One of the important aims of modern foreign language teaching is to prepare students to use a foreign language in real situations of daily and professional life. In this context teachers are always in search of suitable materials, effective in learning a foreign language. Often it makes teachers think about the fact whether it is enough to use textbook materials, specially produced for the study of a foreign language, or they need to use authentic materials (AM) for the development and improvement of various language skills of students, especially those related to reading.
According to the definition given by D. Noonan, authentic materials is the "information in oral or in writing form, which is created in the process of natural communication, and not the one that is specifically created for the use in the study of a foreign language" [1, p. 54]. Dwelling on the relevance of using AM, H. Widowson [2, 208] notes that earlier in the study of a language it was considered necessary to use simplified materials in classes to facilitate perception and acquisition of the language. However, currently it is recommended that the materials should be authentic. According to the statement of English professor of the Institute of Michigan University D. Larsen-Freeman, authentic materials are an integral part of language learning [3, 189].
If authentic materials used in teaching of foreign languages are connected with the subject areas and training profile, the motivation of students for learning a foreign language is increasing.
Authentic materials are more effective, interesting and challenging and in addition, they immerse students into the culture of the target language. Non-authentic texts adapted for easier perception are focused on the information that the teacher plans to teach students, and often contain perfectly formulated sentences with correct structures, interrogative sentences and correct detailed answers to them. Specially edited lexical and grammatical structure of sentences make the language in non-authentic texts have little resemblance to the ones with which students encounter in communication and the ones that they will have to use in real life. Adapted texts are suitable for practicing the studied vocabulary and grammar, but they are ineffective for improving reading skills, the basic skills when learning a foreign language.
Experts have identified the main causes that determine the need for the use of authentic materials in class:
- using AM, students learn the language for the purposes of real communication;
- AM evoke students’ interest and have a positive impact on their motivation;
- usage of AM increases the effectiveness of teaching;
- AM give students access to the culture of the target language.
In other words, authentic materials help to bridge the gap between the language, which is taught in the classroom, and the language in which people communicate in different real-life situations.
Authentic texts are the necessary materials for students in the study of the language that they want to understand and be understood when traveling, when studying abroad, when participating in international conferences and other different situations that require the use of language.
Taking into account the fact that the authentic texts are not created for the purpose of learning the language, it is necessary to correctly choose from among them those that are appropriate for foreign language teaching. Being a source of "real" language, authentic materials may be inappropriate for foreign language learning and contribute to the reduction of student motivation to study it.
There are original texts taken from newspapers, magazines, television programs, movies, songs and literary works. There are also the Internet materials, indisputable advantage of which is the fact that they are regularly updated, visually engaging and interactive, providing a different approach to reading. From a practical point of view the Internet as a modern reality is available to most students and teachers, and provides easy access to an infinite number of materials.
Choosing the material from a variety of sources, it should be borne in mind that the purpose of their reading should be understanding their content rather than the form of presentation, particularly when using texts from literary works.
K. Nattell [4, 282] defines three main criteria in the selection of the materials for the teaching sessions. Among them, there are: compliance with the content, possibility to use the text in the classroom and its comprehension by the learners. Compliance with the content can be considered the most important of these three criteria, because it is the content that encourages students' interest in reading, especially if it meets their needs. Possibility to use the text at the lesson implies different options of working with the chosen text in order to develop reading skills. The text, which does not meet the goals and objectives of the lesson will be useless. In other words, the fact that the material is in English can not guarantee its usefulness for the purpose of teaching. Comprehensibility of the reading material involves a combination of stylistic and lexical complexity of the text, the number of unknown words and the presence of unknown grammatical forms in it. It is important to correctly assess the level of complexity of the materials in accordance with the level of students’ preparedness.
Diversity and presentation also influence the choice of authentic materials. Reading materials become more interesting with the use of a variety of texts. Often, students get bored working with texts only on one specific topic. Teachers often face this fact when students are taught professional English language. At the same time the use of texts on the same subject has certain advantages because it allows students to practice the already acquired vocabulary, it also develops confidence in utilizing this lexicon in other types of speech activity. One more important thing concerns the way the text is presented to the students. Authentic presentation of the text that includes original photos, charts and drawings, helps to absorb the proposed information in an efficient way (not only the content of the text itself, but also ability of further use of the given content). The more "attractive" is the way in which the given text is presented the more it encourages students to read it. Visual presentation of information is that what students pay attention to in the first place. So it is the "appearance" of the text that can draw students’ attention to the content and at the same time it can push him/her away from reading the given material.
From our experience, we can confirm that in the process of using the original texts in teaching the English language course, there was an effective development of students' reading skills, which enables us to stress that authentic materials are one of the important resources for effective foreign language teaching with a number of advantages over specially prepared teaching materials.
Firstly, they contain words and expressions that are widely used in real life situations. Secondly, students are stimulated to retain such vocabulary in their memory and this, in its turn, will help them for its further use. Thirdly, they help students feel more confident in communicating in a foreign language, since they contain information that fully meets the requirements of real life.
Taking into account the aforesaid, the positive effect of the use of authentic materials in teaching a foreign language is obvious provided that they are competently selected in accordance with the purpose of the session and the needs of students.