How Teachers Adapt Nine Kinds of Literary Language for Second-Language Learners

  •  C. DeCoursey    


English literature is taught around the world. Most teachers of English in China are non-native English users. Most adapt literary texts for their second-language classrooms. Little research explores their processes of modifying texts. This study analysed data from 202 in-service and intending teachers, over four years. Teachers were asked first to adapt Jebb’s translation of Antigone, and then to adapt a second play text, either a Shakespeare or a 20th century play. The time taken to adapt Antigone was assessed, yielding a time estimate for adapting a full-length play text, as well as per page of literary language. Likert-scale survey data was taken for 9 different kinds of difficult language found in literary texts. Results indicated that NNESTs require about 40 minutes per page when adapting modern literary language. The find retaining poetic qualities while reducing text length, that is, moving between lexicogrammatical and discourse levels of the text, the greatest challenge in adapting literary language. They find texts with contemporary lexis and grammar are easier, where classical and historical references, subplots and details are difficult to handle. They find the task satisfying, pleasurable and interesting.

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