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Using Authentic Materials in


the Foreign Language
Classroom: Teachers
Perspectives in Pakistan

Written by:
Aalumgir Shah
First semester 2015

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There is significant difference in opinions regarding the presence of authentic
materials in the FL classroom. Views range from strong caution to encouragement. This
research intends to provide a deeper understanding of foreign language teachers attitudes
toward using authentic materials, focusing on both reading and listening skills. Fifteen
teachers working at NUML University Karachi will complete a survey questionnaire for the
purpose of this study. The questionnaire will analyze in terms of frequency and percentage. It
is assumed that the results will indicate that all of the English teachers have a positive
attitude toward presenting authentic materials in the classroom. Recommendations for future
research are provided.
1 Problem Statment
The relentless push since the mid 1970s toward communicative approaches to
language teaching has brought along with it a need to develop students skills for the real
world. Teachers, therefore, must stimulate this world in the classroom. One way of doing so
is to incorporate the use of authentic materials. Scholars argue that the use of authentic
materials helps to bridge the gap between classroom knowledge and students capacity to
participate in real-world events. In other words, incorporating authentic materials helps
students acquire an effective communicative competence in the target language. However,
Pakistani primary schools are completely underestimating the use of authenticity in schools.
Thus, the learners usually find it very difficult to communicate in their academic and
professional areas. The present study has been designed to investigate teachers attitudes
toward using authentic materials in the FL classroom.
2. Literature Review:
2.1. Definition of Authentic Materials:

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The term authentic material has been defined in different ways throughout the
literature. What is common in these definitions is the exposure to real language and its use in
its own community. Nunan (1989, as cited in Adams, 1995) refers to authentic materials as
any material that has not been specifically produced for the purpose of language teaching.
Little et al (1988, as cited in Guariento & Morley, 2001) define authentic materials as those
that have been produced to fulfill some social purpose in the language community in which
they were produced. Bacon and Finnemann (1990) define authentic materials as texts
produced by native speakers for non-pedagogical purposes. This paper will adopt Bacon and
Finnemanns definition because their definition specifies the producers of the text as native
speakers, whereas the others do not.
2.2. The Impact of Authentic Materials on FL Teaching:
Although the use of authentic materials in the classroom has become common practice
during the last 20 years, the issue of authenticity in FL teaching has been one of the most
debatable aspects in the field. However, the need for and usefulness of authentic materials
have been increasingly acknowledged. Empirical studies have confirmed positive results
obtained by learners who have opportunities to interact with and utilize authentic texts.
For example, several studies show that oral language development is improved when
the practice incorporates authentic materials (Bacon & Finneman, 1990; Miller, 2005; Otte,
2006; Thanajaro, 2000). In addition, several studies find that authentic materials can increase
reading development by introducing students to new vocabulary and expressions (Bacon &
Finneman, 1990; Berardo, 2006). Harmer (1991) believes that, despite many textbooks use
of non-authentic materials to practice specific language points, only authentic materials will
genuinely improve listening and reading skills. Furthermore, Allen et al. (1988, as cited in

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Baird, 2004) maintain that the strategies students develop in comprehending authentic texts
can help them develop writing proficiency in the target language.
Incorporating authentic materials in teaching a FL offers more than linguistic
advantages. Scholars argue for the motivating power of authentic materials. McNeil (1994)
and Kilickaya (2004) indicate that the use of authentic texts is now considered to be one way
for increasing students motivation for learning since they give the learner the feeling that he
or she is learning the real languagethe target language as it is used by the community that
speaks it. Empirical studies (Bacon & Finnemanns, 1990; Otte, 2006; Thanajaro, 2000) have
confirmed that students motivation and self-satisfaction increased after exposure to
authentic aural texts. In addition, Kim (2000) argues that authentic materials make a major
contribution to overcoming certain cultural barriers to language learning.
In conclusion, the benefits that authentic materials bring to the FL classroom greatly
outweigh the challenges. In addition, it is possible to overcome the challenges through task
design. Thus, integrating authentic materials will merit the extra time and effort required of
FL teachers.
2.3. When should Authentic Materials be Introduced?
The issue of when to introduce authentic materials has been surrounded by controversy
in the field of language teaching. On the one hand, researchers such as Kilickaya (2004) and
Kim (2000) claim that authentic materials can be used with intermediate and advanced
students only. These researchers believe that the use of authentic materials at lower levels
causes students to feel frustrated and de-motivated since students at these levels lack many
lexical items and structures used in the target language. According to Guariento and Morley
(2001), At lower levels, however, even with quite simple tasksthe use of authentic texts

