Literary Approach to Teaching English Language in a Multicultural Classroom

By Choudhary, Sanju | Higher Learning Research Communications, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Literary Approach to Teaching English Language in a Multicultural Classroom


Choudhary, Sanju, Higher Learning Research Communications


Introduction

The study of literature is not regularly discussed as a coherent branch of curriculum in relation to language teaching and learning. However, teachers and scholars feel that language and literature are closely related and can be integrated together. An integrated approach offers learners an opportunity to develop their linguistic and communicative skills. Literature exposes students to meaningful contexts that are replete with universal themes. Literature appeals to the learners with different styles and encourages thoughtful and purposeful learning. Structuring language lessons around the reading of literature introduces a profound range of vocabulary, dialogue, and prose. In addition to developing students' English language skills, teaching literature also exposes them to the practical use of language. It enhances the cultural awareness and encourages critical thinking about characters, plots, themes, and so on. Barnett (1989) expressed, "authentic texts are vital; they motivate students, offer a real context, transmit the target language culture, and prepare the students for world outside the class-rooms" (p. 145). Students are exposed to critical thinking needed for the practical world. Most importantly, the activities that can apply with literature lessons easily confirm student-centered and interactive tenets of communication language teaching (CLT).

In fact, there are a variety of resources for teachers of the English language to enhance the quality of their language classes with the study of literature. Carter and Long (1991) said that "both literature and language teaching involves the development of a feeling for language of responses to 'texts' in the broadest sense of the word-in both written and spoken discourses" (pp. 2-3). Therefore, evocative response is a key feature of both literature and language teaching and learning. Lord Byron viewed words as things that provoke thought. Most people think of words as things almost literally and vocabulary development as an acquisition of more and more things or words.

Teachers of English are acquainted with the criticism and interpretation of a literary work. These literary texts can be effectively used for language teaching, as "literary texts are representational rather than referential" (McRae, 1994). The referential language connects and communicates only at the peripheral and basic level and tends to be informational, but the representational language involves the use of imagination and enhances their empathy for others and makes the learners more creative. Thus, we need to expose them to a wide variety of "representational material" that invites them to respond. The multiple layers of meanings provide opportunities for developing their "interpretational and inferential skills." The famous linguist Ur (1991) rightly opined that, "Beyond the mere comprehension of information, but they also give the students the satisfaction of knowing that they are reading literary texts in their original form" (p. 155).

Teachers of English are well acquainted with the criticism and interpretation of literary works. As Lazer (1993) put it, "Literary texts enrich the language input in classroom and stimulate acquisition by providing meaningful and memorable contexts for processing and interpreting new language" (p. 17). These texts can be used effectively for language teaching. Teachers use literature in English teaching practices so that they can broaden students' horizons by imparting knowledge of the classical texts as well as improving students' general cultural awareness. These texts stimulate their creative and literary imagination and develop their understanding of literature. They should be given "meaningful content to provoke their imagination give them something important to talk" (Widdowson, 1986, p. 33).

Earlier, literary experts were unwilling to draw on English language teaching (ELT), and ELT trainers usually considered literature as a secondary tool for language pedagogy. …

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