Representation of Culture in EFL Textbooks and Learners’ Preference

Abstract

The present study explored cultural representation in the “Total English” textbook, one of the most popular EFL teaching materials, and learners’ preferences with regards to the subject matter. It was hypothesised that the textbook lacked balance in terms of the three types of culture: source, target and international. Through the method of content analysis, it was discovered that the balance was not maintained, indeed, as the contents were skewed toward target culture representation. The results of the survey taken by ten participants of high school and junior undergraduate age showed that source culture was the least interesting for the learners. The participants prioritized skill development and target and international cultural training.

Introduction

It is now widely recognized that language and culture are interrelated, intertwined and interdependent aspects of social life. Languages provide some of the most precise and comprehensive reflections of the complexity that is every world’s culture. In a way, languages bear a cultural code seamlessly embedded in them, which adds an extra layer of difficulty in mastering them. Contemporary research shows that the connection and relationship between language, culture and thought are more profound than one may expect.

For instance, Imai, Kanero andMasuda (2016) summarise recent evidence in regards to cultural psychology and cognitive linguistics. The researchers show that the language that a person speaks influences the following mental faculties:

  1. knowledge representation;
  2. memorisation;
  3. ecological reasoning; and
  4. higher order semantic processing (Imai, Kanero & Masuda 2016).

The impact of culture on individuals’ linguistic and other mental faculties does not end there. Imai, Kanero and Masuda (2016) provide more evidence to make the case for a strong connection between language and culture. In particular, a person’s cultural background and upbringing determine such aspects as attention. categorisation, causal attribution and inferences of other individuals’ attitude (Imai, Kanero & Masuda 2012). From the researchers’ insights into the nature of language and culture, it becomes clear that learning a foreign language is impossible without coming into close contact with its cultural aspects. Another possible conclusion from the evidence presented is that English learners may experience interference with their own cultural background when learning about foreign cultures.

With the rise of globalization and cultural interconnectedness, it has become inevitable to heed the cultural aspect and emphasise the intercultural competencies (ICC) in the EFL classroom. As Mahmood, Asghar and Hussain (2012) predict, developing ICCs as one of the language learning goals will become even more prominent in the future due to the current globalization trends that are unlikely to dampen any time soon. Further, Mahmood, Asghar and Hussain (2012) argue that culture provides grounds for meaningful content, learning materials and class-discussion. Introducing cultural elements in the EFL classrooms may help teachers recreate practical situations, partaking in which could enable learners to become better intercultural communicators.

The importance of cultural knowledge is now officially recognized by some of the most influential institutions. One of them is the Council of Europe (n.d.) that has included ICCs to be part of its common frame of reference for language proficiency. In alignment with the most prominent language institutions, education policy-makers and practitioners are now overwhelmingly adapting their materials to include more information about culture (Mahmood, Asghar & Hussain 2012). While this new trend might seem to be progressive, there is still a number of issues to be resolved.

As Liu (2016) shows, despite the vast diversity of EFL curriculums, textbooks and other learning materials, there is no common standard for how culture should be introduced in the EFL classroom. The first problem that may arise is the problem of conceptualisation of culture itself. Delaney (2017) shows that culture is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of concepts, including social customs and beliefs as well as arts and knowledge. Given the breadth of the category, it may not be exactly clear which aspects should take priority over the others.

Another issue that requires further investigation in the field of EFL is exactly what ICCs include. According to Byram et al. (2002), the three key components of intercultural competence include knowledge, skills and attitude. Knowledge is factual information about a particular culture or a country; typically, knowledge is objective and does not contain any ideological undertone (Byram et al. 2002). Skills can be described as an English learners’ abilities to process cultural knowledge and apply it when necessary. Attitude has more to do with a person’s ability to come into contact with other cultures, preserve their own identity and respect others.

As seen from the classification by Byram et al. (2002), the key ICCs are interconnected and should be taught as such. As Byram et al. (2002) writes, it is the role of the language teacher to help to develop skills, attitudes and awareness of values insofar as dissipating key facts about a particular culture or country. According to Byram et al. (2002) even though ICCs have long been an integral part of language education, the focus has been mainly on cultural knowledge. Students are often merely given unrelated, sporadic facts about a country: the information that does not easily find any further application and is often forgotten. This issue should not remain untackled: it is only reasonable to include all three elements in language education.

