Evaluating the representations of identity options and cultural elements in English language textbooks used in Saudi Arabia
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:09 by Awatif Fahad K. Alshammri
Given the importance of teaching language learners cultural identities and culture along with language to enhance their cultural awareness and communicative competence, this thesis evaluates six textbooks from the Lift off series to examine their representations of culture and cultural identities in the imagined communities offered to Saudi learners of English in the intermediate stage (Grades 7-9). Data were collected from pictures, reading passages and dialogues. Fairclough's (1995) Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) framework was used for analyzing the data. The textbooks contain two clearly delineated imagined communities, one of Saudi characters and the other of foreign characters. These were examined for gender, occupational identities, ethnicity, nationality and religious affiliation. In addition, the cultural content ascribed to both the source culture (Saudi culture) and the target culture ('Western' culture) was examined. The findings reveal that the representation of Saudi characters is accurate in terms of identity options but that there is oversimplification, misrepresentation and imbalance in the representations of foreign characters. In addition, the findings show that the content of these textbooks focuses on representations of Saudi and Islamic cultures, i.e. the source culture and religion of Saudi learners. By contrast, the textbooks introduce simplistic representations of Western culture(s). The identity representations and cultural content in the textbooks under examination can thus be described as 'Saudi-centric'. These oversimplifications and misrepresentations of foreign characters and foreign cultures may have a negative impact on learners' motivation and may also lead to weak English competence. Thus, this research has implications for textbook design and suggests that a broader range of identity options of non-Saudi people and cultures should be included in English language teaching materials.