The need to integrate additional teaching materials reflecting the diversity of English

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Despite the teachers’ attachment to American and British publications, their discussions about selecting relevant teaching models and cultures reveal their conviction that these publications cannot fully represent the ultimate in the cross-cultural knowledge students need. Eleven participants highlighted the need for the use of a variety of teaching materials in the classroom because ‘all textbooks are imported from America or Britain but not all students like to learn about these two countries’ (Lien, Set Two). Her observation was in agreement with those obtained from the remaining participants. Considering her students’ needs in learning English, True (Set Two) said:

My students like to study what is ground-breaking and up [to] date. They do not care much when teachers just use the content of the textbooks to teach them. Yet if we use current or modern English, they are very interested in learning. It is important for teachers to update what to teach.

When asked how they would incorporate other teaching materials into their teaching, seven of them volunteered the idea of using supplementary materials, including other varieties of English, as teaching content. While Lan (group C) said that she used reference books that reflect WE to teach students, Tai (group D) often selected Asian or non-native writers of English for his teaching materials. It is noted that English versions of Vietnamese literature translated by Vietnamese writers were Cuong’s (group A) choice when integrating other teaching materials into his lessons. The data indicates that he explicitly considered the English of these translations to be Vietnamese English. For instance, he reported that he used the English version of the poem ‘Truyen Kieu’ to introduce Vietnamese English to his students. He further said that he would select similar sources to supplement current teaching materials. His perspective was shared by several other teachers in this study.

This is one of the most striking results to emerge from the data that provides important insight into teachers’ use of a diversity of teaching materials, which is a pedagogical approach that EIL scholars (Matsuda, 2006, 2012; McKay, 2002) suggest in the context of ELT today. Indeed, this indicates the teachers’ awareness of the inadequacy of their existing textbooks when it comes to fully reflecting the existence of the multiple legitimate varieties of English and diverse cultures required for inter-cultural communication. This awareness can act as a starting point for a change in mindsets or attitudes towards more EIL-friendly teaching practices and ensure that they come to meet the needs of students today. However, due to the small sample size, caution must be applied about the generalisability of the findings, as it might not be accurate to extrapolate them to all teachers of ELT in EFL contexts.

Discussion

The participants’ reflections on the possible implications of the recent changes in the English language for teaching materials in Vietnamese ELT have been covered in this chapter. The emerging themes arising from this study include (1) the participants’ preference for American and British publications; (2) their opinions upon several issues relating to the use of current textbooks, and (3) their desire to integrate various teaching materials to better fulfil their students’ needs.

The data from both focus groups and individual interviews display the teachers' preference for American and British publications, which can be attributed to their popularity in Vietnam. As noted in section 3.4, traditional teaching materials generally offer a picture of life in America and Britain. Indeed, Kirkpatrick and Sussex (2012) observe that native-speaker English is dominant in current teaching materials, especially in textbooks. As Alptekin (1993, p. 138) contends:

Most textbooks [sic] writers are native speakers, who consciously or unconsciously transmit the views, values, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings of their own English-speaking society - usually the United States or United Kingdom. As such, when learners require a new set of English discourse as part of their evolving systemic knowledge, they partake of the cultural system which the set entails.

It is not surprising to find that many teachers interviewed said they wished to encourage their students to behave like American or British people. Apparently, this is considered beneficial for learners who are interested in studying in the UK or USA in the future. An example of this group was students at an English language centre in this study who were learning lELTs and TOEFL. According to a minority of the participants, not all students, however, aimed at communicating with American or British people. For instance, True (Set Two) said that her students learned English to interact more with Russians and Chinese than with Americans in her hometown. Textbooks based on American and British norms, therefore, ‘fail to acknowledge the increased use of English among non-native speakers of English’ (Matsuda, 2012, p. 171), possibly leading learners to experience bewilderment and become resistant when they are exposed to other English varieties.

One encouraging finding from this study is that one-third of the participants stated the need to integrate a variety of teaching materials into the classroom because, as mentioned in section 9.3, not all students were interested in learning more about America and Britain. Considering the needs of students is instrumental in determining the relevant instructional models for teaching practices (Matsuda, 2012). This point may be reflected in the suggestions for selecting reading materials representing the diversity of English to prepare learners for successful intercultural communication, a point which echoes Matsuda’s (2012, p. 169) observation that few teachers

have a rich enough knowledge of and personal experience with all of the varieties and functions of English that exist today, and, thus, they need to rely on teaching materials in order to introduce students to the linguistic and cultural diversity of English.

summary

This chapter has provided a detailed presentation of the participants’ reflections about the implications of the changing status of English for their choice of teaching materials in the classroom. Section 9.1 has focused on teachers’ preference for American and British publications due to their popularity in Vietnam. Indeed, imported teaching materials came mainly from American and British publishers such as Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Pearson Longman. Section 9.2 has examined various ways of using existing textbooks. The participants had an opportunity to reflect on the teaching content in the textbooks and presented a number of the drawbacks with which they were confronted. It is found that additional sources were used in teaching, which required an enormous amount of time spent on designing teachers’ own teaching materials. Section 9.3 has discussed the importance of using supplementary' materials that include other varieties of English, such as materials from non-native writers of English, particularly those from Asia. While teaching materials played a vital role in determining which models teachers should follow when teaching the English language, there was agreement that there were no ‘perfect’ teaching materials at present. Reflecting on this lack of ‘perfect’ teaching materials, the teachers discussed a number of the challenges and constraints facing them in teaching English today. This is the main focus of the next chapter.

References

Alptekin, C. (1993). Target-language culture in EFL materials. ELT Journal, 47, 136-143. doi: 10.1093/elt/47.2.136.

Alptekin, C. (2002). Towards intercultural communicative competence in ELT. ELT Journal, 56(1), 57-64.

Brown, J. D. (1995). The elements of language curriculum. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. Galloway, N.. & Rose, H. (2015). Introducing global Englishes. Abingdon: Routledge. Kirkpatrick, A., & Sussex, R. (2012). English as an international language in Asia:

Implications for language education. Multilingual Education series. New York: Springer. Matsuda, A. (2006). Negotiating ELT assumptions in EIL classroom. In J. Edge (ed.), (Re)locating TESOL in an age of empire (pp. 158-170). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Matsuda, A. (2012). Teaching materials in EIL. In L. Alsagoff, S. L. McKay, G. W. Hu, & W. Renandya (eds), Principles and practices for teaching English as an international language (pp. 168-185). New York: Routledge.

McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 
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