By Ikram Abdelhamid Benzouine
By Ikram Abdelhamid Benzouine
Morocco World News
Rabat, November 9, 2012
For more than 60 years, many teachers have relied heavily on textbooks as instructional materials (McCutcheon, 1995, p.157). Goodlad (1984) further claimed that textbooks are the dominant forms of a curriculum and that they play an important role in different levels of education. For this reason, it has come to be commonly practical for teachers to have a textbook to guide them toward a finer instructional methodology.
Furthermore, not only does it serve as an instructional handbook, it has also been proved that “the school textbook holds a unique and significant social function which is to represent to each generation of students an officially sanctioned, authorized version of human knowledge and culture,” as Luke & Luke argued (1989, vii). This claim brings to light the idea that language textbooks impart not only grammatical/linguistic knowledge, but also a great deal of cultural awareness.
Generally speaking, language textbooks can be regarded as a foreboding ideology in the sense that they reflect a worldview of a cultural system, and a social construction to both teachers and students. In actuality, writers not only construct mental representations of their socially acquired knowledge, but such schematic knowledge also influences their writing in terms of the rhetorical organization of a text, audience awareness, topical priorities etc. For instance, EFL textbook writers, in most cases, like everyone else, think and compose mainly through culture-specific schemata, thus consciously or unconsciously transmitting the views, values, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings of their own English-speaking society.
Despite all that, there are some hypothetical claims about the necessity of teaching the target language in exclusive relation to its own culture. According to Stewart (1982), the target language culture is an essential feature of every stage of FL learning. He asserts that teaching the formal aspects of the foreign language while referring to the native culture of the learner is virtually useless. In other words, FL learning is very likely to be pointless if the learner is denied the opportunity to cope with experience in a different, “foreign” way.
However, this assumption is not totally believed to be true. In the words of Brumfit (1980), “it forms part of the ‘strange paradox’ that, while in mother-tongue teaching what is emphasized is children’s ability to express themselves, in FL teaching learners are forced to express a culture with which they are barely familiar.” Seelye (1974) puts forward a number of goals for language teachers to set while teaching culture, which serves as a reference list in the process of selecting, collecting and compiling cultural materials/ textbooks.
To illustrate, such materials, as Brooks (1975) lays out, should be derived from symbolism, values, authority, order, ceremony, love, honor, humor, beauty and spirit, and should take into consideration and reflect several aspects, such as the life style, uniqueness, common sense, religion and family values of the speakers of the target language. In light of the issues mentioned and emphasized here, the creative classroom teacher can come up with numerous ideas regarding how to integrate culture into the textbooks and classroom activities.
By way of conclusion, it is widely acknowledged that textbooks are the main materials used in language classes. They may act as the teacher, the trainer, the authority, the resource and the ideology in the foreign language classroom (Hinkel, 1999). Thus, it is extremely important that these textbooks include the vital components to teach the language, its culture, and are appropriate for learners’ needs, cultural background and level.
 Extracted from: Sultan Turkan’s portfolio, entitled “Integrating Culture into EFL Texts and Classrooms: Suggested Lesson Plans”, p. 23.
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