Now that the key ICCs are clarified, a logical question may arise as to which culture should actually be taught in school as part of the EFL curriculum. As Pennycook (2007) suggests, English teaching materials have long been gravitating toward solely representing the culture of English-speaking countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Pennycook (2007) argues that the overrepresentation of the anglosphere in textbooks is indicative of the colonialist legacy. Byram, Esarte-Sarries, Taylor and Allat (1991) argue that English learners’ training to know how to behave appropriately in an English-speaking culture should not the end-all be-all of cultural training. Byram et al. (2002) emphasise the importance of achieving the purpose of both facilitated and improved international and intranational communication through learning English.

Before moving ahead to defining the focus of the study, it is imperative to introduce the key terms used in this paper. The theoretical framework employed in this research builds on the ideas put forward by Byram et al. (2002) and Cortazzi & Jin (1991)

Before moving ahead, it is better to introduce the terms used in the study. Cortazzi & Jin (1991: pp. 204-5) define the types of culture that are encountered in ESL / EFL textbooks:

  1. source culture, or native culture of the learner;
  2. target culture, or the culture of the countries where English is spoken as a first language (examples: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, etc.);
  3. international culture, or the cultural amalgamation of English and non-English speaking countries. The representation of international culture concerns itself with demonstrating the possibilities of English use as well as developing foreign language skills in the multicultural context.

According to Byram, foreign languages need to be introduced through the representation of target culture. If this is accomplished, then students have a better chance to comprehend the use of language in its original setting. However, Kachru (1992) argued that while the benefits of source culture presentation in EFL textbooks might not be evident at first glance, they become apparent upon further analysis. According to the researcher, there is hardly such a thing as “global practice” of English; the phenomenon that is observed now can be more rightfully conceptualised as “glocalisation of English.”

Wesche (2004) marries the two points by putting forward an idea that appears to be a compromise between the global and local use of the English language. The researchers claims that English should be taught in a way that English learners could conceptualise their own culture using a foreign language. At the same time, in order to integrate into the original English-speaking settings, they need to be able to temporarily erase a part of their identity to adopt a strange cultural code (Wesche 2004). Ideally, the contents of EFL curriculum and syllabi should strike a balance between these two points.

Overall, adequate culture inculcation into young generation is a challenging issue. This study acknowledges the complexity of the task and seeks to raise awareness of stakeholders, teachers and students (Ishihara & Cohen 2014). The present research draws on the classification of culture representation types put forward by Byram et al. (1991). We rely on the assumptions made by Byram et al. (1991), Kachru (1992) and Wesche (2004) and share the belief in the importance of equal representation in EFL syllabi and curriculums.

Research Focus

The first research focus of the present study is the evaluation of English textbooks with the purpose of locating the elements of cultural representation as well exploring English learners’ preferences with regards to the subject matter. As it becomes clear from the preceding statement, the focus of this study is two-fold: it takes into account the insights of an external, impartial observer as well as English learners’ first-hand experiences, likes and dislikes.

There is a clear rationale behind paying regards to textbooks as one of the sources of cultural knowledge in both teachers and learners. As Liu (2016) assumes, textbooks influence teaching in a profound way. Textbooks facilitate the process of lesson planning by providing a wide variety of resources and tasks to cover a multitude of topics. Because of the great selection of textbooks available, the issue emerged as to how language educators and applied linguists should assess their adequacy and appropriateness (Demir & Ertas 2014). This study seeks to apply an existing theoretical framework of cultural representation to a popular EFL textbook.

The need to explore English learners’ attitudes toward cultural representation is motivated by recent research in EFL teaching as well as broader tendencies in education. Mellati and Khademi (2014) highlight the need for personalised learning paths in modern education. The researchers provide evidence suggesting that it is quite challenging to make generalisations regarding what would be the most effective approaches toward teaching student groups that are often heterogeneous (Mellati & Khademi 2014).

