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Teaching Detective Stories to ESL Students


Reading exercises are unanimously believed to be one of the most important tasks required in ESL classes. It enhances the vocabulary power of the students as well as improves the ability to write and enhances general language competence. Teaching literature to ESL students has been a topic of debate over the last decade. Some believe that even though there is a hazard of introducing literature to second language English students, it helps in the expansion of the linguistic knowledge of the students.

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Most importantly, it helps to bridge the cultural gap present between non-English speaking students and the English speaking culture. However, using literary works for classroom teaching for ESL students may be disadvantageous as some of the topics discussed in such books/stories are controversial and students may feel uncomfortable discussing them in the classroom (Obeidat 37). Due to the difference in the cultures of the students native country and that of the English speaking world, there arise problems of identifying with certain social norms mentioned in the text which are unfamiliar to the students and at times difficult to accept. As social norms different between nations and the degree of social acceptance also differ greatly, it becomes imperative for many to accept the customs presented in the books and openly accepting them.

The increased inclusion of literature in the curriculum of ESL students has shown that the inclusion of traditional texts into the curriculum has lead to the belief that the syllabus should be heavily drawn on the authentic stories that provide motivational insights and facilitates learning the language which is essentially important for L2 learning. It is believed that teaching literature to second language English students fosters the development of the students’ intercultural ability and hence, helps increase acceptance of the cultural discourses through language. Thus, it helps in nurturing an understanding of other cultures as well as cultivating the intellectual ability of the students (Ghosn 172). As students are introduced to different cultural norms, societies, and social mores, they develop greater acceptance for foreign cultures. They do not feel alienated from a custom that is not prevalent in their society, which increases their acceptance power. Hence, the students learn to adjust to other cultures through their study of the literature.

Many scholars have forwarded arguments against teaching of literature to ESL students. The argument against the use of literature mostly rests on the complex structure of the texts (Traore and Kyei-Blankson 561). Most commonly, critics believe such literature is difficult to understand. There are other disadvantages to the use of English literary works. Some topics and concepts utilized may be controversial, and students may feel uneasy and hostile to discuss them (Obeidat 37). Hence, it has been acknowledged that educators have to be careful when using literary works, as they have to take into account the diversity of their classes (Vandrick 253). Hence, many believe that literature is ineffective in teaching grammar and syntax in ESL classes.

Many scholars have either argued for or against the use of literature in ESL programs. Arguments forwarded against its use include the fact that the language used in the literature is structurally complex, conceptually difficult to understand, and is unique to a particular culture or authentic situation, therefore does not support the goals of teaching grammar in a language classroom and helping students meet their academic and occupational needs. (Traore and Kyei-Blankson 561)

The present research aims at understanding the effect of inclusion of detective stories in the curriculum, which is believed to be less complex and exceedingly interesting for intermediate level ESL students. The study will focus on the use of detective stories of the twentieth century, such as short stories by Conan Doyle in ESL classes. The research will try to understand the effectiveness of using detective stories as a curriculum in the ESL classes. The present paper will evaluate the use of these texts that will be applicable to various levels and groups. My working argument of this research can be formulated as follows: Detective stories of the 20th and 21st centuries can develop the English language skills of ESL students.

The research employs a qualitative research methodology to garner support for the argument presented. The first part of the paper will demonstrate the literature review of literary works that will show the background on the work done on this area and the effectiveness of the use of literature and more specifically detective stories in ESL curriculum. The research will employ grounded theory that uses data collection will be employed to identify major features of the literary texts that should be used in language classes with intermediate and upper-intermediate ESL students. The paper poses special attention to the benefits (and disadvantages if any) of the use of detective stories (written by renowned writers in the twentieth century) in ESL classes. Literature introduces the students to various cultural facets of the English speaking countries. The present research aimed at understanding the acceptability of ESL students of literature and the kind of literature they were comfortable to appreciate.

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An experiment was designed where two groups of students were given two different kinds of stories – first a short story by O’Henry and the second a detective story by Conan Doyle. Our research has shown that students could easily understand the detective stories and identify with it as opposed to the other literary text. The reason being they found reading the detective story more enjoyable, which helped them to understand the stories increasing the degree of comprehension. Second language students find it difficult to identify with the other stories they read, as they are more inclined towards the social drama of western life they find alienating. The advantage of detective stories is that they do not stress strongly on the political, social norms of the western world but on the particular crime that is talked about. They use simple language and literary tropes to structure their stories, which are easily understood by students new to the language.

Apart from the literature review, the paper will present a clear understanding of the effectiveness of using detective stories in TESOL training classes in which I participated at the CELTA Centre in New York City. As a part of their training program, all participants have to take up mandatory teaching session and try to understand how ESL students adapt to reading and comprehending detective stories and if it facilities in their learning experience. As part of the program, the participants are required to teach a class of 12 to 13 students. I introduced the students to a set of texts written by Arthur Conan Doyle and assigned it to several groups of ESL learners. When the project terminated, the students were asked to complete questionnaires where they reflected on the use of literary works. The questionnaires were prepared based on the grounded theory that helps to motivate student’s thinking and analyse students’ perceptions, evaluations, and concerns.

This research paper is divided into three sections. The first is the literature review that will help us to understand the state and nature of previous scholarly works on the effectiveness of the use of literature in an ESL class. The methodology section will delineate the process adopted for the research, how the data is collected, and the way it will be analysed. The analysis is done in the final section where the paper discusses how literature, especially detective stories, can help in improving the knowledge of English of ESL students.

Literature Review

The literature review reviews literature that shows how literature is an essential and helpful tool for teaching a language. Further, the discussion of previous scholarly works has shown that literature is an essential tool to demonstrate the cultural, social, and linguistic pattern of a language to the students. The review is furthered through a discussion of some literature being taught to comprehend for second language English learners and hence the importance of choosing the right kind of literature to be taught in class. This discussion leads to the importance of detective stories which are believed to be easy and simple to understand, can become a vehicle for teaching language to ESL students.

According to researchers, language acquisition is a process of gradual acclimatization with the process of building vocabulary gathered through communication and reading and the ability to use the language (Li 56). Li points out that perceptive understanding of the language is essential to facilitate successful learning.

The teacher is responsible for providing the understandable language (comprehensible input), along with whatever supports are necessary for the students to understand the message. Using approaches and materials that add content to the language such as props, gestures, and pictures, all contribute to the students’ acquisition and eventual verbal production of language (Li 56).

Hence, usage of props for educating the students is believed to be an essential method for enhancing the pedagogical skills of the second language English learners.

