on April 07 2010 07:15 am 0

Authentic Material: Speed up Your Learning Speed and Boost Your Motivation

In language teacher lingo “authentic material” is any material made for native speakers. It might be a news broadcast, a magazine, an ad flier, a song or anything else not simplified for learners.

While phrasebooks, dictionaries, grammar exercise books, and the like are important, it’s equally important to supplement your learning material with native-level text and audio right from the beginning.

It Connects You to Native Speakers

Vocabulary lists and grammar rules in textbooks can feel artificial unless they’re connected to the world of native speakers. If you’re studying French, without evidence that real French people use the words in your textbook, you start to feel like you may as well be learning Klingon in preparation for your trip to Paris.

Once you get to this point, your brain starts to reject the information you’re feeding it because of your subconscious doubts that what you’re studying is important. Seeing words and grammar in use where native speakers are communicating with each other clears up any doubts.

It’s Motivating, Rewarding, and Dare I Say…Fun

Delving into authentic material is a little like taking the training wheels off the bicycle. A kid who can ride well with training wheels still wonders whether they can “really” ride a bike.

Likewise, learning a language from “learning material” can make you feel like no matter how well you read those textbook passages, you might still be very far from your goal of being able to communicate with native speakers.

In reality, you’re probably closer than you think. Realizing you can already get something out of authentic material makes you feel like you’re really entering the world of native speakers.

It also shows you the language may not be as scary or overwhelming as you thought. Learning Russian? Break open that Russian newspaper and start to read anywhere. Can you read the words in Cyrillic? Great! Can you understand anything, even a few words? Even better! That’s proof positive that you’ve learned something.

Sure, it might be hard, but at least you know it won’t get any harder. Native speakers aren’t going to start inventing more intricate grammar as soon as you start catching up to their level of knowledge.

It Helps You Master the Essentials First

A good course book should give you a solid foundation in basic vocabulary and essential grammar. Still, it’s hard for a fluent speaker of a language—native or otherwise—to identify exactly those words and grammar features a learner needs first, next, and later. Not to mention individuals have different needs. You might need vocabulary for job hunting, while someone else needs it for childcare.

When you’re dealing with authentic material, you’ll naturally come across the “most important” words and grammar features again and again. You can’t help but review them. Another advantage of using authentic material is that you can choose which topics you spend your time on. If you’re interested in auto repair, the average text book probably won’t build your car-related vocabulary much, but car magazines will.

How to Get More of the Good Stuff

Check your local libraries for books, magazines, movies on tape, and audio CDs or cassettes. Depending on where you live, they may surprise you with their array of foreign language goodies. If they don’t have anything in stock, ask if they can take something out from another library.

Find an online newspaper, magazine or blog (or several) that has enough content to keep you genuinely interested and coming back daily. Check YouTube.com and similar sites for audio-video. Make it a habit to browse your favorite sites every day, even if you only read a few paragraphs or watch one video.

Related posts:

  1. How to Get the Most from Your Listening Material
  2. Learn a Language Fast with Audio Courses
  3. Foreign Language Vocabulary Learning: A More Efficient Way to Use Vocabulary Lists
  4. How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Learning: Five Techniques to Try
  5. Three Things You Need to Learn a Language Fast

Filed under Learning Faster,Mindset

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