African Literary Texts and Language Based Approaches in Elt: A Study of Motivation

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Addis Ababa University


The Ethiopian Engl ish language learner seems to be less fluent in the freshman class over the last couple of years. What appears to be the root cause of these low grades is the lack of motivation in the language classroom due to the neglect of culturally appropriate material and the absence of a language-based approach. This thesis attempts to explore the contributions of African literary texts to the language classroom arguing that a socio-cultural approach to language learning is more viab le. Ethiopian English does not exist as an institutionalized variety , however, within a Pan-African perspective the Ethiopian learner can identify with African Literatures in English and begin from a familiar schematic reality. This authentic schema , apart from motivating the learner, will help in the efficient use of their top-down processing, a quality that at present is lacking. An understanding of African Literature is also approached through an attempt of it's definition from a historical perspective, an asset the language learner can call upon from his cultural competence and which also powerfully influences the rules of discourse in communication. Furthermore, African literature is based on the supposition that there is a constant interaction between social and linguistic aspects in regards to the understanding of language. Therefore the educational goal is based on the understanding of cultural assumptions in the classroom, and views culture as a process of understanding and tolerating different perceptions. African literature, in this thesis , focuses on problematizing major themes and therefore, stimulating discussion dependent on cultural awareness and based on dialogue and negotiation. African literature is therefore viewed as a stepping stone from which the Ethiopian language learner begins from and moves towards other forms of discourse, that is, from the familiar towards the unfamiliar. The learner approaches African literary texts from a language-based perspective with an emphasis on communication and negotiation as a bases for language awareness. In otherwords, African literary texts are seen from three perspectives: as text, as message, and as discourse. African literary text as text enables the language learner to examine language as system, and through a stylistic analys is be able to explore the di fferent levels of language. However, though description is a fund amental beginning towards a closer understanding, the learner has to move on to the next level of text as message. On this level the student explores meaning in text on the semantic level and understands how the wri ter transmits his message through language. The third and most important aspect however, is through interpretative procedures where text is seen as discourse and the learner's response is most valued, here a pragmatic understanding of meaning is explored. In tlus case meaning only exists with learners active engagement with the text and in the ultimate pursuit of communication. Communication in turn, develops a better understanding of language. As students are equipped with their schematic knowledge, bottom-up process ing or explicit awareness of language is dealt with in the tasks. The tasks therefore, have a major role to play in language learning, firstly , they are a means through which the learner communicates and negotiates meaning- an educational va lue, and secondly the learner is exposed to a more explicit awareness of language- a pedagogic va lue. Based on the assumptions of African literary texts and language-based approaches, this thes is also explores the motivational factors that influence language learning. The researcher fee ls that by using African literary texts and a language-based methodology the language learner will be more motivated to learn a foreign language. Models exploring motivation are reviewed and a synthesis between a psycho-educational model by Lambert and a socioeducational model by Gardner seem to be most relevant for this research. In this approach, cultural beliefs have a great influence on individual differences of which attitude and motivation are a part. Attitude and the aspect of orientation, which includes integration and instrumentality, seem to have a direct influence on motivation and situational anxiety, influencing foreign language learning. The ultimate outcome of learning a foreign language is refl ected on self- identity both in linguistic and non-linguistic terms. Therefore, African literary texts, based on the social milieu of the learners, seems to assure that se lf-identity and may probably help to motivate second language acquisition. However the Ethiopian situation is unique because English is used only as a medium of instruction, questioning whether the integrative motive is the most influential in language acquisition. To conclude, the researcher feels that the use of African literary texts in the language classroom with a focus on a language-based approach communication, can help to foster motivation and break the 'culture of silence' in the Ethiopian language learner.



African Literary Texts, Language Based