Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are authentic texts better?

Authentic reading materials are real life texts that have not been written for pedagogic purposes. Such texts have been created to fulfill a certain purpose in the native speakers' community.

Some teachers refuse to see the value of using authentic texts in the EFL classroom, the main concern being that such texts are too difficult for the students to understand. Yet authentic materials may turn out to be an extremely beneficial tool boosting the students' confidence as readers.

The main advantages of using authentic texts in the EFL classroom are as follows:
  • They expose students to real language with all its changes and variations
  • They are a source of authentic cultural information
  • Students are given the opportunity to learn about what is happening in the world 
  • Real life texts often include incidental and improper English very common in real life but conspicuously absent from textbooks
  • The same piece of material can be used for different tasks or to practise different skills (e.g. speaking, reading, writing)
  • Authentic texts are perfect for practising mini-skills -skimming or scanning
  • They contain a wide variety of text types and language styles not easily found in conventional teaching material
  • Authentic materials encourage reading for pleasure and are likely to contain topics of interest to the students, especially when you let your students choose what they want to read
  • They may give students a sense of achievement and encourage further reading being thus highly motivating
  • Using them may contribute to the development of an individual learning style and learner autonomy
  • They usually relate more closely to students’ needs
The most important advantage of making use of authentic materials is that it supports a more creative approach to teaching. Needless to say, it is something we should prioritize at all times. 

On the other hand, having read real life texts with different age groups myself, I must admit that using them is definitely not all roses.

Fortunately experiences vary

Anyone willing to share their ideas is more than welcome to contribute :)


  1. Definitely a fan of authentic texts, Anita, and enjoyed your blog.

    One way into an authentic text that often works for me is simply dictating/shouting out a few key words, and ask the class in pairs to figure out the subject/origin/context.

    I'm starting to collect activities without materials on my own blog so I'd be happy if you can add.

    I lived 4 happy years in Poznań by the way.

    Na raze,


    PS I came here cos Ken Wilson mentioned you.

  2. Alan,

    Thanks for dropping by :)

    Glad you've had some good time in Poznan; it's one of my favourite places in Poland.

    I'm pretty busy these days but willing to share ideas :)

    Milego wieczoru,


  3. Hi, me again!

    I agree with you about the advantages of authentic texts, although I also think the whole authentic/inauthentic thing in ELT is overrated. There are some "inauthentic" texts that are great to use with students.

    There is also a compelling argument that the minute you take an authentic text into a classroom and use it in a way not intended then it de facto becomes inauthentic. For more on this, see Philip Kerr's great workshop The Authenticity and Artifice here - you'll need to scroll down the page ( It inspired me to do a workshop on the topic which is now on Youtube but the quality is awful so I won't include the link.

    Also, as you so rightly point out, using some authentic texts is no bed of roses. It demands a lot more of the teacher. However, the rewards can be great, depending on the material you choose.

    At the end of the day, I think more important is how well-written or interesting the text is.

    Nice post Anita, thanks for making me think about this again!

    p.s. Nice idea Alan on a way into these texts!

  4. I'm working on a research regarding the use of authentic texts with ESL in reading. I found your blog is relevant!