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María Antonia

A comparison of textbook and authentic interactions. Alex Gilmore

Textbooks dialogues differ from their authentic equivalents across a range of

discourse features:
• Length and turn-taking pattern
• Lexical density
• Number of false starts and repetitions
• Pausing
• Frequency of terminal overlap or latching
• The use of hesitation devices
• Back-channelling

Many teachers throughout the world are, no doubt, familiar with the experience of
presenting dialogues to their students which have an air of artificiality about them.

According to an investigation some dialogues were taken from a variety of

textbooks sources that were part of exercises for students´ listening skills.
CHECK FIGURE 1 page 364.

The method of the investigation was about taking the transcripts from some

Conversation are basically done by:

1. Information Givers “Gives alternatives and suggest different options to
continue with a conversation”
2. Information receivers “Asks questions according to the information from the

EX. In a hotel: Information giver: Start a discussion about the elevators and
excutive rooms versus standard rooms ensues, there are no rooms in the first

Information receiver: According to the options starts questioning for the options.

Length of conversations: According to the investigation, the analysis of the

transcripts showed that the authentic conversations generally had more
complicated structure, with a simple question- answer patter disrupted by a number
of factors. Answer to questions tent to be longer in the authentic data, with
“information givers” providing more than one alternative.

Carter (1998: 47) real life is not as simple and straightforward as textbooks often
If the main aim of the text is to present new structural or functional language by
simplifying the texts, learners are encouraged to focus on the target language
presented , to “notice it”, and hopefully acquire the structures more quickly as a
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There is a danger in authentic text such as “Appendix 3 line 50, page 374”
Those factors will confuse students and obstruct acquisition of the target language.
Another reason for simplifying texts is to make listening comprehension activities
easier. If a conversation runs along predictable lines, learners are aware of what
might be said next.

Lexical density: it is an expression of the percentage of lexical words within a text:

Formula: L.D. = 100 x L/T

L: Number of lexical words

T: Total number of words in the text

All the words fall into two categories

• Lexical group: words that have an independent sense: “Mother”
• Grammatical group: Words devoid of independent meaning: “a”

The higher lexical density found in the coursebook data is more consistent with
written text than the spoken text.

A higher lexical density suggest a greater variety of vocabulary in the contrived

text, and therefore a higher vocabulary load for the learners. These denser texts
made make higher cognitive demands on students and therefore increase the
difficulty of listening comprehension tasks.

Another possible explanation for the difference in lexical density may be that
textbooks writers use more explicit language that is normal in natural speech;
reading a concrete noun, for example, rather than using a pronoun (a noun would
be recorded as a lexical word whereas and a pronoun would be recorded as a
grammatical word).
If this were the explanation, then perhaps the textbook dialogues would be easier
to comprehend, but we would be depriving learners of an opportunity to develop
their listening skills in term of identifying the reference of pronouns.

False starts and repetitions: In spoken language they represent performance

errors by the speaker. (Check figure 3 page 366).
Ex: Interlocutors who say exactly what they intended to say and nothing more. It
gives a model of language which is both unrealistic and unattainable, and might
serve to demoralize students who feel they never will reach a perfect speech.

Authentic discourse contains a lot of redundant language, And listeners have to be

skilled at extracting a message from the barrage of sounds. If learners are only
given dialogues were every word is important, they may develop these skills to a
less extent.
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Pauses: Pauses in conversations are natural as speakers formulate their ideas or

as a new speaker “takes the floor”.
Isolated pauses can be quite long; up to 42 seconds in the “train time” recording. In
contrast, pauses in the textbook transcripts are rare and they occur, they are short.
Sometimes is unnecessary for coursebooks writers to include long pauses in their
dialogues in the interest of being authentic-like, the smooth, regular turn-taking
exhibited does not accurately reflect the tempo and unpredictable nature of natural

Terminal overlap and latching: it occurs when to interlocutors try to speak at the
same time while latching refers to a point in conversation when there is no pause
between turns, And even a slight overlap. Both are a natural feature of
conversation and demonstrate our sensitivity to transition relevance places
(T.R.P.s). As speakers we know when the other is about to finish to take the turn to

Hesitation devices: (erm, er) they are extremely frequent in natural spoken
discourse, this is done in order to formulate next utterance. They are important in
terms of production and in helping learners hold the floor while they struggle with
what to say next. Ex in Spanish: “Lo que pasa es que… este….”. if textbooks
dialogues included hesitation devices more often, it would be easier for learner to
get them quickly.