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Recent research has shown that various methods of creating interactive conceptualizations while reading a story in the classroom that can enhance the grammatical learning of a language (Ripley and Blair 209). The intent to teach literature in class is to make the students aware of the text and narration structure. The process of reading and conceptualizing a story is a mutual interaction of ideas between the reader and the text (Harris 203). Some believe that the combined teaching method of reading and writing helps in enhancing grammar understanding in students to a greater extent than the grammar drills taught in ESL classes (Fox 73). Teaching English through the study of literature helps bridge the gap that ESL students face in terms of narrative English and the basic language learned in ESL intermediate classes.

As acquiring vocabulary is an essential step in the learning process of a language, it is essential to understand that the vocabulary can be most successfully built through studying and reading of literature (Fox 73). Previous researches have shown that there is a tendency among second language English teachers to put greater stress on teaching language and grammar to students. They even use simplified reading material to enhance the vocabulary skill, which Fox believes, only partially helps the students (71). They acquire a very basic understanding of the English language that does not help them in understanding the essentials of the language. A gap remains in the simplified English taught to the students and the more sophisticated language used in literature and books. Hence, the simplified teaching of English to the second language students leaves them ill-equipped to handle the intrinsic sophistication required for using the language competently.

A recent study has shown that the background of the reader has a strong influence on the comprehension of a text by the reader. In other words, prior knowledge present in the mind of the reader, created through previous discourses, helps them to understand the text based on the schemata present in their mind (Mihara 52).

Literature for Teaching English

The use of literature entails discussion and reflection on various topics revealed in the texts. Literature used for teaching ESL students and more specifically teaching English has been discussed widely in the scholarly literature. Literature is believed to be essential in teaching English to an ESL class because of four reasons: authentic material, enhancement of cultural knowledge, language improvement, and personal association (Hişmanoğlu 54). Literature taught in class are the source of demonstration of the culture and society of the English speaking country. They present the linguistic and narrative style that can help students to learn to write intuitively. American and British literature has been used to teach non-English speaking students for more than a century; however, the advent of the twentieth century saw a rejection by academicians of literature as a tool for teaching English in foreign countries. The reason is believed to be the inadequacies found in the traditional teaching methods. Thus, literature has lost its primacy as a language-teaching tool globally, and few believe that the use of English literature as a teaching tool has declined considerably (Gilroy-Scott 1).

Less attention is given to teaching literature in the early intermediate level, with greater concentration on teaching language skills and mainly reading, writing, and speaking (Dalmau, Fernández and Bobkina 218). In many countries like Spain, there is any uncertainty regarding the use of literature in the curriculum of foreign language courses (Dalmau et al. 219). The importance of literature in teaching languages to ESL students, as pointed by Dalmau et al. are of five perspectives – cultural heritage, language skills, personal growth, fundamental, and critical literary perspective (220-221). Literature is the storehouse of culture, linguistic and narrative style, grammar, literary styles, and individual personality. ESL students get to learn about these perspectives when they study literature. These points are discussed in detail in the later section. The main aim of teaching English to second language learners is that they can learn to speak, read, write, and understand the language as well as acclimatise them with the cultural mores of the English speaking world.

A literary piece is not an end in itself, but the means of beginning a creative process in the minds and emotions of the students. Placing themselves in that particular literary world, students relate imaginary contexts with real-life situations, feeling the power and possibility of contributing positively to a larger world than just their own. (Dalmau et al. 235)

Literature targeted for young adults is believed to be a rich source for teaching advanced ESL students in classrooms (Wu 2). Young adult literature is believed to be a rich source for teaching language development, diction, sentence structures, and writing narratives (Wu 1). Wu (1) also points out that studying this literature enhances the cultural understanding of the students, especially for immigrant students who face a cultural difference. He points out that young adult literature deal with stories that relate to self-discovery, growth, and development of the characters, which are non-complicated and ESL students can easily associate with them. The subjects that are usually dealt with in young adult literature are related to “growing up, coming of age, relationships, and self-discovery” (Wu 1).

The most important reason for easy understanding and acceptance of such literature by the students as they use “contemporary language, and following linear storylines” (Wu 1). As the stories are easy to read and follow a linear structure, are easy to understand, help the ESL students to grasp the content of the stories easily. As the understanding of the narration is easy, they associate with the stories and understand the stories of the young adult literature. The benefit of using young adult literature in teaching ESL students lies in their acceptability of the content and grasping of the language and grammatical structure of the language. Easy understanding of the literature helps in the development of the language skills of the students and helps them to ascertain the way they can use the language.

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A study conducted by Mokharti and Sheorey (2) shows how the reading strategies and cognition of ESL students are for academic and textual literature. The study used the Survey of Reading Strategies (SORS) measure to understand the metacognitive awareness of the adolescent ESL students in reading academic material and texts. Their sample for the research was the ESL students from high school and colleges to provide recommendations in the development of reading curriculum for the ESL students based on their findings of the reading cognition of the ESL students. One of the most prevalent impediments for second language English learners is reading of the text, and researchers believe the language proficiency of the students may be gauged through their ability to read a text fluently (Mokharti and Sheorey 3). Reading becomes an integral part of the learning strategy for second language English learners as it helps to enhance their reading comprehension. Reading of literature is an important part of ESL learning, as it is believed that it enhances the proficiency of the students to grasp the language.

A review of literature conducted by Mokharti and Sheorey (3) points out that in the recent years there was a considerable increase in the proficiency of skilled ESL readers and the researches have successfully helped the L1 and L2 learners and teachers to helps students become strategic readers. Strategic readers imply students who have “metacognitive awareness or metacognitive control-that is, planning and consciously executing appropriate actions to achieve a particular goal-to be a critical element of proficient, strategic reading” (Mokharti and Sheorey 3). Metacognitive reading implies understanding of one’s understanding of the text. Their research indicates that the student’s ability to read is directly related to the awareness and use of reading strategies of academic materials than the ones who have a higher ability to read (Mokharti and Sheorey 6). This study helps us to ascertain that the ESL students who usually have a lower ability to read should be taught by the teachers to become active readers. This study indicates the importance of effective reading required for learning. The importance is to learn to what extent the students can comprehend the material to them.

Another research into the reading skills development of ESL students conducted by Grabe (375) demonstrates that the interactive approaches in reading skill development for L1 and L2 students require a higher level and degree of reading capability that the prevalent ESL pedagogy equips them with. The researches of the reading ability of the ESL students demonstrate that the ESL students’ reading abilities have considerably developed when they have concentrated on reading literature (Grabe 378). Reading of literature is therefore found to be an essential part of teaching English to ESL students. The ability to read fluently has been defined by Grabe as follows.

