Realia and Contextualization

Realia and contextualization are the two concepts that are widely taken and practised in foreign language education nowadays. However, it should be pointed out that these two are not teaching methods or pedagogies like TBLT or audio-lingualism. Realia and contextualization are just two ways to make foreign language teaching more authentic and meaningful to students.

Realia in foreign language teaching refers to bringing in something real in the target language/culture to help students experience and learn the target language/culture. For example, if a Chinese language teacher plans to teach her students Chinese tea culture, she can bring tea cups, some tea and other things to the classroom and show to the students how to make tea. In this class, tea cups and tea are the realia for Chinese culture teaching.

Contextualization means to teach language/culture in a context or to provide a context for language teaching to make foreign language teaching connected with real life. For example, words about food can be taught in a context of family dinner, or a restaurant, or a supermarket, etc. This way, the words become meaningful and useful to students and they are more motivated to learn than when they are taught these words just by repetition or drills.

This week's reading focuses on contextualization, but takes assessment as an example to illustrate how to contextualize assessment, since realia can be part of or helps to constitute a context. This is a long chapter from a book on contextualization, but you are not required to read the whole chapter. You can just pick up the following four sections:

Authentic assessment

Portfolio

Interactive homework

Classroom assessment technoques

However, if you have time or if you are interested, you are encouraged to read the whole chapter. The information about the book is on the last page.