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Comments to literature and language teaching

Comments to literature and language teaching

Many institutions, advisers as well as experts separate language teaching from literature teaching. They view both as disciplines completely separated from each other, although nobody would surely question the close relation between the two. Literature consists of language, and one of the possibilities to express language are literal texts. Nobody would deny the meaning of language for art. Especially in textbooks of the secondary school level and the Abitur (equivalent to the British A level and the American SAT exam), the two topics are treated separately. The table of contents offers on the one hand topics to language and on the other hand some to literature. This continues up to the academic degrees of Philology; there are literal subjects and linguistic subjects. That is the reason, why also many language teachers assume that a literal text can only serve as an “ornament” and as an “embellishment” to the real language teaching.

Although many people  have always thought that it is “almost” impossible to introduce  literature into language teaching, the trend is moving exactly in this direction. Surely, it will be a lot of work because some people are of the opinion that only very advanced students could dare to attempt literal texts in a foreign language. Exactly in this regard, the point of view has to change.

Of course, the teacher has to choose appropriate learning material and documents and he has to adapt them to the student. But also literal texts can be suitable, if you want to use them at all. Particularly noteworthy is the genre of the so-called “realia”, which are more and more often treated lately. These are texts which show the reality and which also appear in this form in the lives of native speakers. They serve the class as perfect examples and teach a lot about language and communication. The idea is that the use of these “realia” should not only be limited to the advanced level, but also beginners should be confronted with that. Literature, whether in the form of the “realia” or not, should be treated at beginners’ level. The key to that is in what I have written above: The suitable, appropriate choice of teaching material. If you select the texts cleverly for the respective levels, literature offers an unbelievable wealth for everyone who wants to teach and learn something about language and culture. On the one hand, we can train with the help of literal texts the reading comprehension (the reading as such), the prosody, the pronunciation, the listening comprehension (by reading aloud), and the text production (by support of the creativity with the help of source texts). On the other hand, the cultural aspect is supported, which is not less important. Literature is part of a language and the language itself is culture. Literature, in turn, reflects the culture. If you deal with literature, the comprehension for both language and culture is strengthened at the same time. Besides, the dealing with literature has also an emotional value, because in the course of it, you can mention and discuss about many different topics. Even the very reading of literature already implies affectivity for many people, because it is a type of art.

Literature is a useful tool for language teaching because it is motivating and attractive for the student. If it is not, it is in our hands to change it. Beyond that, literature is very helpful in dealing with linguistic and cultural problems, which appear in language teaching.