On par with Noddings (2018), Tharp (2018) and Mellati and Khademi (2014) argue that investigating learners’ preference should become one of the most essential steps toward humanistic education that allows for customisation and adjustment. Thus, solely relying on the opinion of an independent rater is not enough when analyzing the quality of a textbook with regards to cultural representation. Students can and should have a say in the process, which is why their preferences have become one of the essentials of this study.

To achieve the purpose of this research, the following questions were devised: (1) How is the anglophone culture represented in the “Total English” textbook series? (2) Are there any differences in learners’ preference regarding cultural representation in EFL textbooks? (3) How do English learners view cultural training and what are their preferred methods?

Research Method

We selected one of the best selling textbooks used in EFL class in language institutes. Our initial investigation has shown that the selected textbooks were widely recommended for learners at all levels. For the present research, we focused on the “Total English,” upper-intermediate (B2 in the European framework of reference) books (Council of Europe n.d.). The motivation behind choosing textbooks of a higher level draws on the literature research and theoretical frameworks used in this study.

According to the assessment grid devised by the Council of Europe (n.d.), at the upper-intermediate level, speakers can demonstrate high cohesion in their speech as well as differentiate between nuances and shades of meaning. The cultural aspect of the language teaching and learning has a lot to do with handling subtleties and understanding context, which is allegedly most likely to be possible once a speaker achieves relative fluency and proficiency. Hence, it was compelling for us to deal with speakers and materials that provide more space and opportunities for cultural investigation.

The selected textbook was analyzed for cultural representations inserted in them and the frequency of cultural representation occurrences was measured and tabulated. Cultural representation was discovered through the content analysis that concerned itself with investigating the contents of conversations, texts, articles and readings with the purpose of finding the elements of cultural representation. We admit that cultural representation is a nebulous concept that may still be challenging to pinpoint even after operationalizing it in the introduction sector. For the sake of reliability and replicability, a second rater was invited to redo the analysis (Golafshani 2003).

To examine the preferences of high-school students and tertiary education learners in EFL cultural representation, a nine-item questionnaire was developed, piloted and administered to English learners. The purpose of the questionnaire was to pinpoint and measure students’ reactions to different kinds of cultural representation in EFL textbooks. Their preferences, likes and dislikes had to be quantified in a comprehensive way, for which a five-point Likert scale was used.

The second part was live interviews consisting of four questions regarding students’ interest in culture training and their own approaches to becoming familiar with foreign cultures. The interviews were constructed to include only open questions compelling the interviewees to self-reflect and be semi-structured to leave some space for unexpected insights or additional remarks.

As seen from the description of the research method, the present study employes mixed methodology. There is a certain rationale behind combining the two main types of methodologies for studying the chosen subject matter. Quantitative methods used in this paper include the processing of numerical data. The results of data analysis in this case are bound to be more objective and inferential (Barnham 2015). They will enable the researchers to see the associations between the studied concepts or the lack thereof. Qualitative methods used for this study are more subjective; yet, they provide their own advantages (Austin & Sutton, 2014).

Interviews allow researchers to gain deeper insights into the subject matter. In the case of this study, it is compelling to understand how students themselves conceptualise critical thinking. Besides, numerical data does not explain exactly what students are looking for in EFL curriculums and namely, in EFL textbooks terms of cultural representation. Thus, conducting a series of thought-provoking interviews was found to be beneficial for analyzing personal reflections and understanding English learners’ preferences.

Data Collection

For data collection, the method of convenience sampling has been employed. Researchers contacted several local high schools to see if they would be interested in partaking in the study. The schools have been chosen based on two criteria:

  1. their proximity to the research center;
  2. the presence of immigrant students.

The instant vicinity of educational facilities as one of the defining criteria was motivated by the necessity to hold live sessions with students. The second criterion was more challenging to meet: for the study, it was important to choose students whose first language was not English, but who were fairly fluent. This excluded second-generation immigrants as they have grown up in an English speaking environment.

