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AUTHENTIC LITERARY TEXT AND LANGUAGE LEARNING

Автор Доклада: 
L. Goncharova
Награда: 
AUTHENTIC LITERARY TEXT AND LANGUAGE LEARNING

 AUTHENTIC LITERARY TEXT AND LANGUAGE LEARNING

Larisa Goncharova, Mg.paed.sc.
Baltic Institute of Psychology and Management

 

The need and interest to learning foreign languages stimulates a continuous search of new and transformation of already existing teaching and learning methods.The article is about application of an authentic literary text as a resource of stimulating and motivating learning content which enriches the process of learning, promotes cultural awareness and personal growth.

Keywords: language, culture, creativity, imagination, literature, communication, authentic, competence.

We live in the time of continuous changes in every sphere of human activity and it is vitally important to be a society of people who are tenacious and endurable, adaptable and resilient, able to foresee and choose and be aware of the outcome of their decisions.
We strive to become the society of continuous education and we understand that the welfare of a state and its citizens is influenced by the quality of their education. In the result of education and professional training we want to become people who are culturally an ethically educated, with broad knowledge in our sphere of activity, analytical, responsible and capable of continuous personal and intellectual growth. We want to be able to think and work creatively, fight stereotypes, be tolerant, assimilate where necessary and cope with new challenges, no matter what sphere of arts, technology, science or crafts we are acting in. This social need puts in the forefront certain demands to teaching and studying processes.
Creative abilities are developed in the process of education and recent attempts of pedagogues and educationalists have allowed to reorganize the processes of teaching and learning in the direction of active development of creativity of students.
Learning foreign languages allow numerous possibilities for developing creativity and imagination, because language in itself is the product of creativity of the mind. And it is not an incidental fact that considerable recent attention of theorists in language teaching methodology has been concentrated on the problem of imaginative content. „In future years the absence of imaginative content in language teaching will be considered to have marked a primitive stage in discipline: the use of purely referential materials limits the learners imaginative involvement with the target language and leads to one-dimentional learning achievement... Imaginative content appeals to learner’s imagination... any kind of material with imaginative or fictional content goes beyond the purely referential and brings imaginative interaction, reaction and response to play” [5, p.vii].
A sourse of imaginative content can be found in the fine art of literature. Language learning through the use of imaginative material, i.e. a literary text, can go alongside with the learning of the language itself at the same time developing imagination and creativity in learners.
We live in the time of mass communication and we learn languages to be able to communicate outside the sphere of our native tongues, but often ‘the techniques of language teaching tend to concentrate on how to communicate rather than on what about to communicate” [5, p.1]. There is always a wish to reach some level of communication competence in the target language, but often there is a complaint on the lack of successful communication. Language teaching methodologists distinguish now between a representational language which engages imagination and referential language that does not. Referential language states, shows and informs, but „does not engage the interlocutor’s imaginative qualities ... representational language opens up, calls upon, stimulates and uses areas of the mind from imagination to emotion, from pleasure to pain, which referential language does not ... where referential language informs, representational language involves”. [5, p.3]. Another ability sometimes ignored in language learning is thinking. The referential language requires very little in the way of thinking. It is ‘a very basic framework for communicative survival in carefully circumcribed environmental contexts and the primary function of ideational or representational materials is to expand these circumscribed contexts”, [5, p.4].
Representational and ideational material is available in the form of an authentic literary text, not simplified and not abridged. Only then it switches on learners’ imagination, improves their self-awareness and leads them to a wider knowledge of the target language and to a greater fluency in it.
Psychological and pedagogical aspects of creativity have been given a lot of thought in works of many scientists. The first stimulus for any creative activity can be a problem that needs to be solved. The solution can be a conclusion drawn from available facts, or a result of a combinatory process, aroused by an extraneous irritant. „A problem irritant as any strong stimulus dominantes mental activity, which arouses a positive mimicosomatical reaction, which results in a rise of energy and, consequently, urgent or intensified mental activity”[8, p.230]. There is also the opinion, that from the point of view of natural sciences creative processes and their outward expression in creative acts are specific natural phenomena and any „act or process of creativity is determined by a complex of such conditions as natural gifts, education, training, etc.” [8, p.233]. L.Vigotsky believes that creativity is not”a prerogative of only geniuses... creativity exists everywhere, where we create images, combine or change old forms into new”[7, p.267] . Creativity is also viewed as „innovative process” [6, p.189], and „not as a part of arts, science, etc, but the arts, science and technology are parts of creativity ... creativity is inherent to a human nature and creative acts give pleasure and deep satisfaction”. [7, p.8-16].
Imagination is a foundation of any creative activity, it is what enables a creative act. Imagination is not an abstract function, but a natural part of human mental activity. It is „a basis on which further specific creative activity can develop” [10, p.347].
