Materials analysis - identifying the dominant linguacultural input

Given their considerable dependence on textbooks, Victor's and Grace' frequently-used materials for Freshman English and Oral Training were analysed and considered in terms of how the culture and language representation of these two books reflects the multilingual, cultural nature of ELF-related intercultural communication. To this end, quantitative content analysis was adopted to count the people, places, languages, and events presented and related to particular cultural groups in both textbooks. Tables 3.1 and 3.2 exhibit quantitative content analysis of cultural representation in two textbooks, categorised as US-, Taiwan-, or World (neither Taiwan nor US)-related.

Table 3.1 Content analysis of Reading Explorer 3 (National Geographic)

Unit

Taiwan

US

Other localities

Major perspective

1

0

15

95

Multicultural

2

0

8

49

Multicultural

3

0

8

52

Multicultural

Review

0

2

40

Multicultural

4

0

27

83

Multicultural

5

3

2

101

Multicultural

6

0

0

114

Multicultural

Review

0

2

25

Multicultural

7

0

19

26

Multicultural

8

0

1

273

Multicultural

9

0

31

75

Multicultural

Review

0

13

65

Multicultural

10

0

2

11

Multicultural

11

0

8

113

Multicultural

12

0

9

41

Multicultural

Review

0

10

102

Multicultural

Sum

3 (0.2%)

157 (11.0%)

1,265 (88.8%)

1,425

Table 3.2 Content analysis of Communicating Effectively in English

Unit

Taiwan

US

Other localities

Major perspective

1

0

4

32

Multicultural

2

2

31

2

US

3

14

10

14

Multicultural

4

1

49

1

US

5

0

3

0

US

6

0

73

0

US

Sum

17 (7.2%)

170 (72.0%)

49 (20.1%)

236

Table 3.1 shows Reading Explorer 3 incorporating World and US-related subjects into almost every unit, while Taiwan-related (local) content is more limited at less than 1%. Table 3.2 shows four of the six units in Communicating Effectively in English featuring US-related content; world and local perspectives constitute a mere 37%, with the American perspective prominent in terms of frequency in each unit and overall percentage of content in the book. Communicate Effectively in English takes the American approach to content to enhance NNES learners' English. The content of Reading Explorer 3 reflects various parts of the world, affording students more exposure to subjects from diverse cultural groups. By contrast, Communicate Effectively in English provides mainly US-based content, giving rather inadequate exposure to non-US NES/NNES input sources. As for teaching supplements to enhance listening, Victor uses Friends, in which NES actors and actresses in America portray six characters' lives in New York City, suggesting that linguacultural input from the show is greatly US-based. In sum, a US-related influence on the content of the analysed materials is persistent and sometimes dominant, as the reviewed literature indicates.

As Kirkpatrick (2007) has highlighted, an ELF approach to textbooks is still neither well-developed nor widely available to teachers. Even if ELF-tailored textbooks were available, not all teachers get full freedom to choose; some may select textbooks according to other approaches and/or curricula. Responses to the questionnaires show that Taiwanese teachers tend to rely on textbooks for listening and speaking training; it seems unrealistic to propose a material-free approach for teaching or advocate immediate shifts in selecting and using ELF-tailored materials unless these concerns are adequately addressed and ELF- materials are well-developed and available to teachers and students to choose and use. For this reason, the next section focuses on teachers' and students' roles in evaluating materials, their criticality on available materials and their ways of dealing with limitations of linguacultural representation in textbooks.

 
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