Controlling for the level of proficiency in English and ethnical background took more thoughtfulness and consideration. After two schools agreed to participate, teachers were contacted for referrals. The teaching staff was more or less aware of the students’ level of English, which facilitated the sampling process. As a result, ten students fully agreed to partake in the research. Their mean age was 19 years (SD = +- 1.5); 60% (six students) were female and 40% (four students) male.

All the students were Spanish-speaking and came from the countries in Central and South America. The homogeneity of the ethnical background was motivated by the need to select materials that would reflect the source culture. For the sake of simplicity and replicability, the source culture was defined as the Latin culture. Since the students were exposed to the same types of materials, such factors as variation in visual quality, content quality and other properties could be excluded.

Researchers did their best to take ethical considerations when collecting data. First and foremost, participants’ anonymity and confidentiality were treated with utmost respect (Ryen 2016). Their actual names and other personal information were not included in the research so that their personalities remained unidentifiable. To ensure information security, each participant was assigned a numerical code. Secondly, researchers promoted autonomy and informed decision-making in students. Before consenting to participation, students were explained at length about the purpose of this study. The interviews were conducted only with those who volunteered to provide their opinion; the participation was not mandatory.

Data Analysis

Data analysis employed software such as Nvivo for the qualitative part of the research and SPSS for the quantitative part. The qualitative data (interview materials) was explored in accordance with the following hypothesis: H0 = “Students prefer balanced representation of all three kinds of culture: source, target and international.” The interview materials were uploaded to Nvivo software and explored for overarching patterns by adding relevant quotes to respective Nvivo nodes. For the first quantitative part of the study, numerical analysis was conducted. First, we counted the total number of words in the “Total English” textbook. Later, two categories were defined: cultural words and neutral words (see Table 1). The need to do this type of calculation was motivated by the ideas put forward by Imai, Kanero and Masuda (2016) and a similar study by Byram (1994). According to the researchers, culture finds its expression in the language and reflects itself in words, thus, making the calculation reasonable.

However, not only the number of words mattered in the scope of the present research. What was also computed is the number of encounters of cultural representation. An encounter was operationalized as a single instance in which a cultural element was mentioned. It could be in the form of factual information, an exercise for developing intercultural skills, or anything that was culturally oriented and aiming at helping students to rectify their attitude. Since the definition of a cultural representation instance might be interpreted differently, we contrasted the results put together by two raters using the method of matrix comparison. The method did not show any significant differences between the two evaluations, rendering the results valid.

The second quantitative part of the study concerned itself with evaluating students’ preferences. For this, students were offered nine tasks for evaluation on the Likert scale from one to five (see Table 7). Some of the tasks were taken from the analyzed textbook, “Total English,” the upper-intermediate level. However, due to the shortcomings of the selected textbook, it was not exactly possible to find exercises matching every type of cultural representation and ICCs. To make up for this shortage, we created appropriate tasks ourselves. It was imperative to maintain the inner consistency of the questionnaire and make sure that it was developed properly. To accomplish this, we computed Cronbach’s alpha coefficient (see Image 1 for detailed explanation and Table 8).

Cronbach’s alpha formula where N = the number of items; c̄ = average covariance between item-pairs; v̄ = average variance.
Image 1. Cronbach’s alpha formula where N = the number of items; c̄ = average covariance between item-pairs; v̄ = average variance.

Findings and Discussions

Textbook Content Analysis

Total Words Cultural Words Neutral Words
Absolute numbers 96570 2013 94557
Relative numbers 100% 2.084% 97.91%

Table 1. Overall findings of the cultural aspects in the “Total English” textbook (in absolute and relative numbers).

Source Culture Target Culture International Culture
Absolute numbers 156 1240 617
Relative numbers 7,774% 61% 30,6%

Table 2. The number of words used in cultural representation encounters categorised by the type of culture (in absolute and relative numbers).

Source Culture Target Culture International Culture
Absolute numbers 6 35 14
Relative numbers 10,9% 63,63% 25,45%

Table 3. The number of cultural representation encounters categorised by the type of culture (in absolute and relative numbers).