Research has argued that fluent reading is rapid; the reader needs to maintain the flow of information at a sufficient rate to make connections and inferences vital to comprehension. Reading is purposeful; the reader has a purpose for reading, whether it is for entertainment, information, research, and so on. Reading for a purpose provides motivation—an important aspect of being a good reader. Reading is interactive; the reader makes use of information from his/her background knowledge as well as information from the printed page. Reading is also interactive in the sense that many skills work together simultaneously in the process. Reading is comprehending; the reader typically expects to understand what s/he is reading.

Unlike many ESL students, the fluent reader does not begin to read, wondering whether or not s/he will understand the text. Reading is flexible; the reader employs a range of strategies to read efficiently. These strategies include adjusting the reading speed, skimming ahead, considering titles, headings, pictures and text structure information, anticipating information to come, and so on. Finally, reading develops gradually; the reader does not become fluent suddenly, or immediately following a reading development course. Rather, fluent reading is the product of long-term effort and gradual improvement. (378-9)

The general description of fluent reading, therefore, presents that the ESL students must be able to read any form of material without any metacognitive difficulty and comprehend the meaning of the text through contextualization and not necessarily with the aid of a dictionary.

Given the importance of reading established by researchers, the other important factor that emerges is the content of the reading text that is used for ESL students. Research shows that ESL students when they are given a known format with organized structure find it easier to understand and comprehend the text (P. L. Carrell 461). The study conducted shows that ESL students more easily adapt and understand the texts with material that are well structures and less non-linear with content that they can easily relate to.

The overall finding of this study seems to be that when both content and rhetorical form are factors in ESL reading comprehension, content is generally more important than form. When both form and content are familiar, the reading is relatively easy; when both form and content are unfamiliar, the reading is relatively difficult. When either form or content is unfamiliar, unfamiliar content poses more difficulties for the reader than an unfamiliar form. However, perhaps not too surprisingly, the rhetorical form is a significant factor, more important than content, in the comprehension of the top-level episodic structure of a text and the comprehension of event sequences and temporal relationships among events. In other words, each component—content and form—plays a significant, but different, role in the comprehension of text. (P. L. Carrell 467)

Reading a text becomes easier when the readers are familiar with the content of the text and can easily identify with it. Familiar content eases the difficulty of reading, thereby helping students to learn English.

Block (463) studied the ESL students who had failed the college reading test and were the essential targets of the college reading programs. The study showed that the students who failed the reading proficiency test lacked the comprehending skills that were automatically found in proficient readers. Thus, their aim was more inclined towards solving the problems as they went on reading the text. The research aimed to understand the description of the comprehension strategies used by ESL students who failed the proficiency test. The research found out that various patters indicated the capacity of the reader, which were integrated, depended on the text structure, use of personal experiences in the text, and response to extensive mode (Block 482). In other words, the study implied that the second language English speakers belonging to different ethnic background employed a different strategy to comprehend and read a text. For instance, a Chinese English learner will employ a different set of strategies to read and understand the text as compared to a Spanish learner:

This suggests that strategy use is a stable phenomenon, which is not tied to specific language features. In this way, learning to read in a second language may differ from learning to read in a first. When people first learn to read, they must learn how to read the language in print and the appropriate strategies to use for comprehension. When people learn to read in a second language, they need only be concerned with understanding specific language features in print. (Block 484-485)

Thus, reading is a process of continuous construction wherein the reader is responsible for the construction of the active participant. Active reading enables the students to read and interpret the text the way ascertain its meaning. Thus, the reading ability of the students and comprehension power of the students determines their ability to learn and use the language (Block 485).

Similarly, some researchers have concentrated on determining the pedagogy for the ESL reading development but with the aid of schema theory. Carrell and Eisterhold (553) studied the importance of the background knowledge of the readers about the content of the text that helps in understanding and comprehension of the text. According to them, reading and comprehension process involves the knowledge of the readers of the content of the text and their worldly knowledge with which they can relate the text. The underlying assumption of the researchers was that the perceived meaning is often embedded “in the utterance or text” which has a separate and independent existence different from the speaker or the writer of the text (Carrell and Eisterhold 554). The researchers use schema theory, which is based on the belief that the text itself does not carry any meaning. It is the readers who interpret the text and attach the perceived meaning to it: “According to schema theory, comprehending a text is an interactive process between the reader’s background knowledge and the text” (Carrell and Eisterhold 556).

The aim of the text chosen for teaching an ESL class is to choose a text that will minimize the cultural conflicts and interference and to maximize the ability of the readers to comprehend it (566). The aim of the teachers should be to avoid narrow reading and allowing the students to adjust to one author, one style of writing, and one structural type. They point out that the reading assignments given to ESL students are usually short and varied selections, which does not allow the readers to adjust to the writer’s style. On the contrary, when students are given a single author and a single text to read, they find it easier to comprehend. Thus, repetition helps in increasing the comprehensibility of the text: “The significant advantage from the schema-theoretic point of view is that schemata are repeatedly accessed and further expanded and refined, resulting in increased comprehension” (Carrell and Eisterhold 567). Hence, the researchers point out that the goal of the intermediate ESL teachers should be to develop readers who can read not only from the texts assigned to them but also from the general English literature available elsewhere.

What makes the classroom activities and other techniques we have described valid is their applicability to the “real” world beyond the EFL/ESL reading classroom. Every culture-specific interference problem dealt with in the classroom presents an opportunity to build new culture-specific schemata that will be available to the EFL/ESL student outside the classroom. Also, however, and possibly, more importantly, the process of identifying and dealing with cultural interference in reading should make our EFL/ESL students more sensitive to such interference when they read on their own. By using the classroom activities and techniques we have described, our EFL/ESL readers should become more aware that reading is a highly interactive process between themselves and their prior background knowledge, on the one hand, and the text itself, on the other. (Carrell and Eisterhold 569)

Authentic source

According to Lazer (5), literature is the “authentic source” for demonstrating the linguistic rules and norms to the students, as it is the storehouse of all the linguistic-related laws necessary for the construction of the language. When reading a text, students come across various grammar and lexical units that have been taught.