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may not only prevent the learners from responding in meaningful ways but can also lead
them to feel frustrated, confused, and, more importantly, demotivated (p. 347). Kim (2000)
further argues that authentic language may not expose students to comprehensible input at
the earliest stages of acquisition.
However, others claim that exposure to authentic materials should start in the earliest
stages of language learning (McNeil, 1994; Miller, 2005), asserting that an early exposure to
such texts will help students develop useful strategies for more complex tasks later on. In an
examination of high school students studying German as a FL, Bernhardt and Berkemeyer
(1988, as cited in Otte, 2006) noted that all levels of students were able to manage using
authentic texts. Similarly, Allen et al (1988, as cited in Miller, 2005) studied1,500 high
school students in three different language levels using authentic materials. The researchers
found that all subjects were able to capture some meaning from all of the texts, even at the
beginning level. According to these studies, less proficient students can benefit from
authentic materials.
2.4. Selection of authentic materials:
Berardo (2006) provides three criteria for choosing authentic texts: suitability of
content, exploitability, and readability. Suitability of content indicates that the text should
interest the students as well as be appropriate to their needs and abilities. Bacon and
Finneman (1990) add that the texts should be culturally relevant to the experience of the
students. In this vein, Lee (1995) states that a careful and wise selection of materials
focused on learners is a must if we want a positive response from them (p.325).Meanwhile,
exploitability refers to how the text can be used to develop the students competence and
how the text can be exploited for teaching purposes. Finally, readability refers to the

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language of the text, including the structural and lexical difficulty as well as the amount of
new vocabulary and grammatical forms.
Lee (1995) states that the text must be compatible with the course objectives i.e., it
can improve the language skills educators want the learners to practice. In addition, teachers
must consider the length of the text and their teaching approach. Further, a variety of text
types must be selected, such as articles, advertisements, weather forecasts, interviews,
poems, radio talks, application forms, train timetables, and brochures.
2.5. Sources of Authentic Materials:
The sources of authentic materials (whether spoken or written) are infinite. The most
common sources are newspapers, magazines, TV, video, radio, literature, and the internet.
Although radio is easy to access, its aural texts are the most difficult for language learners to
comprehend. Miller (2003) claims that, In order to use radio programs with learners,
teachers need todecide on some global listening tasks for the learners (p. 16) due to the
fact that all non-verbal information is missing. Unlike radio, TV and video allow learners to
access paralinguistic features of the spoken text; as a result, TV and video may be easier for
the students to comprehend.
Yet it is the internet that is considered the most useful source (Berardo, 2006). While
printed materials date very quickly, the internet is continuously updated, is interactive, and
provides visual stimulation. It provides easy access to endless amounts of different types of
material (Berardo, 2006). Moreover, the internet can be the portal to other sources. For
example, teachers can obtain articles, audio clips, and videos from the internet. However,
despite the useful qualities of the internet, Miller (2003) indicates that a survey conducted
on The ESL Magazine website concerning the most used medium for obtaining authentic

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listening materials for ESL/EFL instruction found the TV the most used one (see Appendix
A).
The literature indicates that researchers have investigated the impact of authentic
materials on language comprehension and performance at various levels. Some studies
provided insights about learners attitudes toward authentic input. In addition, pedagogical
research sought to provide recommendations for material selection and sources. However, no
study has been conducted with the aim of eliciting teachers attitudes toward using authentic
materials in their classes. Because of the importance of the teachers role in providing
authentic input for the students, the present study attempts to address this issue.
3. The Study:
3.1. Purpose of the Study:
The central purpose of this study is to elicit the attitudes of English language teachers
at NUML University Karachi toward using authentic materials in their classes. The study
focuses on Writing and reading skills only. The researcher aims to provide answers to the
following questions:
1. What are the teachers attitudes toward using authentic materials in their language
classes?
2. Do they prefer to use authentic materials? Why, or why not?
3. In which classes would the teachers use such materials?
4. What is/are the appropriate level(s) for introducing such materials?
5. What are the sources that teachers would use to obtain authentic materials?
6. How would they select the materials?
7. Do they need training in dealing with such materials? If so, what type of training?

