Why Literature in the EFL Class?

14th March 2017

Why Literature in the EFL Class?

Why Literature in the EFL Class?

Maria Teresa Fernandez D. Associate Consultant


EFL or English as a Foreign Language is taught in countries where native or official languages are other than English. For this reason, EFL teachers and students face as a major problem, the lack of exposure to the target language. In this scenario, including literature in  EFL classes can be powerful to help mitigate this problem.

                But you may be wondering, what makes literature attractive in the XXI century? Do you think of literature in terms of Shakespeare's works?

I know what you mean, but why not think of literature like the images attached to this blog?

Literature offers EFL students the opportunity to be in contact with realistic and authentic pieces of the target language. It lets us see how it is actually used by speakers of the language from all places and all times. Language in these type of texts is different from what we find in course books. Course books are good but the language they present is, at times, so manipulated in order to reach grammatical objectives that it becomes fake, unrealistic, “book English”. Literary texts not only present language as it is, but also expose students to new vocabulary in context. While reading literary texts, students also improve spelling and unconsciously get acquainted with grammar patterns.

Another good reason for including literary texts in our classes is culture.  EFL students can be geographically separated from countries where English is spoken, so their contact with speakers of the language can be difficult. Learning the language implies learning other cultures and, through literary texts, we can have an open window to multiple cultures around the world where English is spoken. The texts reveal how people live, dress, eat, what they do in their free time, how people react in different situations, what makes them happy or sad, what really matters for them, etc. It is important to note that learning about other cultures helps us to reflect upon our own culture.

Besides the exposure to the target language and cultures, literature offers our students the possibility of developing their critical thinking. Literary texts, even though mostly fictional, are a portrayal of reality. Human nature conflicts are exposed in literary texts so they help our students reflect about them. The literary text may require high level order thought when placing students in situations of completing the texts, placing themselves in some characters’ shoes, tying up loose ends, etc.

Additionally, literature, because of its human dimension, can help students become more concerned about others, making them more sensitive, empathetic and tolerant.

If these are not enough reasons for you to consider including literature in your class, think of the fact that there are literary texts for all levels (beginner, pre-intermediate, …) and all ages. They include thousand of topics for you to choose the ones that really meet your classes’ needs. Wouldn’t you give it a try?  

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