I came across an ancient video this week that took me right back. The video in question was from a series of video diary entries I made on a trip to Austria in 2004. In this particular segment, I was proudly showing off the stash of free leaflets I’d cached from Klagenfurt town hall – treasures of authentic texts to take home for my teaching materials box.
Fast forward 19 years, and I’m approaching the end of a wonderful, extended trip around Greece. It’s been a holiday full of wonderful sights, amazing food, and of course, lots of language practice. Incidentally, Greeks must be amongst the most encouraging people on the planet when you try to speak their language.
But what links this trip with that early noughties vid is that continued fascination with curating authentic texts. It’s a polyglot obsession that’s lasted well beyond my classroom teaching days; there’s no longer any teaching materials box to fill, but I’m still on the hunt.
Hunting Texts : Then and Now
The format has changed, naturally. It’s less about free brochures and leaflets now. Alas, my EasyJet baggage allowance won’t quite stretch to that any more. This time, it’s digital – and I’ve been going to town collecting text samples for my virtual Greek learning box.
Of course, Greece has a tradition of texts that stretches back a little further than many fellow European countries. It’s been particularly fun looking out for inscriptions on the many ancient monuments, and spotting similarities and differences between the ancient and modern languages.
But it’s the modern examples that really hit the spot – the more everyday and prosaic the better. From bags of crisps to public notices, every bit of writing is a potential new word learnt, and an extra peep into the target language culture. It’s addictive.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s never any going over-the-top when collecting digital texts. Knock yourself out with as much target language as you can! The criteria for what makes an authentic text are wildly broad – it can be the odd couple of words, a text-dense poster or an entire book. It all has worth to us as learners, no matter how long.
The only rule I try to stick to is one of practical use; I aim to try and use the images somewhere, be it a blog post (like this one on German political posters) or by scraping the language for Anki flashcard entries.
Are you a curator of authentic texts in your target language? How do you collect them, and what do you do with them afterwards? Let us know in the comments!