Sometime in the bad old 1980s, English language teachers decided to remove literature from language teaching. The idea at that time was that English should be taught using “authentic texts” for “specific purposes.” Even today, most English language teachers in the country use “content-based instruction,” which means primarily that the texts used to teach language come from fields other than literature.
The big news today is that literature is back in language teaching, and with a vengeance.
Last week, I attended a British Council international seminar in
I have to say that it was one of the most personally gratifying weeks of my life. When I attended part of the Conference in 1988, while I was a Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College in
We were asked to read from our works. I read excerpts from Bienvenido, My Brother and Josephine and did a staged reading of my English translation of Kuwadro. I initially felt intimidated by Robinson (an outstanding performance poet who was earlier in
The key academic speaker at the seminar was John McRae of the
In 1991, McRae listed several reasons for “covering literature in English Language Teaching” (this is Corbett’s summary): “language learning, linguistic confidence, language description and awareness, language practice, memory, active involvement, classroom interaction, post-lesson stimuli, production, enthusiasm, receptivity, related world knowledge, personal satisfaction, cultural awareness, linguistic or aesthetic curiosity, critical evaluation, grammatical, structural, or functional reinforcement, information, and constructive enjoyment.”
McRae’s and Corbett’s discussions were mostly technical, meant for the high-level government officials and language specialists in the audience, but their thesis was clear: to teach the English language, teachers should use literary texts.
As my own contribution to the language and literature discussions, I showed a working cut of the episode on Basho’s frog haiku in CONSTEC Literature: A Telecourse for Students and Teachers of Literature, the 40-episode television course I am producing for the Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Literature (FUSE).
A number of the participants asked how they could get a copy of the episode, as well as the rest of the series. I also found out from the Malaysian Ministry of Education officials that
After the showing, one Chinese education official approached me and said that the haiku form was invented in
(First published in The Philippine Star, 15 February 2007)