Source Culture Knowledge Skills Attitude
Absolute numbers 0 3 2
Relative numbers 0% 60% 40%

Table 4. The number of source cultural representation encounters categorised by the type of ICCs (in absolute and relative numbers).

Target Culture Knowledge Skills Attitude
Absolute numbers 17 8 10
Relative numbers 48,57% 22,85% 28,57%

Table 5. The number of target cultural representation encounters categorised by the type of ICCs (in absolute and relative numbers).

International Culture Knowledge Skills Attitude
Absolute numbers 3 8 3
Relative numbers 21,42% 57,14% 21,42%

Table 6. The number international cultural representation encounters categorised by the type of ICCs (in absolute and relative numbers).

As seen from Table 1, the contents dedicated to cultural representation in the selected textbook were scarce and only amounted to roughly 2% of the total word count. It implies that besides the increased awareness of the importance of the ICC development in EFL classrooms, this widely used and popular textbook fails to meet learners’ needs. The data presented in Table 2 is consistent with the earlier findings by Byram et al. (2002) that argued that cultural representation in EFL textbooks is skewed toward the target culture (the cultures of English speaking countries). The source culture was the least represented, at 7% of the word count and roughly 11% percent of all the cultural representation encounters. The second most represented culture was international (30.6% of the total word count and 25.45% of all encounters).

The selected textbook did not provide any exercises aimed at improving learners’ knowledge about the source culture (Table 4). However, it included dialogues and a few mentions in the reading texts that suggested communication skills development (60%) as well as cultural recognition (40%). The target culture was largely represented through exercises revolving around providing knowledge (48.57%). Skills and attitude exercises received equal attention and consideration from the textbook authors (22.85% and 28.57%).

International culture was taught through skill development exercises (57.14%), which was mostly accomplished in the form of dialogues, therefore, aiming at the improvement of the speaking aspect. Knowledge and attitude about international culture were both underrepresented (21.42% each) (Table 6). The findings are consistent with the literature research: target culture was not only overrepresented but was also mostly introduced through knowledge (texts, facts and pictures).

Learners’ Preferences

Contradictory to what Byram et al. (2002) suggest for EFL curriculums in terms of cultural training, the study participants were largely disinterested in source culture representation. The exercises aimed at knowledge, skill and attitude improvement were evaluated at 1.8, 2.7 and 1.6 out of five respectively. As seen from these values, students showed mild interest in the task focusing on communication skills. This was confirmed through interview data analysis: “I can’t say that learning about my own culture would be one of my goals of learning English.”

Another interviewee highlighted the importance of communication about source culture over passive knowledge consumption: “I am not as interested in learning as in teaching others I think.” The third interviewee, however, appreciated the rare instances of source culture recognition: “But well, everytime I hear someone speaking with a Spanish accent when we are doing listening tasks, it feels cool.” It seems that the lack of source culture representation in the selected textbook might not be a problem for students as this is not something they truly prioritise.

The exercises revolving around target culture were significantly more interesting for the study participants. The least popular was the knowledge exercise, graded at an average of 3.2. This shows a discrepancy between what students prefer and what the textbook provides. Interestingly enough, in the interviews, the students highlighted their interest in the UK and the US: “[…] I like reading the news, especially about the US.” This fact might imply that the problem was not with target culture representation as a whole but with the way it was presented: “But then again, you can’t fit everything in one textbook. I guess the teacher needs to be more flexible with it.”

The most popular exercise was the one focusing on the values of the target culture countries (the average of 4.8). Some other exercises that received high critical appraisal from the study participants were those revolving around international skills and attitude training. The latter is consistent with what all the interviewees highlighted when expressing their opinion about their English use. For example, one of them pondered: “I feel very good and inspired when I can speak English to people from other cultures.” Other examples include: “Being born to an immigrant family, I think I connected a lot with other kids coming from foreign countries”; “I’m really into computer gaming, especially RPGs. So now we have this online team, and we’re all from different countries.”

Overall, the study participants expressed slight disappointment with their current textbook as well as with how culture is taught to them. One interviewee shared that the knowledge that they were deriving was sporadic and not practical: “For example, at some point, we learned about how the government works. I can’t say it was useless, but now if you ask me, I probably won’t tell you much.” However, they showed understanding and appreciation: “Our teacher is open to bringing us extra materials when we ask.”

