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The usage of authentic materials in ESL/EFL classroom environment seems to be frequently referred to in recent professional literature in this field as a major contribution to the learners' motivation with regard to the perception of the ESL classroom material. In particular, the key qualities of authentic learning materials that may be emphasized by different scholars would include such aspects as greater degree of interest/motivation experienced by learners; establishment of more stable and lasting connections between the learners and their "target language culture" (Peacock, 1997, p. 144); favourable response to the use of such materials in classroom setting; and enthusiasm derived from the utilization of the authentic materials in question (Peacock, 1997, p. 145).

Proceeding from these considerations, one may infer that an impact of the use of authentic materials on the learners' performance in the respective classroom environment should be one of the main spheres of interest for the researchers in this field. Given the importance of the students' motivation within the Hong Kong system of ESL curriculum, it would be evident that establishment of proper associations between a purely theoretical exposition of the impact of authentic materials upon the students' motivation and the relevant teacher practice (as expressed through the collective experience of the Hong Kong ESL teaching staff) shall be the major focus of this term paper.

Definition and Types of Authentic Materials

Determination of the role and impact of authentic materials on the Hong Kong system of ESL curriculum would require the provision of a definite, yet concise, definition of authentic materials as the specific type of learning materials used in the course of classroom/curricular activities. Therefore, a review of respective definitions provided in professional literature would merit a particular attention here.

According to Wallace (1992), authentic materials in the field of language education may be operationally defined as "real-life texts, not written for pedagogical purposes" (Wallace, 1992, p. 145). The key purpose of authentic materials, as presented by such authors as Little et al. (1989), is to "fulfill some social purpose in the language community" (Little et al., 1989, p. 25), rather than serve as mere accessories to the pedagogical process in question. As referred to by Jordan (1997), authentic materials are not designed to express the purpose of language teaching; they are rather the natural outgrowths of the language culture and environment they form part of.

Martinez (2002), follows the example by Widdowson (1990), in differentiating between the authentic and the genuine materials in classroom situation. While authentic "would be material designed for native speakers of English and used in the classroom in a way similar to the one it was designed for", a genuine material would be used "not in the way it was intended, but in a somewhat artificial way" (Martinez, 2002, p. 1). As a result, an authentic text (e.g. a newspaper article or a poem) may be used in the classroom in a "jumbled" way (Martinez, 2002, p. 1), or adapted to the students' level of language proficiency so as to make it more accessible to them. Thus, relative degree of the material authenticity would depend on the precise situation.

As for the types of authentic materials to be used in the classroom, an orthodox classification would differentiate them into the print and the auditory ones. The print materials would focus on development of the capacity to handle and interpret textual language, while the auditory ones are most likely to involve the development of oral language skills. However, in practice, both types of authentic materials are likely to be used concurrently or in conjunction.

Advantages of Authentic Materials

As a form of learning materials, authentic materials would conform to the requirement of providing "an additional aid to help the learner to focus on salient features" of the language material at hand (Tomlinson, 2010, p. 88). Hence, the learning materials that would be most useful to the classroom audience should "contain plentiful spoken and written texts," offering "extensive experience of language…in a variety of text types and genres" (Tomlinson, 2010, p. 87). Furthermore, the use of authentic materials enables the learners to reach out to the "authentic text" (Tomlinson, 2011, p. ix), thus, contributing to the a successful fulfilment of 'authentic tasks' as the form of "using language in a way that replicates its use in the "real world"" (Tomlinson, 2011, p. ix). Therefore, an emphasis on authentic materials would be likely to lead to the development of stable association between the learning environment and the future practical applications in the extra- and post-curricular situations.

Richard (2001, pp. 252-253), lists several advantages that may be found in the extensive use of authentic materials in ESL education. In particular, this would encompass their peculiar capacity to enhance the reader/learner's motivation, as they are "intrinsically more interesting and motivating than created materials"; "provide authentic cultural information about target culture" (p. 253); at the same time, authentic materials offer "exposure to real language rather than the artificial texts found in created materials" (Richard, 2001, p. 253). In turn, authentic materials provide direct and close connection between the learners' pedagogical goals and the social environment of their education, as well as "support more creative approach to teaching," enabling the instructors to realize their full teaching potential through interacting with their classroom audience in the creative way (Richard, 2001, p. 353).