Moreover, the use of literary works enhances students’ knowledge and language skills, and it is one of the most effective tools in ESL teaching (Ernst-Slavit, Moore and Maloney 118). Students have an opportunity to explore ways specific rules employed by writers. For instance, while reading Virginia Woolf or James Joyce, the use of stream of consciousness if effectively employed by both the authors in their work. A student unfamiliar with their work will remain perplexed at the text structure. However, a story written in simple language may follow a linear narration style, which is easily understandable. Literature helps students grasp various facets of the language and grammatical structure through the usages shown in the text. Students’ vocabulary is improved through the reading of the texts and the linguistic styles help in developing their knowledge of the language.

Furthermore, reading literary texts expands students’ vocabulary and enables them to develop linguistic confidence (Arthur 199). Again, when discussing texts (and/or trying to solve the case), students employ lexical as well as grammar units and can practice speaking skills as well. Notably, the use of literary texts may help develop reading, speaking, as well as writing skills. It is necessary to note that intermediate and upper-intermediate students can work with universal texts (Grellet 97). Hence, educators have to choose authentic but manageable texts to work with.

As literature is an authentic mode of input of the language, it provides information to the reader that may be both personal and relevant to him (Ghosn 173). Authenticity is essential in teaching English and is extensively envisaged in drama and novels (Khatib, Rezaei and Derakhshan 202). Hişmanoğlu points out, “In a classroom context, learners are exposed to actual language samples of real-life/ real-life-like settings. Literature can act as a beneficial complement to such materials, particularly when the first “survival” level has been passed” (54).

Cultural knowledge

Literature is the vehicle for teaching cultural diversity and creates intercultural awareness among students (Van 3). In a global world, when people of other culture are learning English, it is important to gain cultural insight into the life of the English-speaking world. Literature provides the window through which students can look into the life of other people. It helps to enhance verbal and non-verbal communication norms and facilitate communication style: “This colourful created world can quickly help the foreign learner to feel for the codes and preoccupations that shape a real society through visual literacy of semiotics” (Hişmanoğlu 54). The gestures and antics described in the books allow the students to gain an understanding of the non-verbal communication that is prevalent in the English speaking society, thus, training them to adapt to the etiquettes of the western world.

Marshall (331-338) studied the influence English literature from the west has on the Latin American society, which has a distinct cultural difference with the west. He points out that the distinct differences in the social and familial structure of the two cultures create a divide in the mind of the ESL students belonging to the Latin American culture who feel alienated from the descriptions of nature, society, families described in the literary texts:

Perhaps the fascinating meeting ground of English literary text and Latin mind is in the English literature, which makes conscious use of classical or Mediterranean material. Byron’s facetious lines on sexual behaviour in sunny climates, Milton’s and Spenser’s descriptions of paradise and the Garden of Adonis, Shakespeare’s Italian settings—all remind us that the cultural communication is one of mutual fascination and great complexity through history. (Marshall 337)

The definite divide in the understanding of the classical literary texts, the ESL students have to adapt themselves with the social customs of the time in England or Europe to adjust their understanding with that of the other world, which they are not aware. Hence, Marshall points out that the “literature professor’s obligation is to know the several available avenues to understand and, explaining the landmarks and sketching in unfamiliar features, to take the nearest way” (338). Thus, the teacher is responsible for teaching not only the language to the students but also the social-cultural landscape of the English speaking society to the students. Hence, when this assignment is presented to the students, they can create a different aspect of the story in their own words, thus, demonstrating their comprehension and knowledge of the structure of the language.

Literature has the potential to transcend the cultural problems that arise in teaching ESL students (McKay 531). As literature helps in transferring the imaginary world of the text to the readers, it helps in transcending the “unfamiliar” occupying some of the “cultural assumptions in literature” for the ESL students (McKay 531). Thus, literary texts present the possibility of examining foreign cultures through literature.

Language improvement

Literature is a source of spoken and written language and hence provides a potpourri of the various types of formal and cultural subject matter that defines the language. Hence, reading literature would allow the students to grasp the content, context, and syntax of the language. Literature is believed to hold a wide range of syntactic knowledge that helps the readers to grasp a better understanding of the language: “syntactic knowledge and vocabulary enrichment can be accelerated through literary texts. In other words, literature involves a profound range of vocabulary, dialogues and prose” (Khatib et al. 202). Literature also provides a good understanding of the language, which helps the students to write well. Reading a story helps the students grasp the idea of how the language should be written and enables them to “write the end of a story in their own words or narrate a story for another character in a short story, novella, or novel” (Khatib et al. 203).

McKay presents a study that looks into the importance of incorporating literature in the ESL curriculum. Literature is believed to provide an easy way to understand the language (McKay 529). Literary texts have many “grammatical points salient in the text”. They can be directly used to “increase all language skills because literature will extend linguistic knowledge by giving evidence of extensive and subtle vocabulary usage” (McKay 529). Thus, literature provides ample scope for the linguistic development of the ESL students. Shanahan points out that the language of the literary texts itself helps in the development of the linguistic and vocabulary power of the ESL students (Shanahan 164). Literature taught to ESL students will help to impart that “literature is a powerful vehicle for all kinds of evocative material” and that the “material is released in a moment of catharsis when the reader is exposed to it” and finally literary text “carries with it strong undercurrents of the time and place in which it was written” (Shanahan 167). Literature becomes the innate vehicle for the demonstration of the time, place, and the society of the place that is described in the text.

Personal association

Reading allows the readers to associate themselves with the text of the story and hence, creates a connection between the reader and the text. The students are drawn into the text when they read it, and hence, the understanding of the lexical items and phrases of the texts helps in understanding the story. The involvement that develops between the reader and the text can create a “beneficial effects upon the whole language learning process” (Hişmanoğlu 55). Creating a connection between the text and the readers is essential for ESL students as most of the ESL students come from non-English speaking countries and often feel alienated from the society and culture of the host nation.

Universal reading, the habit of reading literature without bias or preference, advocated by Obeidat (37) emphasized on the necessity to teach second language English learners the linguistic and grammatical styles of the language as it is necessary for official purposes. In other words, Obeidat insists on teaching ESL students the technical knowhow of English that one requires for official or business purposes. He proclaims that the universal understanding of the language which does not constrict the students to narrow reading and helps their understanding of the stylistic nature of the language. However, reading a specific genre of literature helps in grasping the language and grammar, increases vocabulary, and helps students understand the literary tropes used in the language. This increases familiarity with the language and helps the readers to identify with it.

Why Detective Stories?