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3.2. Methodology:
3.2.1. Participants:
Initially, twenty English teachers working at NUML University will be asked to
participate. The participants will be randomly selected without regard to their teaching
experience, or academic degree. All of them are M.A in Linguistics and have a vast
experience in teaching Languages. 10 of them are English Language lecturer, 2 Chines, 1
Germon, 1 French and 1 is Arabic teacher.
3.2.2. Procedures and Instruments:
A survey questionnaire will be employed in order to answer the questions of the study.
The questionnaire, will be distributed to all twenty initially will select potential participants,
first to define authentic materials. The participants will then be asked to indicate their
experience in teaching EFL. The questionnaire will present around nine items in the form of
multiple-choice questions. Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer
according to their opinions. In addition, they were allowed to add their own comments
regarding any item.
The participants were given one day to complete the questionnaire. Participants returned
their answers to the secretary office, where the researcher came later and pick them up. All 15
participants who agreed to answer the questionnaire returned the surveys within the required
timetable, so no follow-up was required. Responses from the questionnaires were analyzed in
terms of frequency and converted into percentage to indicate the teachers attitudes toward
each issue accurately.
5. Conclusion:

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This study explored the attitudes of teachers toward using authentic materials in the FL
classroom in Saudi Arabia. The study was conducted at King Saud University in Riyadh. The
results reveal that all of the teachers indicated positive attitudes toward providing authentic
input in their classes, regardless of their nationality, teaching experience, and academic
degree. The reasons for such an attitude are to improve students skills and expose them to the
real language. In addition, teachers indicated that they would tend to use more authentic
materials in reading rather than listening classes. Furthermore, the results indicate that the
internet and TV would be the most used sources for obtaining authentic materials.
The teachers disagreed on the suitable level of students for presenting such materials.
Most of the teachers believe that the language level of the text and the course objectives are
the guiding criteria for selecting appropriate texts. Ultimately, however, most participants
indicated a need for additional training in using authentic materials, particularly in designing
appropriate tasks. The results of this study could be viewed as a starting point for further
exploration into the use of authentic materials in FL teaching.
6. Limitations and Recommendations:
Several limitations of the present study point to ideas for future research on attitudes
toward using authentic materials. First, the small size of the sample population (N=15) sheds
doubt on the validity of the results. A replication study with a greater number of subjects is
needed in order to obtain reliable and generalizable results. Second, the study deals with
teachers at the college level. The same study may be conducted with English teachers at
schools rather than college, whether elementary, intermediate, or secondary schools. Third,
the study focused on female teachers attitudes. Hence, future research should elicit male
teachers attitudes as well as Saudi learners attitudes toward authentic input. Finally,

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additional aspects of authenticity should be explored such as teachers opinions about how
authentic materials can develop productive skills or how to plan instruction that incorporates
such materials effectively.
References
Adams, T. (1995). What Makes Materials Authentic? (ERIC Document Reproduction Service
No. ED 391389).
Bacon, S., & Finneman, M. (1990). A study of attitudes, motives, and strategies of university
foreign language students and their disposition to authentic oral and written input.
Modern Language Journal, 74(4), 459-73.
Baird, K., & Redmond, M, (Eds.). (2004). The use of authentic materials in the K-12 french
program. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University, Department of Education.
Berardo, S. (2006). The use of authentic materials in the teaching of reading. The Reading
Matrix, 6 (2), 60-69.
Guariento, W., & Morley, J. (2001). Text and task authenticity in the EFL classroom. ELT
Journal, 55 (4), 347 - 353.
Harmer, J. (1991). The Practice of English Language Teaching. London: Longman.
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Lee, W. (1995). Authenticity revisited: text authenticity and learner authenticity. ELT Journal,
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