on #authres: why bother?

Last night the discussion on #langchat was how to best adapt tasks to suit authentic texts in a World Language classroom. While I came expecting to get some ideas and strategies to best make authentic resources accessible to my students, I quickly got involved in a side conversation that, admittedly, got the best of me. The gist of the question was essentially: just what’s so great about #authres and why do people think we have to use them?

Look, nobody should be forced to use materials that they don’t think will ultimately help their students gain proficiency in whatever subject area they happen to teach. But not using #authres in a language classroom just seems like a hugely missed opportunity.

So why do you think authentic resources are so great anyway?

For me, the motivation to use authentic resources is twofold: students are exposed to language that was created by a native speaker FOR a native speaker (which I am not), and they also get an insight into the cultural practices and perspectives of the countries we study. Thus, students have an opportunity for linguistic growth and it raises engagement as we move into making cultural comparisons – learning about a new culture is what motivates students to take our classes in the first place!

I mean, sure, I could create a perfectly comprehensible input+1 reading about how French teens use technology, but why not use an infographic that comes straight from the source? And I guess I could make some cutesy resource to teach object pronouns, but the song “Quelqu’un m’a dit” by Carla Bruni shows the language in context AND we get to talk about what it would be like to have an actress, singer, and model as our first lady.

That’s not to say I never use teacher-created resources, because I do. And I love TPRS readers, not all of which are authentic. But I’m also not authentic – I’m an American teacher, with an American perspective on French culture, and sometimes my students want more than just me, and I need to honor that.

But just because it’s authentic doesn’t mean it’s good!

Well, no. There are loads of terrible authentic resources out there, and I can’t think of anyone who would suggest you use those. It isn’t enough that a resource is authentic, that’s absolutely right. But I don’t want to give my students crap any more than I want them to give me a crummy assignment. If you come across an authentic resource that isn’t any good – don’t use it! Sometimes that means creating your own resource instead, or waiting until the next one comes along. The world of #authres is immense – if one doesn’t work, another one can.

It’s easy for you, you know where to find the good resources.

This particular comment didn’t come up in #langchat but was one I heard from a colleague not long ago and was reiterated by Dave Burgess in his keynote speech at OFLA. Comments like this accomplish two things at once – they invalidate the literal HOURS  I spend combing the internet, trying to find resources that suit my students’ needs and interests, and they let the other person think they’re excused from doing the same thing because they’re not “good” at it. It’s definitely not easy, and the temptation to do things myself or pull from a textbook is something I struggle with often. But the hard work is so worth it when I see what it does for my students.

Ultimately, I’m not going to tell anyone how to teach, if they’ve found a way that works for them,  using all teacher-created/non-authentic resources. I’m sure that’s a lot of hard work and it’s awesome if it fosters interest in your class and language acquisition amongst the students.

But just imagine for a second a French classroom with no Asterix and Obélix, no Petit Prince or Tintin, no Amélie, no Zinedine Zidane or Franck Ribéry, no texting or tweeting in French, no Stromae, no Edith or any other authentic music, film, book, article, infographics, interviews, news reports, commercials, or guest speakers. Is that a French class you’d want to take? I don’t know that I could say yes to that, and I’m not sure my students would either.

One thought on “on #authres: why bother?

  1. Thanks for the great post! Like Dave Burgess said, it’s not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it. I certainly think that the time we spend finding and preparing authentic resources definitely falls into the “worth it” category.

    Liked by 1 person

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