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«Empfohlene Zitierung/ Suggested Citation: Kirkgöz, Yasemin; Agcam, Reyhan: Exploring culture in locally published English textbooks for primary ...»

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Kirkgöz, Yasemin; Agcam, Reyhan

Exploring culture in locally published English textbooks for primary education

in Turkey

CEPS Journal 1 (2011) 1, S. 153-167

Empfohlene Zitierung/ Suggested Citation:

Kirkgöz, Yasemin; Agcam, Reyhan: Exploring culture in locally published English textbooks for primary

education in Turkey - In: CEPS Journal 1 (2011) 1, S. 153-167 - URN: urn:nbn:de:0111-opus-65378

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peDOCS Deutsches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung (DIPF) Informationszentrum (IZ) Bildung E-Mail: pedocs@dipf.de Internet: www.pedocs.de 153 c e p s Journal | Vol.1 | No1 | Year 2011 Exploring Culture in Locally Published English Textbooks for Primary Education in Turkey Yasemin Kirkgöz*1 and Reyhan Ağçam2 • Since language and culture are closely interwoven, the inte- gration of culture into textbooks used for teaching English as a second/foreign language has become a widely accepted phe- nomenon. This study investigates the cultural elements in locally published English textbooks used for Turkish primary schools following two major curriculum innovations in ELT. A total of 18 textbooks, of which 8 were published after the 1997 curriculum innovation and 10 after the curriculum innovation introduced in 2005, were investigated to find out the extent to which textbooks contain references to the source (Turkish) culture, the target (British/American) culture and the international target culture. A quantitative analysis of the cultural elements demonstrated that while references to the source and target cultures included in textbooks published between 1997 and 2005 outnumber international target cultural components, a different trend was obtained in the cultural analysis of books published after the 2005 curriculum innovation. The study reveals that representations of the source culture, the target culture and the international target culture are favoured in locally produced ELT textbooks in a fairly balanced way.

Key words: Cultural representations, Culture, EFL/ESL, International target culture, Source culture, Target culture, Textbooks 1 *Corresponding author: Faculty of Education, University of Çukurova, Turkey ykirkgoz@yahoo.com 2 University of Korkut Ata, Turkey 154 encouraging teachers’ and students’ innovation

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Language is more than a means of communication since it influences our culture and even our thought processes. It is the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief, and behaviour can be experienced, explained, and shared, and this sharing is based on systematic, conventionally used signs, sounds, gestures or marks that convey understood meanings within a group or community (O’Neil, 2006). Culture is the complex whole that includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society (Tylor, 1871). It is the product of socially and historically situated discourse, which, to a large extent, is created and shaped by language (Kramsch, 1998). Language is an integral part of a culture, which comprises the totality of beliefs and practices of a society, and is always related to the entities, events, states, processes, characteristics and relations within a culture; a culture depends in large measure on language in order to function and perpetuate itself (Nida, 2003).

During the initial decades of the 20th century, language was viewed by American linguists and anthropologists as being more important than it actually is in shaping our perception of reality (O’Neil, 2006). Today, many linguists, especially those who follow the Communicative Approach, advocate that one can not achieve full competence in a foreign or second language (EFL/ESL) as long as one ignores learning the culture of the people who speak that particular language natively. In other words, the individual needs to know when and how to address someone in the language s/he is attempting to learn in order to be viewed as a successful language learner, otherwise the learning process is deemed to be incomplete.

A number of studies that have been conducted on the relationship between language and culture have indicated that language and culture are mutually integrated. Wenying (2000) proposes that these two phenomena cannot exist without each other, since language simultaneously reflects culture and is influenced and shaped by it, suggesting that languages are culturally loaded. According to her, people of different cultures can refer to different things while using the same language forms. Administering a survey of word association among native speakers of English and those of Chinese, Wenying (2000) has found an intimate relationship between language and culture. Similarly, Brown (2001) contends that language and culture are intricately 155 c e p s Journal | Vol.1 | No1 | Year 2011 interwoven so that one cannot separate them without losing the significance of either language or culture.