Literature has been found by researchers to be a useful method to impart English language education to second language English students. However, English literature being a storehouse of varied texts and writings, it becomes imperative to choose the right kind of literary work that will help in educating the ESL students. Hence, selecting the right kind of literature for teaching ESL students is an important task. McKay points out that a “text which is extremely difficult on either a linguistic or cultural level will have few benefits” (531). Thus, literature that encompasses complex literary structure and language will little benefit second language English learners. Hence, one of the most important linguistic methods adopted by teachers is a simplification of the text or adaption of the original text to make it easier for the students to read and understand. However, oversimplification of the text weakens the meaning of the narration:

The additional words in the text tend to spread the information out rather than to localize the information.

Furthermore, the simplification of syntax may reduce cohesion and readability. Since proficient readers rely heavily on localized information and cohesive devices, deleting these elements will contribute little to the development of reading skills. (McKay 531)

Therefore, the problem that arises for the educators is to find out what could be the most important way of choosing the text that will suit the need of ESL students. To do this the educators were in search of a text that is not very complex, does not impart the strong social or philosophical message that tends to make the linguistic structure complex, and follows a linear structure. Therefore, the search for literature to be included in the ESL curricula should be for a kind of literature that is easy to understand and read, allowing greater metacognitive comprehension of the text by the students. For instance, if we choose Paradise Lost by John Milton or Ulysses by James Joyce, students will face immense difficulty in understanding the text, language, and linguistic style. However, if a simple story such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain or Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway is used as text, the students will be more interested in reading and learning the language. Hence, the aim should be to choose a text that is easier for the students to comprehend.

The next step that needs attention is how the literature to be taught in the ESL classroom should be selected. Also, it is essential to decide how the literature selected in the curriculum would be taught in class. Reading and comprehension of the reading material become an important tool in classroom teaching of literature. However, the teacher must determine whether the reading exercise is aimed at gaining knowledge or to the better reading ability of the students:

In short, the classroom approach to efferent and aesthetic reading must be of necessity. Exploring the usage of a text, which is being approached efferently, is in keeping to use a text to gain information.

On the other hand, since in aesthetic reading the experience is primary, this is where a classroom approach should begin, and language usage should be explored only to the extent that it is relevant to that experience. The fact is that literary experiences outside of a classroom proceed in this manner. What is most important to a reader in aesthetic reading is the enjoyment attained by interacting with the text. Usage comes into play only when it impedes or highlights that experience. (McKay 532-533)

Thus, it is believed that literature is an essential part of the ESL curriculum, as it will provide the required motivation to ESL students to read English. For most students, literature becomes an ideal vehicle for understanding the usage of language and bridges the cultural gap (McKay 536).

Literature, therefore, has a prominent role in teaching students, especially in ESL classes (Spack 703). The search for resources for teaching ESL students has renewed the interest of scholars for searching the right kind of literature for the intermediate and advanced ESL classes. It is believed that the study of literature provides an extensive understanding for the students to understand the “fundamental way how meaning can be created through reading” (Spack 706). How can reading a particular text can shape the understanding of the language for a second language student? It is believed that a comprehensive reading activity of the right kind of literature will enable the readers to grasp the linguistic intricacies and improve her ability to comprehend and understand the language. In first language teaching of English, teachers have traditionally employed literature as a vehicle for teaching reading, comprehension, and composition of the language to the students. Hence, for ESL students, a different approach should not be taught to improve their grasp of the language (Spack 707). It is believed that literature taught to ESL students will benefit their understanding of their language. Hence, the question that arises before educators is how to introduce and teach literature to ESL students that will benefit them. It is believed that short stories and novellas are an important and effective source of teaching ESL students (Spack 709). The first way of analysing literature is to ascertain the theme, “plot, characters, and point of view of the text” (Spack 709).

Detective stories are usually plot-based, linearly constructed stories, written in simple languages. They do not ponder on critical philosophical issues or literary complexities. Usually written in simple language, these become one of the most attractive tools to teach English in ESL class, as they are simple as well as interesting. As detective stories are shorter compared to other literary works and follow a more simplistic structure, it becomes easier for ESL students to grasp and understand (Spack 710). Spack also points out that to teach ESL students choosing stories that have been adapted into cinematic interpretation may be a good choice: “Stories which have been made into films are also good choices because the films provide students with a visual interpretation of the stories and present the costumes, scenery, and sounds of the works” (710). The importance of teaching literature to ESL students lies in the fact that it demands from students not only an understanding of the language but a comprehension of the meaning of the narrative and linguistic structure:

The study of literature demands that students search for “a reasoned understanding of distanced problems” and eliminates much of the “prefabricated position-taking” required by freshman rhetoric anthologies, which cover controversial, “provocative” subjects such as capital punishment. (Spack 719)

However, the teaching pattern and structure for ESL students should be different as they are not students of literature rather of language. Hence, their understanding should not be extended to the intricacies of the literary pattern but to grasp the linguistic pattern embedded in the text:

While training in teaching literature is desirable, ESL teachers should not be disinclined to teach literature because they are not literary scholars. Literature does not have to be studied through formalist criticism that is bogged down in technical terminology and complex symbolism. Today it is acceptable, even preferable, to teach literature as an exploration of meaning. We can experience literature along with our students and learn from our writing about what we have read. Of course, we should prepare each literary work assigned, but we should realize that something new can be learned about a literary work each time we examine it, and each time our students share their unique perspectives with us. (Spack 720)

Given the importance of literature to the development of language understanding of second language learners, researchers have concentrated on finding the right text for teaching ESL students. Vardell, Hadaway and Young (735) point out that the grade level suitability of the students may not be applicable when finding books for second language English learners. The reason for this is the maturity level and the comprehension skill of the second language learners may vary greatly due to the difference in family and cultural background. For lower grades, it is advised to adapt picture books which ensures easy comprehension of the subject matter: “Highly visual books help provide scaffolding as students begin by “reading the pictures.” This method can build confidence and independence— clearly, an important consideration in building a “just right” library for English learners” (Vardell et al. 735). Further, they believe that fiction helps English learners to identify with a fictitious story:

Fiction titles that spring from the students’ cultures are ideal in providing familiarity for ease of comprehension as well as for identifying with story characters. Thus, there is an impetus for seeking quality multicultural literature reflecting many cultures. Students also enjoy stories with direct, linear plotlines communicated in language that is clear and concrete. Stories full of flashbacks or colloquial expressions can be challenging for beginning English learners to understand. Finally, themes in contemporary picture books and novels such as fitting in, being different, moving and adjusting, separating from family, or seeking one’s place in the world are appealing to English learners. (Vardell et al. 736)