Limitations

For all its advantages, the present study is not devoid of certain limitations. First and foremost, the sample size was quite small (N=10), and even fewer study participants decided to stay for the interview. This undermines the study’s objectivity in a way and exposes it to two possible types of bias. The first is the selection bias: due to the convenience sampling, we prioritised the instant vicinity of educational facility for live sessions with participants (Noble & Smith 2015).

Because of the chosen sampling method, randomisation was not exactly possible. The second type of bias that might be present is the volunteer bias. One may assume that out of the ten participants, those who consented to an interview already had an interest in learning about cultures. It is safe to suspect that due to their interest and personal efforts, their cultural awareness was higher than average, which makes the group of the interviewees not exactly representative of broader populations.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The present study revealed the lack of cultural representation balance in one of the most widely used textbooks, “Total English.” Out of all types of cultures, the source culture was hardly represented while the contents mostly revolved around target and international cultures. The study participants did not show any significant interest in source culture representation. The most compelling exercises for them appeared to be those focusing on target and international cultures, especially if the purpose was skill development.

We hope that the results of the present research will be of use for education policy-makers and practitioners. One way this study could contribute to textbook development is to provide insights into the appropriate proportion between source, target and international cultural representation. At the same time, the findings suggest that knowledge, skills and attitude as the three pillars of the ICCs should be paid equal attention in the EFL classroom and have their place in EFL textbooks. As it has already been mentioned, probably the most imminent problem with cultural representation is the lack of balance in EFL textbooks.

For EFL teachers, the findings of the study have two implications to be considered. First and foremost, EFL teachers should acknowledge the autonomy and self-agency of students when teaching the cultural aspects of the language. Three of the interviewees made it a point to tell that they are actively researching cultural information outside the classroom to boost their ICCs. This insight suggests that students already have a well-formed opinion about the importance of ICCs as well as a strong interest and motivation. They should compel EFL teachers to be more interested in English learners’ preferences and transform the curriculum if possible to accommodate their needs.

The second valuable implication that EFL teachers might want to take into account is the importance of balancing cultural information. The findings of this study suggested that students were pleased and content to see the representation of their native (source) culture even though the selected course book only provided very scarce fragments reflecting it. This should compel EFL teachers to focus on how students could use English as a second language in the context of their own daily lives.

Another idea that could be put to good use is to reframe the “source,” native context in a way that it facilitates and motivates the learning as opposed to seeing it only as an interfering force. Lastly, EFL teachers as well as textbook authors should focus on the international aspect of English use and prepare students for integrating into society that is becoming ever more globalised and cosmopolitan.

The future research should tackle the shortcomings evident in the present study. First and foremost, it is recommended that for the subsequent studies, researchers recruit more participants. This is bound to provide researchers with more valuable data and better insights into the nature of cultural representation in EFL textbooks and learners’ preferences. Another suggestion is to work toward a common framework for analyzing EFL textbooks for balanced cultural representation. It may turn out that the framework that has been successfully implemented in the current study is not exactly appropriate for other types of textbooks. Together with examining learners’ feedback, tangible and analyzable results will provide even more insights for transforming curriculum to be more adequate and matching learners’ cultural needs.

References

Austin, Z & Sutton, J 2014, ‘Qualitative research: getting started’, The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, vol. 67, no. 6, pp. 436-440.

Barnham, C 2015, ‘Quantitative and qualitative research: perceptual foundations’, International Journal of Market Research, vol. 57, no. 6, pp. 837-854.

Byram, M, Esarte-Sarries, V, Taylor, E & Allat 1991, ‘Young people’s perceptions of other cultures’, in D. Buttjes & M. Byram (eds.), Mediating languages and cultures, Multilingual Matters, Clevedon.

Byram, M, Gribkova, B & Starkey, H 2002, Developing the intercultural dimension in language teaching: a practical introduction for teachers. Council of Europe, Strasbourg.

