approach to teaching literature in the EFL room

Topics: Linguistics, Literature, Semantics Pages: 7 (2128 words) Published: June 20, 2014
An Integrated Approach to Teaching Literature in the EFL Classroom This article considers the reasons why teachers often regard literature as inappropriate to the language classroom. These views reflect the historic separation between the study of language and the study of literature, which has led to the limited role of literature in the language classroom. However, the use of literary texts can be a powerful pedagogic tool. This article describes various approaches to teaching literature and provides a rationale for an integrated approach to teaching literature in the language classroom based on the premise that literature is language and language can indeed be literary. Introduction

As teachers of English as a Foreign Language our main concern is to help learners acquire communicative competence. For this reason we tend to focus on teaching standard forms of linguistic expression. However, despite acquiring linguistic accuracy, it is apparent that EFL speakers still have difficulties in comprehending the nuances, creativity and versatility which characterise even standard and transactional forms of English, as these humorous public notices demonstrate:

We take your bags and send them in all directions. – Copenhagen airline ticket office Would you like to ride on your own ass? – Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid. – Japanese hotel (

Communicative competence is more than acquiring mastery of structure and form. It also involves acquiring the ability to interpret discourse in all its social and cultural contexts. For this reason, the use of literature in the EFL classroom can provide a powerful pedagogic tool in learners’ linguistic development. Focusing on Literature

Language, both spoken and written, comes in a variety of discourse types and, as teachers of language, we attempt to introduce our learners to as many of these as possible.The variety and types of discourse are perhaps best represented by Kinneavy’s communication triangle (1983). This classification of discourse types includes expressive, which focuses on personal expression (letters, diaries, etc.); transactional, which focuses on both the reader and the message (advertising, business letters, editorials, instructions, etc.); and poetic, which focuses on form and language (drama, poetry, novels, short stories, etc.). Indeed, all these discourse types already play a significant role in teaching various aspects of language such as vocabulary and structure, or testing learners’ comprehension.

However, there is often reluctance by teachers, course designers and examiners to introduce unabridged and authentic texts to the EFL syllabus. There is a general perception that literature is particularly complex and inaccessible for the foreign language learner and can even be detrimental to the process of language learning (Or, 1995). Indeed, it is difficult to imagine teaching the stylistic features of literary discourse to learners who have a less than sophisticated grasp of the basic mechanics of English language. This perception is also borne out by research (Akyel and Yalçin, 1990) which shows that the desire to broaden learners’ horizons through exposure to classic literature usually has disappointing results. The reasons why teachers often consider literature inappropriate to the language classroom may be found in the common beliefs held about literature and literary language. Firstly, the creative use of language in poetry and prose often deviates from the conventions and rules which govern standard, non-literary discourse, as in the case of poetry where grammar and lexis may be manipulated to serve orthographic or phonological features of the language. Secondly, the reader requires greater effort to interpret literary texts since meaning is detached from the reader’s immediate social context; one example is that the “I” in literary discourse...
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