There are certain laws that govern the activity of imagination. L.Vigotsky believes that creative activity is”a direct function of a rich and diverse personal experience which stimulates imagination”. [7, pp.11-12]. Another form of connection between imagination and reality is when one absorbs somebody else’s historical, cultural or social experience by means of their own imagination. When we are reading a novel, a story, memoirs or even a documentary we reconstruct images with the help of our imagination. Imagination of experienced readers is very active. If it were not so, people would not read. There would be no interest. Yet „another form of connection between active imagination and reality is our emotional reaction” [7, p.15]. The influence of the emotional factor on the combinatory function of our mind explains why”imaginary events and characters excite us even when we know they are not real, but our feelings and emotions that we experience while perceiving artistic images are real” [7, p.16].It is as if „the text involves his reader into co-operation ...hints, allegories and evasiveness of a work of art stimulates imagination...” [8, p.16].
A leading motive of creativity may be „a craving for self-expression and self-realization” [9, p.232]. Features of creativity are numerous and all positive. They are sensitivity, curiosity, ability to concentrate, intellectual flexibility, non-conformism, risk-taking, originality, open-mindedness, etc. There was an endeavor from the side of psychologists and pedagogues to cultivate conditions for development of creativity through specific pedagogical techniques. It is a shared opinion of many that acquisition of knowledge and accumulation of information is of lesser importance than the development of creative thinking and in this connection a well-known expression by Maks fon Laue is often quouted: „Education is something that remains when all learned by heart is forgotten”.
Literature as fine arts can take and is taking its honourable place in language learning, and the interest to that is reflected in numerous recent publications. Cristofer Brumfit in his book „Reading skills and the study of literature in a foreign language classroom” says that ‘ literature provides us with a convinient source of content for a course in a foreign language”.[1, p.185]. Reasons for using literature in teaching and learning a foreign language are three fold: cultural development, language acquisition and personal growth. [2, p.2]. Irma K.Ghosh in her article about developing emotional intelligence through literature connects emotional intelligence with academic achievement: „Literature has the potential of fostering emotional intelligence by providing vicarious emotional experiences that shape the brain circuits for empathy and help gain insight into human behaviour” [4, p.10].
From the point of view of cultural development literature is an expression of the best that has been thought and felt within a culture. „Teaching literature within a cultural model enables students to understand and appreciate cultures and ideologies different from their own in time and space and to come to perceive tradition of thought, feeling and artistic form within the heritage that the literature of such cultures endows. It is this particular „human” sense that gives literature a central place in the study and teaching of humanities in many parts of the world”[2, p.2].
Reading literature promotes language development as there are „demonstrations of subtle and varied creative uses of the language” [3, p.2], and also because „literature is by definition authentic text and both verbal response and activity response are genuine language activities” [1, p.58]. The most valuable outcome of reading a fictitious text in a learned language is „a lasting pleasure in reading and deep satisfaction in a continuing growth of understanding” [3, p.3]. Literature „promotes language learning by enriching learners’ vocabulary and modeling new language structures” [4, p.10].
In the context of all said above it should be understood that there is a distinction between the study and leaning literature and the use of literature as a resourse of learning a language. Here the problem of literary competence may arise and it is proven that when a learner of a foreign language reads an authentic literary text in a target language their literary competence will depend on what has been gained in their attitude to literature in their mother tongue, but this competence can be promoted by selecting texts for reading which will be motivating and which will „produce in a reader a desire to read, to read on, to read more into the particular text [1, p.6]. Literary and language competence depend on each other. When one is developing, the other will follow.
It is the opinion of numerous contemporary theorists of teaching language methods that reading authentic literature gives vast possibilities for developing also creativity, as „it encourages the learner to test the dimension of words and creates a feeling for language [1, p.59]. This point is supported by McRae: „Literature ... may promote ... students own creativity and the goal of reading a literary text is not the admiration of literature. It is ... more like transfer of imaginative energy from literature to students” [5, p.190]. And by R.Carter, who writes: „One feature of reading literature is that readers are normally required to suspend disbelief and participate imaginatively in the world created by the text ... this circumstantial participation can be reinforced by trying to relate the world of fiction with one’s own actual experience in a direct way. [2, p.8], and further: „The literary text is not the subject of detailed linguistic study, but rather for reading in order to make the text one’s own, evaluate and distinguish great literature from less successful examples [2, p.9].
These are the reasons why authentic literature is a wonderful resourse of stimulating and motivating content for language learning. It should be used for its general educational value, for helping learners understand a foreign culture, expanding learners’ language awareness, developing their interpretative abilities, imagination and creativity.

References:
1. Brumfit Ch. Literarure and language learning. Oxford University Press, 1987,272 p.
2. Carter R, Long M. Teaching literature. Cambridre University Press, 1990, 185 p.
3. Carter R, Long M. The Web of Words. Exploring literature through language. Cambridge University Press, 1987, 180 p.
4. Ghosh K.Irma, Forum, January 2001, volume 39, number 1, pp.10-17.
5. McRae J. Literature with a small „l”. MacMillan Publishers, 1992, 126 p.
6. Васадзе А. Проблема художественного чувства, Тбилиси, 1978, 174 стр. (Vasadze A. The problem of artistic feeling)
7. Выготский Л., Воображение и творчество в школьном возрасте, Гос.изд-во РСФСР, 1930, 79 стр. (Vigotsky L, Imagination and creativity in school age)
8. Грузенберг С., Гений и творчество. Изд-во П.П.Сойкина, Л.,1924, 254 стр. (Gruzenberg S. The genius and creativity)
9. Розет И., Психология фантазии. Минск, 1991, 342 стр. (Rozet I. (The psychology of imagination)
10. Рубинштейн М. Основы общей психологии. Том 1, М.. Педагогика, 1989, 488 стр. (Rubinshtein M. Fundamentals of general psychology).

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