Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Is There Room for Pragmatic Knowledge in English Books in Iranian High Schools?

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Is There Room for Pragmatic Knowledge in English Books in Iranian High Schools?

Article excerpt


Pragmatic competence and its development has been a pivotal issue in ELT in the last two decades. This paper explored pragmatic knowledge incorporation into Iranian EFL textbooks. Three high school English books named 'English Book 2, English Book 3 and Learning to Read English for Pre-University Students' were investigated with regard to their use of pragmatic features of English. These three textbooks were analyzed specifically based on speech acts, four politeness strategies, and lexical and syntactic classification. In addition, tense in temporal deixis, adjacency pairs and hesitation marks were analyzed too. The findings demonstrated that little consideration is given to the incorporation of pragmatic knowledge in developing these materials. This shortcoming may partially account for artificiality of the textbooks. Based on the findings, it is suggested that textbook developers include more pragmatic knowledge into Iranian EFL textbooks to increase on the one hand the authenticity of the textbooks and on the other hand pragmatic knowledge of Iranian EFL students.

Keywords: EFL books, high school, politeness strategy, pragmatic knowledge, speech acts

1. Introduction

Language is, without doubt, fundamental in the creation of the global village. This can be to the extent that its nonexistence makes the globalization shake to the core. Knowledge of languages enables us to perceive new horizons, to think globally, and to increase our understanding of ourselves and of our neighbors. Languages are then the lifeline of globalization, and communicating internationally demands languages through which meanings are created and exchanged. However, creating and exchanging meanings are not that easy since language is a complex system. It is composed of many different subsystems: phonology, morphology, lexicon, syntax, semantics and pragmatics (Freeman, 1997).

Learning language even without one of these subsystems will not be a complete learning. Pragmatics, also, if not more important than others, can be as important as others, and as Grice (1975) stated, pragmatics should center on the more practical dimension of meaning, namely the conversational meaning. Therefore, including pragmatics in EFL textbooks not only is not worthless but also leads to authentic and enjoyable performance of EFL students. Such performance is not well evident in the speech or writings of most EFL students particularly among Iranian EFL learners.

In Iranian EFL context, it is mostly through EFL textbooks that primary (perhaps only form of linguistic) input is provided for the learners. However, it seems that these textbooks on the one hand scale down pragmatic knowledge and on the other hand lend too much weight to syntactic knowledge. We can all remember the words like "Ali, Mehdi, Reza, Mina, Mr. Taban, Tabriz, Tehran, Ardebil, Hafez Avenue, Alavi Avenue, etc" in our EFL textbooks, but what about words such as church, English names or cities in other countries? Of course, one can see the word "London" among the names of four Iranian cities (English Book 2, p. 81), but is that enough? Have our EFL students received sufficient information about how to open or terminate a conversation? Or how to fill the gaps in conversations? Do Iranian students have nothing to show when they want to greet an English person, ask for something, complain, offer, or talk on the phone? Can they enter a meaningful interaction in these situations after many years of studying English at public schools?

Have our English students been told why past tense is used in second conditional sentences, or why is could more polite than can while requesting, or are they just simply asked to memorize formulaic structures? Why does an Iranian speaker of English typically say "Sorry for bothering you" while he/she is leaving the host/hostess's house? Why dose he/she say "Sorry, it isn't such a nice present" while a present is given to an English friend? …

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