Cortazzi, M & Jin, L 1999, ‘Cultural mirrors: materials and methods in EFL classroom’, in E. Hinkel, Culture in second language teaching, pp. 196-219, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Council of Europe n.d., The CERF levelsWeb.

Delaney, C 2017, Investigating culture: an experiential introduction to anthropology, John Wiley & Sons.

Demir, Y & Ertas, A 2014, ‘A suggested eclectic checklist for ELT coursebook evaluation’, Reading, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 243-252.

Golafshani, N 2003, ‘Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research’, The Qualitative Report, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 597-606.

Ishihara, N & Cohen, AD 2014, Teaching and learning pragmatics: where language and culture meet, Routledge, Abingdon.

Kachru, B 1992, ‘Teaching world Englishes’, in B. Kachru (ed.), The other tongue, English across cultures (2nd ed.), University of Illinois Press.

Mahmood, MA, Asghar, ZM, & Hussain, Z 2012, ‘Cultural representation in ESL textbooks in Pakistan: a case study of “Step Ahead 1”’, Journal of Education and Practice, vol. 3, no. 9, pp. 35-42.

McPeck, JE 2016, Critical thinking and education, Routledge, Abingdon-on-Thames.

Mellati, M & Khademi, M 2014, ‘ELT learners’ preferences and teachers’ attitudes: Determinant factors in curriculum design’, International Journal of Language Learning and Applied Linguistics World, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 258-273.

Noble, H & Smith, J 2015, ‘Issues of validity and reliability in qualitative research’, Evidence-Based Nursing, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 34-35.

Noddings, N 2018, Philosophy of education, Routledge, Abingdon-on-Thames.

Pennycook, A 2007, ELT and colonialism, in International handbook of English language teaching, pp. 13-24, Springer, Boston.

Ryen, A 2016, Research ethics and qualitative research, Qualitative Research, pp. 31-46.

Tharp, R 2018, Teaching transformed: achieving excellence, fairness, inclusion, and harmony, Routledge, Abingdon.

Wesche, M 2004, Teaching languages and cultures in a post-9/11 world. Web.

Appendices

Questionnaire

Evaluate the attractiveness of the task, using the following scale:

  1. – absolutely not interesting;
  2. – not interesting;
  3. – neutral; would not mind completing it;
  4. – interesting;
  5. – absolutely interesting; would prefer completing it.
Type of cultural representation Type of ICCs trained Exercise (whether from “Total English” textbook or made up to fit the mold)
Source culture Knowledge A text about national holidays in Latin America (descriptions + colorful pictures);
Skills A speaking exercise in which English learners are asked to tell more about their home country, its culture and traditions;
Attitude A text about about Latin culture awareness week for reading and class discussion;
Target culture Knowledge A text about the political system in the US;
Skills Differences in British and American English (vocabulary and pronunciation);
Attitude A discussion about the values of the English-speaking countries
International culture Knowledge A comprehensive article about the use of English around the world, e.g. the countries where a big percentage of the population speaks English fluently
Skills Business ethics in different cultures, explained in English
Attitude A discussion about English accents, their acceptance and recognition

Table 7. Types of tasks aimed at cultural training and representation categorised according to the classification by Byram et al. (2002).

Students’ answers to the questionnaire

Student Source Culture/ Knowledge Source Culture/ Skills Source Culture/ Attitude Target Culture/ Knowledge Target Culture/ Skills Target Culture/ Attitude Int. Culture/ Knowledge Int. Culture/ Skills Int. Culture/ Attitude Total
1 2 3 2 3 5 4 5 5 5 35
2 1 3 1 2 4 3 5 3 4 28
3 2 2 1 3 5 5 5 4 5 35
4 2 3 1 3 5 5 5 5 3 36
5 2 3 2 2 5 5 5 5 4 38
6 1 2 1 3 5 3 4 4 5 34
7 1 3 1 5 4 5 5 4 5 40
8 2 4 2 5 5 4 5 4 4 43
9 4 1 3 4 5 5 4 5 5 45
10 1 3 2 3 4 3 5 5 5 41
Mean Value 1.8 2.7 1.6 3.3 4.7 4.2 4.8 4.4 4.5 32
Standard Deviation 0.9189365835 0.8232726023 0.6992058988 1.059349905 0.4830458915 0.9189365835 0.4216370214 0.6992058988 0.7071067812 4.97214463
Cronbach’s alpha 0.3978910009

Table 8. Students’ answers to the questionnaire.

