How Literature can influence the English Language Learning?

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Literature just adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become” C.S.Lewis (British Scholar and Novelist, 1898-1963).

As far as we remember we used to look forward to the English Literature classes every week when we were in high-school.  Were you as excited about new stuff and great information taken from the class?

Since English has become an international important language, more and more people are studying it. “ The study of literature allows people to develop new ideas and ethical standpoints, and can help individuals to present themselves as educated members of society. Studying literature can be enriching, eye-opening experience” ( Joshua Cruz, eHow contributor, www.eHow.com).

Traditionally, the role of Literature was not taken into consideration in English Language Teaching programs due to the importance given only to functional language. Today, Literature in second language classes has a very important linguistic input for students and it is a valuable source for learners’ motivation.

* Usually, students who study only English Language  emphasising on reading and writing skills, sometimes fail to see the point of studying English literature, especially if they have no plans to study English or Translation at University. But English Literature can introduce students to a range of aspects, not only of the English Language but also of the English culture.

There are parts of the English culture that are “encapsulated” by English Literature. Of course this is quite evident when studying the works of Shakespeare or other writers, poets and playwrights of  last centuries.

Teachers are the basic pillars to reach students through literature trying to attract them to this field that can be interesting to everyone. Teachers should think about everything that they are going to do without  falling in boredom and keep their students interested in the topic. Also we, as teachers,  consider that we are the ones who must make students get closer to Literature so that they can realise that it is not as abstract as they think, trying to avoid their frustration. Also it is useful to have literary texts and their analysis easier made for students.

The next two points are to help teachers in the hard labour of keeping students interested in Literature.

USEFUL QUESTIONS THAT TEACHERS SHOULD BE AWARE OF

*What has been your experience, as a teacher, when using Literature?

*Do you prefer using originally literary texts or short versions for your students?

*What kind of supplementary material, if any, would you use to raise students’ motivation?

*How can you include the four skills when using Literature in class?

SOME TIPS TO INCLUDE LITERATURE IN AN ELT CONTEXT

?         Students can learn about allusions and references to different aspects of English culture.

?        They can also learn the context and meaning of famous quotes and phrases.

?        When studying Literature, students can improve not only language such as vocabulary, but also the language that can be used for specific purposes.

?        The study of Literature can provide students with a fresh and creative angle with which they can approach their studies in particular and their lives in general.

?        English Literature makes students learn about their creativity and imagination, interacting with the text themselves, and playing different literary roles.

?        Literature must be presented as an authentic task, so the students can get through the texts discovering their different learning styles.

?        Students can live literature not only read it. Plays can be represented so that  students can be immersed in a different time and into a different person.

?        By following the histories presented throughout English Literature, it is possible to understand how contemporary Western culture has developed into what it is today.

?        Reading new words and new phrases can increase any one’s lexicon.

The study of literature offers many ways to improve literacy: it gives access to language, reading,  writing, a shared culture and one’s own self. “ (J.Trounstine, “Literature in Prison?” ).

?        Through the reading of literary texts, students can develop their autonomy and independence, making hypothesis and guessing unfamiliar words.

?        The use of authentic literary texts give learners the opportunity to connect to real world issues at the time they can learn true values for their lives.

CONCLUSIONS:

Literature has been proven as a great tool to approach English language and English culture. Even though there are students and teachers that consider it as too abstract or bored, we, as teachers now and students in the past have experienced the situation and we can say that it works. It gets you closer to the language, culture as well as customs and it is always a way of learning how to write and spell correctly.  Teachers should make literature interesting for students.

That is the reason why this quotation resumes in one sentence what we truly think:Literature will increase all language skills because literature will extend linguistic knowledge” Povey (1972:18)

***

Do you agree with us? why? why not?

Bibliography:

Joshua Cruz, eHow Contributor, www.eHow.com, extracted on 23.09.2010

http://www.middlesex.mass.edu/PeoplePages/trounstinej/, extracted on 24.09.2010

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by : Stefania Baca, Maria Jose Flores, Beatriz González

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