It can be concluded from the preceding discussion that any language acquisition process that ignores the culture of the people who speak the language natively would be incomplete. This is a point on which many linguists have recently reached consensus with respect to EFL/ESL teaching. Accordingly, the transmission of cultural information by means of language teaching materials is an issue of wide interest among researchers in the field of ELT. Since learning a new language involves the learning of a new culture (Allwright and Bailey, 1991), language teachers are also teachers of culture, as pointed out by Byram (1989). In a similar vein, Jourdini (2007) is of the opinion that teaching culture as a skill, comparable with reading, writing, speaking, and listening, should no longer be underestimated in language instruction, and that the language instructor should not assume that emphasising the four aforementioned skills is sufficient, as students may have already acquired some knowledge of a particular culture.

Culture in EFL/ESL Textbooks

Throughout history, people have inevitably resorted to a common language, a lingua franca, in order to communicate with each other when there has been no shared mother tongue between them.

A variety of languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French and German, have undertaken this role. However, as Phillipson (2010) highlights, there has been a dramatic decline in the use of other languages in recent years as English has become increasingly popular over the past 40 years, especially in Europe, as illustrated by the following figures.

Figure 1. Most frequently spoken languages in Europe (1970) 156 exploring culture in locally published english textbooks Figure 2.

Most frequently spoken languages in Europe (2006) Considering the fact that it is impossible to account for the existence of one without the other, many linguists strongly suggest that culture should be integrated into EFL/ESL teaching materials (see Alptekin, 1993, 2002; McKay, 2000; Kılıçkaya, 2004). McKay (2000) emphasises that language teaching materials should include a variety of cultural elements in order to help learners develop an interest in language learning and to foster learner motivation. Likewise, Kılıçkaya (2004) suggests that textbooks that focus students’ attention on grammatical structures are uninteresting and do not stimulate students who need variety and excitement in language learning in order to develop a genuine interest in the language learning process. Consequently, as posited by Peterson and Coltrane (2003), language classrooms should be environments where learners develop intercultural awareness in their attempt to learn the language; namely, they should know how to address people, make requests, and agree or disagree with someone who is a member of the target language speech community. Thereby, it could be possible for them to view the world from the perspective of others.

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types of cultural materials: target culture materials, learners’ own culture materials and international target culture materials. She maintains that international target language materials supposedly cover a variety of knowledge from different cultures all over the world using the target language.

Culture in EFL/ESL Textbooks A number of studies have demonstrated that some locally produced EFL textbooks primarily reflect the source culture of the particular country rather than the target or the international target cultures. Scott (1980), for example, notes that Chinese EFL textbooks are designed to transform and reinforce Chinese norms and values. Similarly, in their investigation of a Venezuelan textbook Cortazzi and Jin (1999) demonstrate that the book mainly gives details of Venezuelan national heroes, while the settings illustrated in the book refer primarily to Venezuelan cities and places. In addition to textbooks that primarily contain the source culture there also exist many EFL textbooks that mainly reflect the target culture. A good example of this is Success - Communicating in English (Walker, 1994), produced in USA but marketed to other countries. The textbook portrays the multicultural nature of American society as well as including references to the culture of minorities. A third category of EFL textbooks are those which include a wide variety of cultural values from both English speaking countries and those countries where English is used as an international language. As noted by Cortazzi and Jin (1999), EFL/ESL textbooks in this category include characters from all over the world that use English as a global language in order to promote learners’ intercultural competence.

It follows from the above discussion that the learner’s perception of his or her own culture, in addition to the foreign and international target culture, is an important factor in the development of his/her cultural awareness. Although the inclusion of the local culture is important in nationally produced materials, it may be argued that EFL/ESL students should also be exposed to materials that focus on the cultures of English speaking countries. This allows students to compare and contrast their culture with other global cultures, increasing their awareness of the social conventions of other cultures and thereby expanding their cultural knowledge. Thus, in using English as an international language a good balance between local, target and international target cultural elements in teaching materials is needed.

158 exploring culture in locally published english textbooks The creation of this synthesis would help learners to understand other cultural perspectives. In this way, as contended by Alptekin (2002), “learning a foreign language becomes a kind of enculturation, where one acquires new cultural frames of reference and a new world view, reflecting those of the target language culture and its speakers” (p. 58).

ELT in Turkish Primary Education

The strategic and geopolitical status of Turkey as a crossroad between Europe and Asia makes the learning of English, the main language for international communication as well as the world’s lingua franca of science, technology and business, particularly important for Turkish citizens in order to enable the nation to pursue its international communication and to keep up with developments in many fields in which English is the most widely used language (Kırkgöz, 2007).

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