Many scholars have advocated the use of one particular method of teaching to ESL students (Krashen 17). Narrow reading is a process of reading a specific genre of literature to increase familiarity of the style and narrative structure of the fictions for increased comprehensibility. Advocates of narrow reading believe that “the acquisition of both structure and vocabulary comes from many exposures in a comprehensible context, that is, we acquire new structures and words when we understand messages, many messages, that they encode” (Krashen 17). Hence, narrow reading is believed to facilitate various methods of teaching and learning English for ESL students. First, narrow reading facilitates a distinctive style of expression and uses a specific vocabulary and discourse that raises the degree of understanding of the text. Second, detective stories are not culture-specific, which helps readers to identify with the stories, as they are not alienated by a foreign culture, which becomes a common problem with other literary works. Therefore, it is often believed that less complex literature helps in teaching ESL students:

An acquirer of English reading a John Grisham novel who understands the legal system in the U.S. will understand the book much better than someone unfamiliar with courts and legal procedures in the U.S. The reader with the better background will also acquire more English from the novel because it is more comprehensible. Narrow readers gain more contextual knowledge as they read narrowly: The more one reads in one area, the more one learns about the area, and the easier one finds subsequent reading in the area (and the more one acquires of the language). Reading one John Grisham novel will make subsequent John Grisham novels more comprehensible. (Krashen 17)

When a second language English learner first encounters a book, she feels uncomfortable in understanding the first few pages of the book; however, with continued reading reduces the level of difficulty. Further, narrow reading motivates the readers:

In any anthology, certainly, most topics are not of great interest to most readers. The combination of new vocabulary, unfamiliar style, lack of context, and lack of interest in the subject matter ensures that much reading remains an exercise in deliberate decoding. In contrast, narrow reading on a topic of real interest has a chance of resulting in the reader reading for the message, for meaning, in early stages of language acquisition. (Krashen 18)

Reading is a process of decoding the meaning of the language and story by the reader. Hence, reading a text becomes an essential part of the teaching of a language as it increasingly helps in the initial phase of language acquisition.

Though the advantages of using literature for teaching English to ESL students are strong, there are other relevant questions raised by critics who feel that teaching literature confuses the students who are just learning English as a second language. One of the problems raised by the critics in the difficult syntax of literary works may confuse ESL students: “It is argued that literary texts are loaded with complex structures sometimes miles away from Standard English … this complexity itself can become a source for practice, especially for the learners at the intermediate and the above levels” (Khatib et al. 204). Other issues are related to the lexical understanding, grasping the literal and the integral meaning of the text, etc. For instance, teaching James Joyce’s Ulysses may become a daunting task to ESL students as the text is infused with an innumerable stream of consciousness that is garbed under the mask of simplistic language. Hence, the students who simply understand the language will not be able to grasp the integral meaning of the text. Hence, it is unanimously agreed that literature is the right medium to teach language to ESL students, but what type of literature can be a relevant question. As some literary works are critical and infused with language tropes and literary concepts that are difficult for intermediary and advanced ESL students to grasp, it is essential to learn the language that helps in understanding the language and not become confused with it. Hence, a simple text is required that would provide all the essential ingredients of literature and remain comparatively simpler to understand.

From the literature review, it is evident that literature is believed to be one of the best ways to acquaint second language English learners in ESL classes with the language. However, critics believe that the structure, syntax, lexicon, literary ideas are at times too complicated for an intermediate level ESL student to grasp. Keeping this in mind, it must be understood that some form of literature is required that would deliver the advantages of teaching literature in class while keeping the disadvantages aside. According to Obeidat (37), some of these topics may seem controversial for some students and, hence, educators have to choose universal texts that do not focus on cultural themes that are unknown to students, and make sure they know their students’ cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it can be hazardous to use novels that focus on social, political issues.

Detective fiction is believed to possess the right combination of linguistic schema along with the required to understand the cultural context as they address various cultural issues through the process of solving complex crimes:

Detective fiction’s current integration of multicultural social concerns occurs as frequently in plot or setting as in characters or criminal investigations. Dana Stabenow, in her novels of Alaska, demonstrates how abrasive edges are exposed when Native Americans and whites are required to work together without acknowledging their distinct cultural standpoints. … much contemporary detective fiction explores issues of cultural interaction – race, class, gender, ethnicity, age, and more – as it moves through the investigation of serious crime. (Klein 1-2)

Detective novels, therefore, become the melting pot for the social and multicultural settings that helps in a criminal investigation. The stories bridge the cultural gap and create a platform for racial, gender-based, and ethnic interaction.

Hence teaching detective novels, help not only in helping the ESL students study literary fiction in its unabridged form but also to understand language, narration style, and structure. Detective fiction, as compared to other forms of literary works, is easier in structure and use comparatively less complex language. Hence, ESL students who find it difficult to grasp the meaning of literary texts are more comfortable reading a particular genre of books that follow the linear structure and easy language. Detective stories usually follow a linear structure and adhere to simplistic language as their concentration is mostly on the crime rather than beautification of the language. Hence, reading similar fictional works increases the motivation of the ESL students who themselves can understand the fiction and learn from it.

Further, it is believed that reading in isolation does not help in increasing comprehension ability, rather, the process of discussing the text in class helps in sparking new ideas and understanding of the text (Kooy and Chiu 79).

Further, easy understanding of the text, especially fiction that has a conversational style of narration helps in developing linguistic skills among second language learners to speak the language and not only read or write it. The activity of reading detective fiction allows the ESL students to have an easy grasp of the language and confidence to tackle any form of literature in the foreign language:

For ESL students, this offers two distinct advantages:(1) the active use of language to think about and understand the world of the texts, and (2) the acknowledgement of their world experiences to interpret and understand texts. … The interactions during discussion spark new thinking, questions, and discoveries. As in most learning situations, the language is often tentative, uncertain. In discussions, students actively use and hear the language. If discussions begin in small groups, students have an additional occasion to rehearse their language in less intimidating situations and, in the process, prepare for whole-class discussion. These represent active learning rehearsals crucial to developing language skills. Talking about literature with others has other benefits. Readers in a class get to know other readers their insights, visions, questions, and views of the world. The focus moves away from language deficiencies to knowledge to be shared. (Kooy and Chiu 81-82)

Choosing the literature for teaching ESL students is important, and so is to ascertain the right method of discoursing in the classroom. Reading is an essential mode of teaching students to become fluent in the language, increasing reading skills, and vocabulary. Further, discussion on the texts read in class also encourages active thinking about the story and inculcates active reading habits among students.

