Are you for or against using literature in the EFL classroom? Why?

An argument for using literature in the EFL classroom is that it offers an introduction to the cultural assumptions and background of the English-speaking world and offers valuable enrichment in assimilating the language.

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I am in favor of using literature in the EFL classroom. Admittedly, this comes with difficulties. Even native speakers can have trouble with the more complex syntax and idiomatic usages in literary works, especially poetry. Further, English language cultural contexts may be alien to non-native speakers.

However, it seems important to introduce ESL students not only to the grammar and mechanics of English, but to the cultural milieu in which is it used. Unless they are planning to be solely reading scientific or engineering materials in English, ESL students are going to be bumping up against writing that uses idioms and expresses cultural ideas, assumptions, and preferences. An ESL classroom is a good place to start preparing students for this eventuality.

It can take added preparation to guide ESL students through literary works but is well worth the effort in terms of cultural enrichment. Further, the students in this way can gain a more sophisticated understanding of how the English language works.

I recognize this is a culturally bounded preference, and I am aware that in countries like Saudi Arabia, ESL instructors are forbidden to introduce any cultural elements when they teach English. However, I do believe cultural understanding is one of the primary goals of foreign language acquisition and would promote it through literature. I enjoy cultural immersion when I learn a foreign language and so would want to pass that gift on. However, you will need to draw your own conclusions.

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