I love authentic resources. I use them every day in my classroom but I have trouble accepting that non-authentic resources (made for learners by learners) are not valuable. I’ll give you 3 reasons and welcome you to challenge them if you disagree.
1. Saying that all language must come from 100% authentic resources devalues ME because I am not a native speaker. I’m non-authentic! I think that good teaching comes from good relationships with students and from understanding how students learn language. The ability to teach language is MUCH more reliant on these things than the background of the teacher! Natives AND non-natives can be equally effective!
2. Superstar students can handle grappling with language/ambiguity in reading, but the superstar language learners are an anomaly. It is so easy to get caught up in the great performance and proficiency of the select few who are natural language learners that we forget they are abnormal! Most students fall in the middle and if we gear our curriculum toward the superstars, we are completely discounting those middle kids and especially their slower processing counterparts. The idea that we will change Americans’ views on language learning is dependent on changing our views on students’ ability to learn language! If we believe that upper level language is only for the select few, we are never going to create a generation of language learners/lovers. (Retention rates in upper levels are so telling of the health of a language program.)
3. We teach emerging L1 readers with materials designed to build their literacy, why would L2 be any different? Good stories, written to recycle key structures and to guide students with reading strategies, are just good practice. Visit a college literature class and ask some of the undergrads how they get through those “authentic texts”… It is with a lot of guessing and heavy reliance on the dictionary. Maybe what they need are bridge texts that teach them to read a novel before they make the full transition? I got my Master’s degree at SIUE and one of my professors (a Spanish native who taught my Spanish Civil War class) is using my novel La hija del sastre with his intermediates to bridge that reading gap!
Whether native or non-native speaker, the push for 100% authentic resources implies that we can’t create curriculum that is appropriate for our learners where they are today. As another tool in our (buzzword) toolbelt, authentic resources are so powerful… but they’re even more powerful when preceded by instruction that makes them accessible to all students!