The aim of the research presented by Dalmau et al. was to find out how detective stories used in ESL pedagogy could help in inculcating the five perspectives mentioned above (221). The research used the story by Conan Doyle “A Scandal in Bohemia” to depict how the cultural, linguistic, individual, authentic, and stylistic perspectives would help in demonstrating to the students the cultural, societal, economic, and the linguistic facets of English language and culture.

Detective fiction reading and discussion is believed to help ESL students as they find this form of fiction easier to grasp and understand. The essence of teaching ESL students English is to make them read and understand the literary text without difficulty. For this, the primary requirement is to make them feel accustomed to the literature and acclimatize them with the cultural and societal differences that their culture has with the English-speaking nation. Detective stories focus on crime-solving even when they present a vivid societal picture to the readers, helps to teach the students the cultural norms without overly intimidating them. Hence, the best way to teach English to ESL students is through the inclusion of detective stories in their curricula, which are easier to understand and comprehend.

The literature review presented shows that literature is an effective tool in imparting language training to students. However, for second language English learners, the essence is to teach them the language without oversimplifying it or frightening them with linguistic excesses. In many of the non-English speaking countries, as demonstrated by Dalmau et al. (218), the need for learning English is to use it for official or business purposes. For this reason, it is of importance that they learn English in such a way that the students can easily use it for official purposes. The detective story of Doyle analysed by Dalmau et al. (221) show that detective stories are easy to read with simplistic linear structure and simple language but cover the cultural and social structure of the Victorian society extensively as demonstrated by Doyle. From this research and other previous researches that delineated the importance of teaching simple literature to ESL students, we develop the research questions for the paper. The research questions, therefore, that arise out of the literature review are:

  1. Do detective stories have simpler language and grammatical structure, which makes it easier to understand for the ESL students?
  2. Do the stories bridge the cultural and societal gap between the second language learners and the English speaking society?


Research Objective

The research objective of the paper is to understand the effectiveness of using detective stories over and above literary short stories in teaching intermediate ESL class, as it is believed that the former has a greater chance of being comprehended easily. Hence, for ESL students to deal more effectively with the detective story, which implies they can easily read, comprehend, and evaluate the stories. Thus, a comparative analysis is required to ascertain the effectiveness of teaching detective stories. Thus, the research paper considers three types of reading material to be evaluated:

  1. A literary short story by O’Henry – ‘The Gift of the Magi’
  2. Detective short story by Arthur Conan Doyle – ‘The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton’.

To understand the level of comprehension of the students for each type of text, they will be given a questionnaire, which will evaluate their understanding of the text based on the following parameters:

  1. Locating the core meaning of the text
  2. Identifying the main idea of the supporting detail of the text
  3. Determining the sequence of the text
  4. Making inferences
  5. Distinguishing from the facts presented in the text from the author’s suppositions and opinions
  6. Evaluating the content of the text

It should be noted that all the students would face these similar questions covering these parameters to understand the effectiveness of the text on the understanding of the students. The questionnaire that was sent to the participants was short and consisted of only seven questions. They were not asked to their name or age. A simple demographic question ascertaining their race was requested. The questionnaire had the following questions:

  1. What according to you, is the main plot of the story?
  2. Are there words in the story that you did not understand? What are they?
  3. Who are the main characters and how their relations evolve?
  4. Are the natures of the characters easily understandable?
  5. Did you find the story interesting? Why?
  6. Was the story difficult to understand? If yes, why?
  7. Was the language of the story easy to grasp? How many areas of the story you had difficulty to understand?

Research Design

This essay will focus on the use of detective stories of the twentieth century, short stories by Conan Doyle in ESL classes. The present paper will evaluate the use of these texts that will be applicable in all groups of the level. The research design will aim to understand the effectiveness of detective stories of the 20th and 21st centuries in developing the English language skills of ESL students. The primary hypothesis of the paper is that detective stories of the twentieth and twenty-first century are effective in teaching English to ESL student vis-à-vis other short stories or non-fiction texts. To support this argument, the research paper uses a qualitative research method. The literature review on the use of literary works will be implemented. The grounded theory that uses data collection will be employed to identify major features of the literary texts that should be used in language classes with intermediate and upper-intermediate ESL students. Special attention will be paid to benefits (and disadvantages if any) of the use of detective stories (written by renowned writers in the twentieth century) in ESL classes.

As part of the research design, I attended the TESOL training program acknowledged by CELTA Centre in New York City, and as a part of their practice, I was assigned to teach a class of 12 to 13 students.

Several texts by Conan Doyle will be utilized in several groups of ESL learners. When the project terminates, the students will complete questionnaires where they will reflect on the use of literary works. The questionnaires will be considered with the help of grounded theory that will help to motivate student’s thinking and analyse students’ perceptions, evaluations, and concerns.


Four groups (each consisting of three students) participated in the reading project. All students were from the intermediate level of the ESL class. Each group was assigned to read one of the four listed genres of text. The aim was to understand if they were able to comprehend each similarly or there was a difference in the degree of comprehension of each text.

The reading project was implemented within a month. Two groups were given a short detective story, ‘The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton’ by Conan Doyle. The other two groups read ‘The Gift of the Magi’ by O’Henry. The participants were intermediate and upper-intermediate students. The students were allotted time to read the stories, and then they were given an hour to discuss the stories within the group. Then questionnaires were sent to the students by email such that they would answer them in a relaxed atmosphere. The questionnaires were sent along with a consent form. The answers to the questionnaire were evaluated qualitatively trying to understand the effectiveness of the comprehension of the stories. More attention was paid to the evaluation of experiences and answers of students who have read the same texts.


The total number of participants in the research was 12, three in each of the four groups. The main demographic segregation of the group is presented in table 1.

Table 1: Demographic division of participants based on race

Number of Students Percentages
African American 1 14%
Hispanic 5 41%
White 5 43%
Asian/Pacific Islander 1 1%
Total 12

These students were grouped into four groups based on a random drawing of names, and each group was given one of the two stories as a reading assignment. Then they were allowed to discuss the stories amongst themselves. After this, a questionnaire was sent to the twelve of the participants by email and was asked to answer them when at home, alone. This allowed the participants to answer the questionnaire without any direct influence from one another.

The questionnaire had open-ended questions suited for qualitative research. Group 1 and group 2 were assigned the story by Conan Doyle, while group 3 and 4 were assigned the story by O’Henry.

