EFL Discourse: Beyond Language Education

This chapter provides the theoretical and methodological framework for this study. It first presents the principles for analyzing the language used for teaching, learning, and policing EFL as discourse. It then introduces the critical and text-oriented approaches to discourse analysis that are used to analyze the cultural representation of EFL discourse and its function either in perpetuating hegemonic ideologies, or effecting social change. It then provides an illustration of how the ideological dimensions of EFL discourse are examined in this volume through applying Althusser’s notions of “interpellation” and “ideological state apparatuses,” and Gramsci’s notion of “hegemony.” The connection between EFL discourse and culture is finally analyzed through identifying current perceptions of the role that culture plays in EFL pedagogical discourses, so as to illustrate how Cultural Discourse Studies (CDS) may complement the theoretical framework in understanding EFL discourse as a specifically cultural practice.

Introduction: A Theoretical and Methodological Framework

This volume sets out to investigate the semiotic resources used in the cultural representation of different groups, values, and ideologies in EFL discourse in Israel. An analysis of the ideology of those policing and those who are affected by EFL policy requires a nuanced theoretical framework that can critically capture the dynamics between ideologically driven educational policies, and the globalizing status of English. Studying the way cultural representations are discursively manifested in the Israeli EFL context might shed light on interventionalist educational paths for contesting discriminatory discourses and effecting social change. I will argue that establishing a transformative EFL pedagogy, applicable in the ever intensifying yet challenging pluralistic spirit of the twenty-first century, compels the construction of a new discourse that accentuates how the different cultural groups to whom English is pertinent can equally inform and learn from one another. That is, EFL discourses in multilingual contexts should be modified so as to bring the West and the Rest into dialogue with one another for the sake of reducing conflict, promoting human prosperity, and building critical global awareness.

In accordance with the principles that govern the active and professional role that discourse analysts can play in promoting progressive discourses of cultural coexistence, I use a holistic model for a transformative EFL pedagogy understood as a cultural discursive practice (Awayed-Bishara, 2018) that might enable a “dialogue with local cultural communities” (Shi-xu, 2005, p. 10). At this juncture, it is crucial to highlight that current critical approaches to analyzing discourse, which are mostly Western, might not be sufficient when it comes to bringing nonWestern groups into dialogue with hegemonic, Anglo-centric ideologies that dominate EFL research in many contexts. As such, and more specifically, I intend to bring together Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and CDS in order to analyze EFL pedagogy as a cultural discourse. I begin by showing how these two scholarly traditions are harmonious, and yet different and end by foregrounding the reasons why they should be brought into dialogue to inform one another when it comes to EFL cultural discourses.

Constructing EFL as Discourse

I explore the interplay between language, culture, and ideology in my research on the premise that the language used for teaching English to speakers of other languages shapes, and is shaped by, ideologically determined agendas. This entails an examination of the cultural content of various forms of EFL discourse, and thus an analysis of the elements of English teaching and learning that may be culturally biased. The data under examination for this purpose in this book are texts and narratives from six English textbooks that mainly deal with culture-related issues (in Chapter 3), EFL learners’ (both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs) attitudes toward four EFL texts (in Chapter 4), and EFL policy documents in Israel and interviews with EFL textbook writers (in Chapter 5). These three corpora make up what I term for the purposes of this volume “EFL discourse.” A critical analysis of EFL discourse requires the application of a systematically integrated analytical model that presupposes an ideologically and socially motivated relationship between form and meaning.

As I stated earlier, the core assumption of this volume is that the language currently used for teaching and learning English shapes and is shaped by ideology. Analyzing the language used for teaching English in Israel suggests the relevance of related insights regarding the constitutive role that language plays in constructing individual identities and attitudes. Language must clearly be analyzed as a discourse that is socially constituted and shaped. Accordingly, just as discourse contributes to the reproduction and perpetuation of hegemonic and dominant ideologies, it is also the medium of their transformation. Armed with these assumptions about the ideological and constitutive role of discourse, the three analytical chapters in this volume employ theories of power and ideology in order to study EFL educational discourse. More specifically, they examine EFL discourse in Israel as a major arena that reproduces and perpetuates social realities of inequality, marginalization, and misrepresentation of the Other. These findings potentially open up possibilities for effecting educational and social change.

In the next section, I present the general theoretical framework for critically analyzing EFL discourse. Specific methodological detail is offered at the start of each analytical chapter, so as to situate each stage of the analysis in its relevant context.

 
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