Interviews

Interview 1

Do you learn a lot about other cultures in your English class? If yes, could you please tell about it in more detail?

I don’t think we are learning a lot about cultures. From what I remember from the previous years, we used to concentrate a lot on the politics in the UK and the US. For example, at some point, we learned about how the government works. I can’t say it was useless, but now if you ask me, I probably won’t tell you much.

Are you interested in learning about your own culture in English class? If yes, how would you like it to be done?

I can’t say that learning about my own culture would be one of my goals of learning English. I think English rather prepares you for international experience. I speak Spanish with people from my country and also at home, there is nothing new to learn there, really.

How do you plan to use your English knowledge? Do you plan to use it abroad, and if yes, in what situations do you think it could be helpful?

Being born to an immigrant family, I think I connected a lot with other kids coming from foreign countries. Of course, some of them spoke Spanish, so we communicated easily. The rest spoke other languages, so we all used English as a medium. I haven’t been abroad yet, so I can’t tell much.

Do you think your current textbook is enough for learning about cultures?

I don’t know if it’s enough, but I like the current textbook. What I liked about it is some recent listening tasks we had where we had to listen to non-native speakers.

Do you do any extra work to learn about them? If yes, what cultures are you most interested in?

Not really. But I like reading the news, especially about the US.

Interview 2

Do you learn a lot about other cultures in your English class? If yes, could you please tell about it in more detail?

Yes, sometimes we do. I can’t recall that we ever had lessons dedicated to some culture completely. But our teacher is open to bringing us extra materials when we ask.

Are you interested in learning about your own culture in English class? If yes, how would you like it to be done?

I am not as interested in learning as in teaching others I think. Coming from Columbia, I feel like people have stereotypes about my country. I’m rarely really offended and I’m totally happy to tell the truth to those who are curious.

How do you plan to use your English knowledge? Do you plan to use it abroad, and if yes, in what situations do you think it could be helpful?

I’m really into computer gaming, especially RPGs. So now we have this online team, and we’re all from different countries. I have so much fun using English, and I’m glad my English knowledge made it possible to talk to these guys. I tried using English on my trips to France, and I enjoyed it. Would love to have this experience again.

Do you think your current textbook is enough for learning about cultures?

I think it’s fine. What I like about it is that it doesn’t have these long useless texts about whatever. Instead, it has some cool exercises so that we could learn different variations of English.

Do you do any extra work to learn about them? If yes, what cultures are you most interested in?

Not really. Only occasionally when I research something that I’m interested in.

Interview 3

Do you learn a lot about other cultures in your English class? If yes, could you please tell about it in more detail?

Not that much. The only time when I can say I really learned something was when the teacher invited an exchange student from Europe to talk to us.

Are you interested in learning about your own culture in English class? If yes, how would you like it to be done?

Learning – not really. But well, every time I hear someone speaking with a Spanish accent when we are doing listening tasks, it feels cool.

How do you plan to use your English knowledge? Do you plan to use it abroad, and if yes, in what situations do you think it could be helpful?

I feel very good and inspired when I can speak English to people from other cultures. For example, I have this pen pal that I met on the Internet. She’s from Italy. We wouldn’t be able to become friends if we didn’t know English. Maybe if I ever go visit her, I’ll use my English knowledge to get by.

Do you think your current textbook is enough for learning about cultures?

Yes and no. I mean it has some useful information, but a lot is missing. But then again, you can’t fit everything in one textbook. I guess the teacher needs to be more flexible with it.

Do you do any extra work to learn about them? If yes, what cultures are you most interested in?

I’m really into American movies, I learn a lot of colloquial expressions from there. Also I like the lifestyle. But I can’t say I research cultures just because. Typically, it’s either movies or music.