The purpose of this paper is to familiarize foreign language instructors with the effectiveness of using literature as a mean of bridging the cultural gap between students and the target language. It will also discuss how teaching literature can help students become more effective communicators in the target language and at the same time making them appreciate other cultures different from their own.
This may lead to say that, one of the major functions of teaching literature in a foreign language classroom is to serve as a medium to transmit the culture of the target language of the people who speak the language in which it is written. Therefore, literary texts can offer to the students a colorful world that reflects the culture of the language community. As readers; students get engaged within these texts, they come to understand how the characters in such literary works experience life and how they speak and behave in different settings.
However , the study of literature can be considered as a method in which students can dive into the cultural experience of the language throughout the imagery and metaphors mentioned in a given text, as Gray points out: “ Students learn to see a world through another’s eye,observing human values , different kind of living and discovering that others live very different societies. they will understand and become broadly aware of the social,political,historical,cultural events happening in a given society. . The role of literature in language teaching Literature, when defined as a subject of study, is an activity that involves and uses language (O’Sullivan, 1991). Ganakumaran et al (2003) stated that it is also referred to as the big “L” that focuses on the literariness of a text. It is an example of language in use and a context for language use. Literature is seen as a medium in which students’ appreciation of different system language organization can be developed.
Therfore, studying literature, on the whole, may not be considered as a reaction but rather as an interaction between the reader , the writer and their cultures. From an other parameter ,the teaching of literature in foreign language classrooms is essential and can be used as a perfect instrument to stimulate and speed up the teaching and learning process Carter and Long (1991). In other words, literature contributes in helping the students to explore knowledge ,promote their literacy development and fosters their language proficiency.
Also, literature may provide effective, attitudinal and experiential factors which will motivate students to read McKay (1982). As a matter of fact, Obeidat (1997) said that literature has much to offer than language would normally do, since it has greater freedom and since it acknowledges no linguistic barriers which could refrain our ability to use language. Therefore, it is undeniable that literature helps to improve students’ command of language and the ability to use it freely, not solely as a linguistic, but as a cultural, intellectual, social and psychological medium of expression.
In terms of using literature to teach language, Brumfit and Carter (1986) asserted that literary texts not only can grip the reader’s imagination more strongly but they can also be promoted for the examination of language at work. Littlewood (2005) also observed that although such texts were predominantly valuable for developing reading skills, it could be exploited for purposes such as explaining grammar teaching and indicating various types of language usage.
Since literary texts contain language intended for native speakers, literature stands as a model for language learners to become familiar with different forms and conventions (Collie and Slater, 1991). Containing real examples of grammatical structures and vocabulary items, the literary texts raise learners’ awareness of the range of the target language and advance their competence in all language skills (Povey, 1967).
Second, using literature in language teaching has the advantage of providing cultural information about the target language. Literary texts increase foreign language learners’ insight into the country and the people whose language is being learnt (Collie and Slater, 1991), which fosters learners’ ability to interpret discourse in different social and cultural target language contexts (Savvidou, 2004). . Literature as an instruments that stimulates the knowledge of the culture Teaching literature stimulates the imagination of the students and develops their critical abilities by getting them involved in interpreting the different symbols and meanings found in the text. They become more productive and adventurous when they perceive the richness and diversity of the language.
Therefore, it is vital if educators create a harmonious literary atmosphere ,they may enable their students to immerse themselves in the story by turning the classroom into a cultural island where students interact with the text, share different viewpoints about the settings, the style, the language. Researchers have recognized that the benefits of using literature in three core areas: First , literature is beneficial to language development( John and Louis, 1987; Morgan, 1998; Myonghee, 2004;Sage,1987); second, literature enhances the knowledge of ulture and society which is too complicated to be captured by any single piece of expository writing; Third, literature fosters critical thinking by offering readers multiple perspectives especially in books with issues such as immigration, cultural differences, social upheavals (Edmondson 1995/6). John Lye (2003) believed that literature captures the complexities of the human situation, illustrating (dramatically, imaginatively, compellingly) the grounds and the meanings of values, and the nuances of our experiences. It also allows us imaginatively to inhabit the lives, the experiences, the meanings of others.
Lye(2003) added that literature challenges the sentimentalization of values, and those distortions of values which serve the ends of the powerful, the opportunistic, and those who want only to serve their own desires ,from an other parameter, literature explores and reflects conflicts in the culture itself, conflicts in the values and ideas of the culture, the conflict of social groups (ethnic, racial, class, gender, religious and so forth), in addition to that ,it offers a sense of identity and community, by establishing and founding narratives which capture the ‘essence’ of what typifies the culture or community, or by dramatizing those particular stories and images which give the culture a sense of common meaning and purpose.
4. Applying literature and culture in language teaching classroom When it comes to learning a new language there can be no substitute for actually living in a country where this language is spoken. Besides, teaching literature does not mean ,limit students to take a passive role but to stimulate students to be engaged proactively within the target language. However, foreign language teachers can provide literary texts best by turning their literature classes into a community where students can engage themselves actively with the culture and the language they are studying and where the emphasis in class could be on ‘cultural experience rather than cultural awareness.
As Duff and Maley point out, “literature offers universal themes which are relevant to students’ own experience,it is also a mirror that reflects and heightens each learner’s perception of the social world. Thus, literary texts are opened to multiple interpretations and interactions”. Students cannot remain passive if they are to interpret and understand what they are reading. They are placed “in an active interactional role in working with and making sense of the target language guided by the teacher, they have to actively participate and interact with each other.
Literature and culture in foreign language teaching can provide linguistic and artistic elements and perspectives to students. Through literature as well as culture, students could have the opportunity to establish a connection with the target language and realize that their own personal, social,cultural and historical contexts have been influenced by a foreign language and a foreign culture and how, in a symbiotic process, this other culture has been nourished. Culture, on the other hand, offers an interdisciplinary field that includes artistic discourses, social conventions, and reflexive impacts. It opens the door for students to increase their knowledge of the target culture as they can contemplate and critically comment on people’s way of life, values, attitudes, and beliefs, and regard how these elements can have an impact in linguistic categories and forms. Indeed,language found a soulmate in literature, and they are inserted in culture.