Literary Language in Development of L2 Competence

Dan Lu


Nowadays it is believed that language in daily communication rather than literary language should be the target of learning in L2 education. This is mainly because literary language is said to be uncommon in life. This paper reports on a study in which some Hong Kong ESL learners’ English proficiency was re-examined through literary texts. These learners had reached intermediate or advanced levels of English prior to the study and were generally competent in daily English. However, many of them encountered difficulty in understanding literary language. Their proficiency in general English test could not match their performances in understanding literary works. The findings reveal that learners who are strong in general proficiency may not be good in understanding literary language. Lack of literary language in the curriculum results in a false and distorted picture about the learners’ proficiency. Literary language helps upgrade L2 learners’ real proficiency in the target language.


literature, literary language, L2 proficiency, reading competence

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