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Literature for EFL Students

Ayu Pertiwi

Graduate Program
State University of Makassar

Mastering foreign language, especially English, is good for students’ future and carrier. However, it is not easy for teaching English as foreign language in Indonesia. Different forms of language between English and Bahasa Indonesia may cause negative transfer in learning process. The result of negative transfer in language is called language interference. Another problem that makes English difficult to teach is students beliefs. The students lack motivation and interest in learning English, so whatever the strategies used by the teachers, the students are not sure they can follow and master the lessons. They do not enjoy learning English because it is boring for them. In addition, the students are not participated in the learning process. They are only taught without acting directly. All the process focused on the teacher, or is called ‘teacher-centered’. Beside that, the students cannot use their English naturally because there is no other condition that obliges the students to speak or write English beside in the class.

We must acknowledge, to get rid of students’ problems in learning English as a foreign language, we as English teachers need to provide many strategies in teaching. The important thing in conducting a teaching strategy is concerning on students’ needs and lacks. It is good to do pre-test before teaching a material, so we will not waste our time to teach something that students already know. We can just discuss it shortly with the students. For the lessons that are still difficult for students, we have to think the effective and efficient ways to teach them, such as through mindmapping, notetaking, role-playing, and also games. What we need to do is let the students practice as much as they can. The more often they practice, the more fluent they will be. Nevertheless, we cannot boost students’ ability and skills without natural condition. It will be a vain for teaching foreign language if students cannot apply their knowledge directly. So, I think the best way of teaching English is using natural approach to let students participate in the learning process and use their English directly and naturally.
However, the students cannot always learn naturally because there is curriculum that they have to follow. As an alternative, using literature is good for English class because it is considered as a authentic material for teaching foreign language. Authentic material means a tool that is not actually provided for learning, but can be used as a source of learning material. So, it is close to natural approach. There are many kinds of literature that we can use in teaching English as foreign language, such as short story, novel, poem or poetry, song, drama, and movie.  Those literary material can be taught in many ways. For example, in teaching English using short story, we can ask students to analyze the elements of the text, to find out main idea of each paragraph, and to find out some difficult word and then translate it. Thus, they can retell the story using their own words. For novel, the students can be divided into groups and are asked to analyze one or two chapters for each group. Poem and poetry can be used for teaching pronunciation and vocabulary by looking at the rhyme and some difficult words, so is the songs. Students can also perform their English skill and ability in theatrical way using drama scenario. Movie can also be used for teaching speaking or writing by retelling or rewriting the story just as short story. We can also provide the literary texts into fun games or quizes, such as crossword puzzle, jumble words or sentences, missing words (fill in the blank), and story-telling. Most of literary texts can be used for teaching reading comprehension, but, with creativity, we can develop them to teach other skills, like writing, listening, and speaking, and also to teach other elements, such as pronunciation, vocabulary, and many else.

Thus, we can use several parts of the literary material for teaching. Such as, in the poem, rhyme and words can be used to teach pronunciation. With this, students can be taught to differenciate words with similar sounds. Elements and types of the texts, either it poem, poetry, or short story, can also be used to teach writing to the students. Actually, there are more ways in using literature, an authentic material, for teaching English. It is according to how creative a teacher in applying that into his or her foreign language classes.

Furthermore, by using literature, there are some targets we can arrange for students. Because it is an authentic material, we hope that the students can learn by themself outside of the EFL class. Whenever they listen to the English song, watch English movie, read English novel, short story, or poem and poetry, we expect that they automatically learn and practice their English through those. We also hope that the students can understand easily towards those literary works and also encourage their own knowledge. Beside that, we expect that, after using literature in learning English, the students can use their English naturally. Not only that, we also wish that the students can master much more vocabulary from literary works than usual materials. Overall, what we really want is the students can enjoy learning English and think that it is fun. That feeling and enjoyment can motivate the students to learn more and more.

The students’ achievement after using literature as authentic materials in learning English as foreign language is not far from the targets we indicated in advance. It means that we would achieve the results based on the targets we have determined. So, according to the targets that have been mentioned above, the results of EFL teaching and learning process by using literary works would be: (1) the students learn independently outside of the EFL class, (2) the students spontaneously learn and practice their English skills and  and ability whenever they get literary works in target language, (3) the students can understand easily towards the literary warks, (4) the students can encourage their own knowledge towards literary works, (5) the students can use their English naturally without any force, (6) the students can master much more vocabulary than before, (7) the students enjoy learning English, (8) the students think English is fun, and (9) the students are motivated to learn English more. If these results can be achieved by the students, the problems that I have mentioned in the beginning can be overcomed automatically.

Although we have seen some strategies and benefits of using literature as authentic material, some people does not possibly have similar thought. They may accuse that literature is not suitable for teaching ESL/EFL. Perhaps, the reason behind their idea is the fact that literary works are not made for teaching and learning process. It is a literature that should be enjoyed, not to be learnt. Besides, the grammar of the literary works sometimes is not right. The literary creators may use their freedom and creativity in creating a literary works. Whereas, those misused of grammar can be taken to be analyzed and to be corrected by the students. To this extent, it is possible to use literature for teaching English as A Second Language or English as A Foreign Language.

In conclusion, problems in teaching and learning English can be overcomed by using strategies in English as A Foreign Language classes. However, in my opinion, natural approach is the best way to teach English to the students. In this case, literature is close to this approach. It provides authentic material without any modification. So, literary works is good to use for teaching and learning process. Those literary works can be used in many ways, such as through games, roleplaying, quizes, and many others. Many parts of the literary works can be used for teaching English, such as the elements, words, or rhyme of the literary works can be utilized for teaching English skills and elements, such as reading, writing, listening, speaking, pronunciation, and vocabulary mastery. By using literature, we as the teacher expect the students to acquire more knowledge, skills, and abilities, thus their English fluency can improve day by day. This targets can be achieved and will result students with good skills and abilities in English. Those results will get rid of the problems that have been faced by students after a long time. Even though there might be misused of grammar, the students can use it to be analyzed and to find out the proper ones. In short, using literature as an authentic materials is possible for English as Foreign Language classes. []


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