Culture Issues, Ideology and Otherness in EFL Textbooks: A Social Semiotic Multimodal Approach
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This thesis is concerned with the evaluation of the development of cultural contextualisation in three Algerian EFL textbooks; Think it Over (1989), Comet (2001) and New Prospects (2007) and their conception(s) of the relation of the Self to the Other. Looking at these textbooks as social discourses constructed multimodally, it focuses on key issues such as Culture, Ideology and Otherness which are very important for the construction of learners’ Third Space where meaningful learning leads to the development of intercultural competence. It therefore investigates which of the national/local, target/foreign, international/global, Other English speaking countries or Western/European cultures are represented in the textbooks both at the linguistic level (reading text) and at the visual level (images) in an attempt to capture the ideologies which underlie them. By unveiling these ideologies it scrutinises the ways in which the contact of cultures is portrayed and which discourse it conveys. The investigation is based on Mixed Methods Research. It combines the Social Semiotic Multimodal Approach, developed according to the principles of Social Semiotics and Multimodality theory and meant as an innovative alternative to the existing evaluation checklist and models which overlook the visual components of the teaching materials, with a questionnaire addressed to a group of Secondary School teachers who have been/are still using the three textbooks. The Social Semiotic Multimodal Approach provides a comprehensive evaluation which caters for the cultural contents in the three textbooks both as of the level of the reading texts and at the level of visual images. The results obtained reveal how the cultural contextualisation in the three textbooks favours main stream British and American cultures linguistically and visually making them stand out as the most legitimate contexts for teaching English as a foreign language in Algeria. The international/global culture also is given a considerable place in the three textbooks but is most often associated with Western/European cultures than with the learners’ national/local culture or Other English speaking countries cultures. It is only with the recent textbook New Prospects that the national/local culture started to be given more prominence. Though locally designed, Algerian EFL textbooks seem to reproduce Native-Speakerism and Centre vs. Periphery discourses which establish a hierarchy among different cultures. As a result they promote transmission ideologies where culture is reduced to its surface aspects and packaged as a set of facts and meanings but not as dialogue. They accordingly distort the relation of the Self and the Other by not giving opportunities for Thirdness to emerge. This tendency, however, is challenged by the recent textbook New Prospects which, though still focuses on main stream British and American cultures, affords a more prominent place for the local culture and provides more opportunities for intercultural learning.