As the selfsame features are reproduced in the respective characteristics by Peacock (1997), one may note that the advantages of authentic materials would seem rather straightforward to a disinterested scholar. Simultaneously, an explanation of the role of authentic materials in the curriculum would require respective weighing of the relative merits of both advantages and drawbacks of their use.

Disadvantages of Authentic Materials

While advantages of authentic materials may be evident to some scholars, it is worth noting that their drawbacks are likewise not infrequently underscored by them. In particular, the issue of authentic materials excessive complexity is noted by many of these latter. However, some other potential drawbacks of authentic materials are worth discussing as well.

The problem of authentic materials cultural bias was raised Martinez (2002), as a means of curbing excessive enthusiasm towards this type of curricular material. Thus, Martinez noted that authentic materials may be "unnecessarily difficult to understand outside the language community" (Martinez, 2002, p. 2), limiting their empirical utility. This observation would connect with Savignon's (2002) emphasis on the five goal areas inherent in the process of communicative language learning, including the need to develop "the learner's ability to use the target language to communicate thoughts, feelings, and opinions in a variety of settings" (Savignon, cited in Kumaravadivelu, 2006, p. 119). From the generally communicative perspective, excessive use of authentic materials may hamper the ability of the students to respond to the communicative aspects of their learning, especially provided that the authentic materials selected are not of the colloquial character.

Further on, the vocabulary included in some authentic materials may not be "relevant to the student's immediate needs" (Martinez, 2002, p. 2). This means that the emphasis on authentic materials to the detriment of the created ones would lead to the unnecessary shift in the students' priorities, being aimed at the development of theoretical, rather than practical, knowledge of the linguistic and cultural environment in question. Accordingly, uncritical utilization of authentic materials in the field of ESL education may lead to the detrimental consequences with respect to the students' empirical communication.

Some other drawbacks of reliance on authentic materials in the ELT education would be connected with such aspects as the need for "time-consuming" special preparation (Martinez, 2002, p. 3); difficulties involved in providing correct rendering of the accents where the auditory materials are involved; and problem regarding the outdated character of the material (Martinez, 2002, p. 3). Thus, a consideration of specific relevance of the material should always be taken account of in the course of drafting and preparation of the respective elements of the curriculum.

In providing certain guidelines with respect to the students' capacity to perceive authentic materials and their intrinsic value, Berardo (2006), suggests that several factors should be evaluated before making a judgment on the relevancy of the authentic materials in question. This would encompass a suitability of content (whether the text is relevant to the students' needs or interests); exploitability (the text's ability to be used for the teaching purposes); readability (the text's structural demands and level of complexity); presentation (presence or absence of particular 'authentic' look and a degree of the text's attractiveness for the student; Berardo, 2006, p. 63). With certain considerations, one may claim that the same criteria would apply to the auditory materials as well. Hence, presentation of authentic materials could be viewed as a primarily context-dependent phenomenon.

Authentic Materials and the Students' Motivation

After reviewing some basics of the impact of authentic materials in ELT education, it is necessary to analyze the relationship between the students' motivation and the role of authentic materials in forming thereof. To do so, an operational definition of motivation should be provided in advance.

A 'motivation', as understood within the learning paradigm, would include the following dimensions: "interest in and enthusiasm for the materials used in class; persistence with the learning task…; and levels of concentration and enjoyment" (Peacock, 1997, p. 145). Accordingly, the study on conformance of the materials with the notion of motivation would consist in their compliance with the aforementioned aspects of the students' motivation. The learner's participation and enthusiasm would, thus, be directly associated with the formation of stable and creative learners' motivation (Peacock, 1997, p. 146).

The empirical evidence of the authentic influence of materials on the learners' motivation was amply referenced in Peacock (1997). This researcher has carried out a survey-based experimental data collection and analysis of the two South Korean EFL beginner classes experiences with the alternating usage of artificial and authentic materials, with a view to establishing whether the authentic or simulated materials are more conducive to a development of the students' learning motivation and participation. In total, responses of 31 learners were collected and analyzed in the course of a 7-week term, with 20 observations taken in each of the 2 classes in 20 different days (Peacock, 1997, p. 146). Measurement of the learners' motivation was carried out in the course of this experiment with the use of such sub-variables as "learner interest, enthusiasm, activity, persistence with the learning task, concentration, and enjoyment during class" (Peacock, 1997, pp. 146-147). Thus, various dimensions of motivation variable could be properly evaluated by the researcher. As the questionnaires were translated into Korean, the EFL students in question would have been able to grasp the essence of the researcher's intentions.

