Literature in Language Teaching SIG of JALT:

The Heart of the Matter: Literature in Language Teaching Conference

Date: Sunday, September 7th, 2014 Time: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM

Speaker: Marcos Benevides (Oberlin University), Literature in Language Teaching SIG, Hamamatsu JALT, Toyohashi JALT

Marcos Benevides will talk about the "big picture" when it comes to literature, and will frame his discussion about a robust discussion of lexical accessibility. A variety of other talks will follow the plenary by Marcos.

A lexical approach to developing western cultural fluency
Marcos Benevides (Oberlin University)
Japanese students who study western literature in Japan typically suffer from two important deficits. The first is linguistic; that is, their English language ability is seldom up to the task of reading unadapted literary texts. The second is cultural; in particular, they often lack knowledge of the many classical and Judeo-Christian reference points which inform a majority of important works.

The linguistic deficit is relatively well understood. There is, for example, a strong consensus that learners need a vocabulary of the 3,000 or so of the most frequent words in English to read native speaker level texts at a decent rate of fluency.

The cultural deficit, however, remains relatively invisible. Whereas readers normally notice when they come across unknown words, unknown references are more often overlooked. Also, unlike lexical units, it is difficult to enumerate the symbols, allusions, and archetypes that make texts rich. After all, how many New Testament parables does one need to know in order to follow Tess of the D'Urbervilles at an acceptable rate of cultural fluency? How many Greek gods do we need before we can 'get' Romantic poetry? The answer, as with a lexical approach, may be that we need to begin by teaching a basic high-frequency 'vocabulary' of the most widely-used references in western culture. This talk is informed by the speaker's experience developing such a system for Japanese university students.

Organization: Literature in Language Teaching Special Interest Group, Japan Association for Language Teaching (Literature in Language Teaching SIG of JALT)

Cost: JALT Members: 1000 yen (JALT members)
Non-members: 2000 yen (students free)

Venue: Aichi University, Toyohashi Campus

Location: Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan


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