Back-channles: “Noises” which are not full words) (Carter and McCarthy 1997)
• Mm
• Uhum
• Yeah
• No Found in authentic data
• Right
• Oh

Conclusion: The fact that textbooks have not accurately reflected authentic
interactions in the past, is understandable when we bear in mind that materials
writers have traditionally tended to use dialogues as a medium to reinforce
particular grammar points or to present vocabulary and functional language.
They had also have structural/functional pedagogic aims, and it is these that they
focused on rather than any issues of authenticity.


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AUTHENTICITY REVISITED: text authenticity and learner authenticity.

Winnie Yuk-Chun Lee.

Text authenticity: The origin of the materials

Learner authenticity: learners´ interaction with them, in terms of appropriate
responses and positive psychological reaction. It should refer not only to
appropriate responses to the materials, but also to positive perceptions of them.

Authenticity can only be achieved when there is agreement between the material
writer´s intention and the learners´ interpretation.

Authentic non-textbook materials will not necessarily be learner authentic and that
unauthentic textbook materials will not necessarily be learner unauthentic.

Features of textually authentic materials: A text is usually regarded as textually

authentic if is it not written for specific purposes, but for a real life communicative
purpose, where the writer has a certain message to pass on to the reader.
Authentic texts are often regarded as more interesting than textbook materials
because they can be more up-to-date and related to everyday issues and activities.

(Young 1980:224): From the learners´ point of view, authentic materials are
motivating, interesting, and useful with content that does not culture shock or

(Widdowson 1980): Their rhetorical structure must be appropriate to learners´

needs and learning purposes.

(Krashen 1982): when learners read an authentic text, their prior knowledge,
interest, and curiosity make it easier for them to engage with it.

Learner-authentic materials are mainly learner-centered and that they can serve
affectively to promote learners´ interest in language learning.

(Alderson 1980: 134) When teachers cannot find commercially-published

materials to meet their learners´ needs, they produce their own materials in orderto
simulate learning activities appropriate to real-world needs.

(Bacon and Finneman 1990): The majority of the student prefer non-textbook
materials to textbook materials.



• Text factor: materials selection

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• Learner factor: individual differences

• Task factor: task design
• Learning setting factor: learning environment
• Teacher factor: teacher´s attitude and teaching approach

(Thorp 1991 and Tudor 1993) teachers who are friendly, understanding, and
sensitive to learners´ needs, and who also have high cultural awareness, will be
more likely to create a good learning atmosphere, and to hold discussions with
learners on material content, teaching methodology, and evaluation.

Textually authentic materials selection: A careful and wise selection of materials

focused on learners is a “must” if we want to obtain a positive response from them.
Guiding principles for making textually authentic materials learner authentic.

• Is the material textually authentic?

• Is the material compatible with the course objectives?
• Is the material suitable for the teaching approach we adopt?
• Is the material suitable for the tasks-activities designed?

Design Stages:

• In real-life communicative situations it is very common to use more than one

language skill to achieve different communicative purposes, and for this
reason and integrated skills approach is recommended.
• Contexts have to be provided for tasks, so that learners can practice the
skills in a natural, meaningful and relevant way.
• Tasks must have task validity, i.e the content and nature of the task should
developed the language ability we want learners to practice (Bachman
• The task content should be related to the authentic materials selected, so
that learners can use them as a springboard for the task
• Whether the task is used as pre-activity, practice activity, or post-activity
depends on the course objectives, the skills to be practiced and learners’

Task selection: students are not ready to struggle with long text so try to choose
article which are related to teenager´ problems so they can get involved by them.
They have to be interesting and useful materials, readable, accessible, to give
learners the change to practice what they would face in the future.
Task design:
• Role-play activity
• Report writing
• Project
• Short oral presentation
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(Widdowson 1984): There is no model of language which has the monopoly on

truth, that captures reality. We need to be flexible and sensitive to the
characteristics of learners if we want our materials to be learner authentic.