The National University of " Kyiv- Mohyla Academy ", Ukraine
LANGUAGE LEARNING AND LITERATURE
The relationship between literature and learning a language has often been close. In the past, the main reason for learning a language was to be able to access great works of literature in that language. Indeed, the expression "read" was used to talk about studying a language; one "read French", or "read Latin" at university.
Recently we have seen the rise of a communicative approach to language learning. Its emphasis on functional language to meet the learner's communicative needs and focus on real- world, useful English meant that there was little room for literary luxuries. Add to this the rise and recognition of English as an international language, and literature has all but been given the boot .
Why use literature? There are many good reasons for using literature in the classroom. Here are a few:
Literature is authentic material. It is good to expose learners to this source of unmodified language in the classroom because the skills they acquire in dealing with difficult or unknown language can be used outside the class.
Literature expands language awareness. Examples of standard language will be highly contextualized. Asking learners to examine sophisticated or non-standard examples of language (which can occur in literary texts) makes them more aware of the norms of language use [2; 4].
Literature educates the whole person. By examining values in literary texts, teachers encourage learners to develop attitudes towards them. These values and attitudes relate to the world outside the classroom.
Literature is motivating. Literature holds a high status in many cultures and countries. For this reason, students can feel a real sense of achievement at understanding a piece of highly respected literature.
Ultimately, literary pieces are often much more interesting than the texts that are often found in modern coursebooks . Especially over the past twenty years, coursebook texts have tended to focus on the light human interest story, pop psychology, strictly factual texts and celebrity content. What little literature there has been is often unassuming, with little or no information about the author (no photo either) or context of the piece (when it was written etc.).
How to teach using literary texts. Faced with an apparent dearth of literary material in our mainstream texts, the teacher has often had to go it alone. There have been different models suggested on the teaching of literature to ESL/EFL students. How the teachers will use a literary text depends on the model they choose.
In a cultural model of literature and language teaching, the literary text is viewed as a product and as a source of information about the target culture. It is the most traditional approach, often used in university courses. The cultural model will examine the social, political and historical background to a text, literary movements and genres. There is not necessarily any specific language work done on a text. This approach tends to be quite teacher- centred but can also have its rewards. A learner could com back from an evening Spanish class quite excited that she had read a bit of Don Quixote and learned about it from an enthusiastic lecture given by the teacher.
A language model for dealing with literature aims to be more learner- centred . As learners proceed through a text, they pay attention to the way language is used. They come to grips with the meaning and increase their general awareness of English. Within this model of studying literature, the teacher can choose to focus on general grammar and vocabulary or use stylistic analysis. The latter involves a close study of the linguistic features of the text to enable students to make meaningful interpretations of the text; it aims to help learners read and study literature more competently.
Finally, literature can be used as a springboard or a catalyst for work on critical thinking skills. Good literature encourages interaction. A well-selected literary text is often rich in multiple layers of meaning, and can be effectively mined for discussions and sharing feelings or opinions. This is especially true of classic literature. A piece of classic literature remains classic because it resonates with people through time and can be relevant in the present day. Using literature in this way has sometimes been referred to as the personal growth model of literary study. This model encourages learners to draw on their own opinions, feelings and personal experiences. It aims for interaction between the text and the reader in English, helping make the language more memorable.
Literature can be very useful for all kinds of language work. Why don't we have more of it in our published material?
This does not have to be a revolution in language teaching, or even a major change in the way we approach language. Not all our lessons have to include extracts, stories or poems. But literature has immense potential to move people. English is an international language. People study English for many reasons and need useful language they can use in everyday situations. But does this mean we have to use purely utilitarian texts, or superficial texts the likes of which are found in women's magazines? Literary critic Edward Said witnessed a class of international English at a university in the Middle East in the 1990s and claimed that the language was becoming increasingly technical, "stripped of its aesthetic and expressive characteristics and denuded of any self-critical dimension" . Using literary texts can restore an aesthetic element to our teaching. It can add a self-critical dimension. Most importantly, it also has the potential of being incredibly motivating. It's time to bring it back.
The list of references:
1. Carter R. Teaching Literature / R. Carter, M. Long. – L . : Longman, 1991. – 208 p.
2. Lazar G. Literature and Language Teaching / Gillian Lazar. – Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1993. – 281 p.
3. Said E. W. Culture and Imperialism / Edward W. Said. – N. Y.: Vintage Books, Random House Inc., 1994. – 380 p.
4. Widdowson H. G. Stylistics and the Teaching of Literature / H. G. Widdowson . – L.: Longman Pub. Group , 1975. – 140 p.