Social Media as Authentic Resources

What Are Authentic Resources?

Authentic resources, as used in language education, are anything from the target language/culture, that is produced for native speakers of that language. TV shows, newspaper articles, novels, billboards, recipes, movies, social media… these are all authentic resources.

Caveats for Authentic Resources

Many teachers are huge fans of authentic resources. Authentic resources prepare students to study or travel abroad in places where the locals speak the target language. They also provide a window into the target culture. There are downsides to authentic resources, however. They are often too advanced for beginner and intermediate students. With the internet, it is not difficult to find authentic resources. It is however, difficult to find appropriate authentic resources that won’t frustrate the students.

If teachers hand out texts or assign listening activities that are too difficult for their students, the result is both a waste of class time and can it potentially de-motivate the students. There are good reasons for seeking out high-quality authentic resources for beginner and intermediate students. To start with, authentic resources let the target culture speak for itself. Students do not need to rely on secondhand information from their teachers. Additionally, using the right authentic resources can help motivate the students. Just as authentic resources can de-motivate students if they are too difficult, they can also get students excited about the target culture if they are at the right level. It is very thrilling for students the first (and second and third) time that they read or hear something meant for native speakers that they can understand.

Choosing the Best Authentic Resources

Authentic resources for beginner and intermediate students need to have short sentences, few words, and preferably a strong visual component. Social media posts can be great authentic materials. The text is generally short, there are usually photos and even emojis can add context clues about the meaning.

Both of the posts below are authentic resources that I would use with beginner and intermediate classes. The text is very short and the words are few. Students will not spend time struggling. They will understand the meaning fairly quickly and then we can move on to having a more involved discussion.

photo of Chinese language social media post
This social media post is an example of authentic resource that is appropriate for beginner students.
photo of Chinese language social media post
This is a social media post that I would use with an intermediate class.

**These posts are from the massively popular Chinese social media platform WeChat

More on why not all authentic resources are right for every language class.

More reading on how to best use authentic resources.

Do you have any authentic resources to recommend to other Mandarin Chinese language learners? Share in the comments!