Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The World Wide Web and the Representation of Culture within the Elt Context

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The World Wide Web and the Representation of Culture within the Elt Context

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Today, the Internet has proven to be quite useful in language programs, and English has established itself as the unifying language of the World Wide Web. Since culture is considered as the integral part of the language instruction, the cultural content of ELT materials needs to be selected with extreme caution. Therefore, the present study is an attempt to put the cultural content of the online ELT materials under close scrutiny in order to verify the degree to which culture has been represented appropriately. To this end, 60 web pages on four websites presenting online reading materials were selected from among myriads of websites designed for EFL/ESL students around the world, and a content analysis of the reading materials was carried out following Aliakbari's (2004) model along with Ramirez and Hall's (1990) categorization. The results of the analysis revealed that there seems to be an inclination towards the culture of the Inner Circle countries in the reading materials in question, and that the 'religion, arts, and humanities' sphere has dominated other cultural themes. Hence, the representation of culture on the Web needs to be reexamined if English language is aimed to be used as a means of intercultural communication in the era of globalization.

KEY WORDS: culture, globalization, content analysis, ELT websites, online reading materials

1. Introduction

The close interrelation between language and culture cannot be denied. In fact, language and culture can be regarded as the two sides of a coin (Rashidi & Najafi, 2010). "Culture thus shapes and is shaped by language" (Kulkami, Rajeshwarkar, & Dixit, 2012, p.15).

Due to the unquestionable significance of culture in language programs, attempts have been made throughout the years to inject culture into language lessons. However, the integration of culture into language programs is by no means easy (Sharif & Yarmohammadi, 2013), and "prior to the injection of culture into the language classroom, sound decisions must be made regarding the cultural content of language materials and the manner culture is going to be presented" (Sharif & Yarmohammadi, 2013, p. 13452).

Crotazzi and Jin (1999), as cited in McKay (2003), have distinguished between three types of cultural content that can be specified in language materials: source culture which draws upon the learner's home culture, target culture that focuses on the culture of Inner Circle countries whose first language is English, and international culture which relies on the culture of different countries around the globe. Aliakbari (2004) speaks of another type of cultural content which he refers to as neutral with little or no interest in culture; materials discussing science, history, geography, morphology, etymology, grammatical features, etc. are culturally neutral (Ur, 1996).

As McKay (2003) puts it, the question of which cultural content to present in language materials has induced a large body of research, investigating the cultural content of ELT textbooks at secondary, institutional, and even tertiary levels (see Aliakbari, 2004; Khajavi & Abbasian, 2011; Rashidi & Najafi, 2010; Ziaei, 2012; Juan, 2010; and Sharif & Yarmohammadi, 2013).

Before the invention of the computer, the cultural content of ELT materials could be considered "one of the best recourses for introducing culture knowledge" (Juan, 2010, p. 138). Nowadays, with the advent of the computer and the Internet, the World Wide Web has become a reliable source for the online presentation of ELT materials. In essence, "...textbook writers and publishers, in order to appear more innovative and flexible, have embraced technology and adapted materials and methods accordingly, including CD's, DVD's, downloadable content and media as well as extensive web support for teachers and students" (Reimann, 2009, p. 86).

Studies analyzing the cultural content of ELT textbooks abound, yet published studies investigating the cultural content of online ESL/EFL materials are scarce. …

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