesthetic or emotional experiences. Although analyzed as a contradictory pair, "authentic" and "manufactured" documents are currently mixed in language textbooks, and therefore teachers' work in searching, choosing and applying became a lot easier. However, the richness and diversity of authentic documents deserves further attention, and may stimulate innovative didactic approaches in language education.

Language educators attempt to define authentic documents as "real life" and "natural" materials which can be used for didactic purposes. Authentic documents are somehow a living proof of the value of language in communicating thoughts, emotions experiences. Meanwhile, they include specialized vocabulary, reinforced grammatical structures, and diverse topics and themes which transform them in important factors for encouraging learning of foreign languages and cultures (Berwald, 1987). Educators who assert that it is important to use activities and materials connected with learners' lives outside of school, which are therefore learner-contextualized, also stress that using real life materials supports the transfer of acquired knowledge and skills to real life contexts. Authentic learning materials are not used only with advanced students, but also with beginners, as they can have an important role in motivating task engagement. Authentic materials also promotes learners' part or full responsibility for the choice of learning materials, although didactic practices based on application prepared by teachers remain frequent. This alternative in the use of authentic documents can also foster learners' autonomy, and this is even a more important aim for their future lives than foreign language proficiency (Duda & Tyne, 2010).

This type of discourse opens a new debate: if used in the classroom, therefore selected and transformed for didactic purposes, a document remains authentic? (Puren, 2012). Answers to this question are not an easy task, but at least learning tools with artistic value (literary texts, videos and films, photographs, comic strips, music etc.) are more likely to remain authentic, even when produced by students in the classroom. Moreover, we support the optimists' voices who claim that the use of authentic document makes language teaching and learning more effective, if not more motivating, and consequently we support the use of authentic documents especially in language classrooms. Thus, Chavez (1998) argues that authentic documents are perceived by students as easier, interesting and stimulating learning materials, while Gilmore (2007) asserts that authentic documents sustain high levels of task-orientation and engagement, based on a study focusing in teaching and learning English as a foreign language. …

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