As a result of this experiment, certain conclusions could be reached with respect to the impact of the learners' behaviour both in the on-task situations and in the overall class environment. With regard to the former, learners were found to have been on task in 86% of the cases involving the use of authentic materials, while only 78% of the instances where artificial materials were involved were found to correlate with the on-task behaviour favourable circumstances (Peacock, 1997, p. 148). While the statistical difference between these figures is not so significant as to reach a conclusion on the definite preponderance of the authentic materials as a source of the learners' on-task capacity, nonetheless, this would correspond to the evidence of the positive impact of authentic materials on the learners' on-task behaviour.

As for the overall behaviour of the learners in the classroom environment, a significant increase was noted when the mean scores for the class days when the students utilized the authentic materials, rather than the artificial ones. Thus, a mean score for the student groups using authentic materials was equal to 29 out of 40, as opposed to 23 out of 40 when the artificial materials were used (Peacock, 1997, p. 148). Such situation would clearly indicate the importance of authentic materials for the development of learners' motivation.

Authentic Materials and Students' Motivation: The Hong Kong Teacher's Perspective

Proceeding from the abovementioned considerations of the impact of authentic materials derived from the South Korean experience, a certain conclusion on the efficacy of authentic materials as the medium of instilling learners' motivation in the students under consideration may be reached. However, in order to situate the impact of authentic materials upon the students' motivation, some clarification with regard to the Hong Kong situation, as well as the author's personal experience, should be considered.

Morris and Adamson (2010, p. 159), lay specific emphasis on the development of "a supportive linguistic environment" that would contribute to the development of bilingual and vibrant linguistic situation in Hong Kong. For this purpose, they outline several strategies currently implemented in the Hong Kong ELT classes that would enable one to contemplate the role and place of authentic materials in formation of the learners' linguistic profile.

From the perspective of the concurrent use of English and Cantonese in the class, three major strategies may be provided by the scholarly environment. These are: (a) language immersion (i.e. the exclusive use of the English language material, to the detriment of the Cantonese one); (b) code-switching (i.e. the successive use of two languages in the course of one lesson, as the students would gain a better understanding of the topic under study in their own language); and (c) code-mixing (the use of hybrid language forms in order to communicate with the students; Morris & Adamson, 2010, p. 159).

Accordingly, the utilization of authentic materials would vary in the course of the curricular activities where each of these strategies may be used. Proceeding from the author's own experience, it may be posited that the efficiency of the use of authentic materials would strongly correlate with the learning strategy selected by the teacher in regard of his/her class. Thus, the advisability of the utilization of the relevant types of study materials would differ among the diverse learning contexts.

In case of the language immersion-based classes, the use of authentic materials both encountered certain difficulties with respect to the students' comprehension clarity. For instance, those students that were distinguished by higher degree of language proficiency met with certain difficulties when dealing with the authentic materials in question. In particular, auditory materials where several accents were displayed by a number of speakers were especially difficult to divulge by some students. When compared with the auditory materials, non-adapted or scarcely adapted textual materials found far better reception on behalf of the students taking part in the author's classes.

On the other hand, when code-switching was implemented, the efficiency of authentic usage of materials was noted to be falling. The students that became more accustomed to the situations where they were exposed to the variety of linguistic situations were sometimes baffled by the complicated character of some authentic materials and were scarcely motivated to proceed with their deeper reading and analysis. On the other hand, the students dealing with the created materials were more comfortable with them, as they would fit both the English and the Cantonese language situation.

Finally, the students who found themselves in the code-mixing linguistic situation were most disadvantaged with respect to the use of authentic materials. Both their language skills and predispositions made them unprepared towards the complications inherent in the authentic materials-based instructional and vocational activities, thus, making their efforts to cope with these materials' rigour rather ineffectual. The implementation of the authentic materials-based instruction could be found to be directly dependent upon the mode of linguistic education found in the relevant Hong Kong language classes.


Proceeding from the aforementioned observations and research data, it may be possible to conclude that development of the ELT curriculum in the ESL/EFL environment would require a careful weighing of the comparative advantages and drawbacks of the authentic materials in question. Whereas some linguistic contexts and situations may be conducive to the extensive use of such materials in the classroom environment, certain others would be detrimental or indifferent thereto. On the other hand, the results of available statistically valid experiments would seem to indicate that a general motivational impact of authentic materials tends to be rather positive one, so that the further introduction of authentic materials in the curriculum may be positively received by the students.

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