What is the connection?

Yesterday I was in a lunch with a group of EFL teachers when someone asked me what my research was about. I briefly explained that it involved literature and teacher professional development. I did not want to go into details because people usually ask this sort of question out of politeness – they do not really want an academic mini-talk on your research. It was then that this young teacher across the table made a face of disbelief and said in a quite impolite way, ‘Then explain it to me because I do not see the connection between literature and teacher education’.

She caught me by surprise. First of all because of the tone of her demand and secondly because I struggle with the idea that a language teacher cannot see that there is a connection between both. I can understand that some people may not believe such connections to be relevant or even politically legitimate – but you cannot really deny  that they do exist. There is a number of some quite straightforward connections between literature and language and they all have a considerable #impact on teacher education:

  • first of all, both literature and English teaching deal with language
  • both literature and English teaching are dependent on and promote reading
  • in the origins of literature and language teaching  as disciplines,  both were interwoven and could not be thought of or taught separately
  • almost any TESOL initial teacher education programme has a literature component in the syllabus
  • in a number of countries around the world, teachers teaching English language at school level have also to teach English literature.

From then on I gave my poor small audience around the table a little glimpse of my research concerns and some information on the online reading group.  They seemed to be genuinely interested though. Unfortunately, the young teacher who asked the question left soon after that. I do have to thank her though – this was another living proof that what seems obvious to you may be far from being obvious to others – even the ones who share with you the same professional background. Next time someone asks me such a question – hopefully in a more polite way – I’ll not be so surprised.

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3 thoughts on “What is the connection?

  1. I think that the difficulty of many teachers in seeing the connection is that, as far in the techer education progammes I know, literature is generally NOT connected with language and reading -as you mention and I agree. Literature is generally taught as “culture” or even “theory” and students came to believe it has NOTHING to do with teaching or reading at all. I had that problem in my university when I start my course saying “this is course on reading liteature” and have my students complaining they want to study literature, by which they mean literary “periods” and their “traits” so thay they match those traits with what they read. Notice that, for instance, the people who teach those litrature courses tend to be “experts” in literature, and not in ELT. This also happens sometimes with those only concerned about “linguistics” as well. Well, that’s my opinion, anyway. Cheers. Q.

  2. Hi Quique

    Thanks a lot for your reply! I’m really happy to read it 🙂
    Points taken. I think you are absolutely right and, as I said at the end, the fact we have been working on both sides of the ‘great divide’ makes us see things as obvious when actually for other people they are not.

    Having said that, I suppose I’m also naive to expect that anyone who has actually studied ELT methodologies and approaches – since it is actually part of most TESOL syllabi – should know that there was a period in the history of ELT when Literature & Language were inseparable.

    Besides that, there is ‘reading’!I’m still to find an EFL teacher who does not go nagging because their students do not read enough or haven’t developed the desirable reading skills – not only for fiction and poetry, of course, but for any sort of reading.

    What do you think?

  3. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for this article, if all teachers´d read it they would see the connection. Or they would find it hard to separate them.

    Tanguene

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