Authenticity in EAP

I was asked recently by a well-know organisation to do some teacher development work with ESP teachers and I was asked to work on using authentic materials. After a little discussion about exactly what they thought authentic meant – any text produced by native speakers not intended for language teaching – and what they wanted me to do, I decided I was not interested in the work and that I needed to investigate the meaning of authenticity in ELT.  So in preparation for the BALEAP Professional Issues Meeting (PIM) at the University of Leeds in February next year, I have been thinking about the meaning of authenticity in EAP.  The concept has been around for a long time, particularly since the communicative 1970s. Indeed Dick Allwright (1981, p. 173) points out that when working on a pre-sessional course at the University of Lancaster in 1974, he was instructed to “use no materials, published or unpublished, actually conceived or designed as materials for language teaching”. More recently Helen Basturkmen (2010, p. 62) has reminded us of the importance of authenticity in ESP and EAP:  “One of the key characteristics of ESP is that teachers and course developers value the use of authentic texts and tasks.” Continue reading