The comparison of the answers of the first two groups shows that these two groups were comfortable in understanding the meaning of the story. The main plot of the story was easily understood with five out of six, answering that the story was aimed to mark the return of Sherlock Holmes (the main protagonist). The main plot of the story by Conan Doyle is clear to the participants as almost all of them said that the plot was regarding the blackmailing of the rich lady, Lady Eva Blackwell who hired Holmes to investigate and stop the affair. The rest of the story seems clear to the participants as they mentioned that the plot is regarding the blackmailing. However, the story ‘Gift of the Magi’ remained less clear to the students as they were not sure if the story was about the poverty and love in the life of Jim and Della or it was about the gift that showed the strength of their love. The plot, according to the participants remained varied, and most of the students identified the plot to be love in the face of adversity and the importance of giving a gift during Christmas.

While answering the second question, more participants felt they failed to understand words from group 3 and 4. Most of the participants in the third and fourth group did not understand words like “meretricious”, “truant”, “mendicancy”, “fob”, “coveted”, and “depreciate” from the story “The Gift of the Magi”. Some other phrases that they were unable to understand were “flung to the breeze”, “prudence and reason”, etc. Some references to myths and classics like, the Queen of Sheba, was unclear to the participants. While the first two groups encountered fewer words that were not clear to them like “piteous”, “swagger”, etc. The students from the second group found that the story had harder words, increasing their difficulty to understand and comprehend the meaning of certain sentences, whereas, and the first group that encountered fewer difficult words found it easier to interpret the story.

In the questions related to the characters and their relation, the first two groups were clear about the main characters as Sherlock Holmes, Watson, Lady Blackwell, and Milverton. While the third and fourth groups were able to understand the main characters as Della and Jim. However, the non-Christian participants were unable to understand the reference of the story to the Magi. The naming of the character by the first group showed that they were sure of the main protagonists of the story as intended by the author whereas in case of the second group they were not sure who were the main characters. The ease with which the first group answered the names of the characters showed that the students were able to comprehend the story. However, the second group was not sure of the names of the characters and therefore showed a degree of uncertainty in the comprehension of the text. This indecision by the second group demonstrated that the students easily comprehended the detective story, presented in a simple style. However, the other story was more complicated for the students who faced the problem of understanding who were the main characters were, indicating ineffective comprehension by the students.

When asked if they found the story interesting, the participants assigned the detective story unanimously said that they liked reading the story as the plot was gripping. They were eager to know how the story ends. However, not all participants assigned the story by O’Henry felt that they liked reading it. This shows that the detective story is more acceptable to the people from varied culture as the main bases of the stories are the plot and not the cultural discourse. However, “Gift of the Magi” story is based on love, family, adversity, and Christian beliefs which were difficult to understand for students from non-Christian, African, or eastern cultures.

Most of the participants believed that the detective story was not difficult to read and comprehend while the participants reading “Gift of the Magi” felt that the story was not critical. Still, the way the plot was presented was a bit difficult to understand. The problem that they faced was with the language, syntax, and the structure of the story. In contrast, a detective story, which is usually, a clear narrative description of events, with little literary tropes employed to embellish the text, was easier to comprehend. Hence, the second group showed a greater level of difficulty in deciphering the story.

The research presents that most of the students who read the story by O’Henry were not able to identify with the characters portrayed in the story. At the same time, they were able to identify with the story by Doyle. The reason that we may present is embedded in the literature review presented at the beginning of the paper. Spack (709) pointed out that the essence of learning about a story is to ascertain the “plot, characters, and point of view of the text” after reading the story. As detective stories are shorter compared to other literary works and follow a more simplistic structure, it becomes easier for ESL students to grasp and understand (Spack 710). The students who participated in the experiment believed that they could easily identify the plot of the story written by Doyle.

In contrast, the students after reading “Gift of the Magi” were unable to describe the plot of the story clearly. The reason for this difference may be due to the direct approach taken by detective story writers in clearly delineating the plot of the story so that the mystery can be simply presented to the readers. However, in the case of short stories or novels, the stories are presented to point at multiple plots, and readers have the freedom to choose the plot they believe is the strongest. For instance, for “Gift of the Magi” many believed the theme was the love between two people, while others believed it was the meaningfulness of a gift to a loved one. When the two plots or themes are analysed, they describe two very different things. Hence, the point of view of the text that the readers have becomes different for two different people. However, there was no confusion regarding the plot of the detective story. This demonstrates the fact that detective stories are easier to understand for ESL students.

Further, reading of one genre of text helps in understanding do the style and structure more easily than stories that follow varied styles and structure. Readers reading one particular genre facilitate a distinctive style of expression and use specific vocabulary and discourse that raises the degree of understanding of the text. Also, detective stories are not culture-specific, which helps readers to identify with the stories, as they are not alienated by a foreign culture, which becomes a common problem with other literary works.


The research findings support the hypothesis presented in the paper, i.e. detective stories, are easier to comprehend by intermediate level ESL students. Detective stories follow a simpler narration structure with little attention given to literary style and concepts. They do not usually use literary concepts like multiple narrations, the stream of consciousness, etc. Instead, the narration structure is simple, chronological, with direct dialogues. The author, thus, does not narrate the drama evolving in the mind of the protagonists keeping the descriptions strictly to the physical movements and conversations.

On the other hand, in a literary short story, the comparative literary tropes used and the exemplification of the mind of the characters creates a dual space, which readers who are unfamiliar with the language find difficult to understand. Students may encounter difficult words in either of the stories. Still, it is more likely that they will face difficult and unknown references in literary short stories, which are not understood in the text. If similar references are presented in detective stories, the authors of such stories usually present an explanation for the reference within the text, thus making it easier for the readers to understand. For instance, the reference to Queen of Sheba or Magi from the Bible is not explained in the text of “The Gift of the Magi”. They remain as implicit references that the author assumes that the readers will understand. The participants found no such implicit references in the text of the detective story by Conan Doyle. The research findings demonstrate that the participants more clearly understood the detective story, and both the groups assigned the detective story easily comprehended the story. However, the groups to which the short story was assigned found it more difficult to comprehend the story. They faced more difficulty with language, grammar, style, phrases, and literary references. This demonstrates that detective stories from the 20th and 21st century are effective inclusions, as they are easy to read and comprehend, into the curricula of intermediate ESL students. Detective stories are simple, easy to comprehend, and interesting to read as the writer unravels a crime. Students find it more interesting as opposed to other forms of stories as it requires little knowledge of the culture or society to appreciate the story.

Further, simpler language structure and narration helps in the internalization of the linguistic style and language. Reading helps in creating knowledge about the language. Hence, the study of detective novels helps the ESL students to learn the language, structure of the language, vocabulary and the cultural aspects of the story. Detective stories follow a simplistic pattern and linear structure that helps in teaching students English.

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