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Review of  Ideology and Hegemony of English Foreign Language Textbooks


Reviewer: Nasiba Norova
Book Title: Ideology and Hegemony of English Foreign Language Textbooks
Book Author: Ömer Gökhan Ulum Dinçay Köksal
Publisher: Springer Nature
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 31.2882

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Review:
SUMMARY

A collaborative work of two scholars, Ömer Gökhan Ulum from Mersin University and Dinçay Köksal from Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, ''Ideology and Hegemony of English Foreign Language Textbooks” brings a stimulating and refreshing critical analysis of English as a foreign language (EFL) textbooks to the field of Applied Linguistics. The book is a dissertation project turned into a monograph by the authors. Accordingly, it follows the structure of a dissertation, being divided into seven chapters including Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Data Analysis, Findings & Interpretations, Discussion and Conclusions & Implications. I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the growing field of textbook evaluation, as well as to all EFL pre-and in-service teachers, university students, Education ministries of governments and publishing houses who must know the impact of ideological and hegemonic practices in textbooks.

Chapter 1, Introduction, states a major aim and the significance of the study. By emphasizing the practical role of textbooks in EFL contexts, the authors raise an issue of ''hidden agenda'' in the textbooks propagating certain ideology and hegemonic beliefs on language learners. The authors note the absence of involvement of students and teachers in the analysis of ideology and hegemony in EFL textbooks. Accordingly, the study attempts to unravel not only the ideology and hegemony in the textbooks, but also neglected and undermined ideologies uncovered in the content by interviewing the teachers and the students who use those textbooks. The study aims to investigate the ideologies, value orientations, and hegemonic practices prevailing in globally and locally produced EFL textbooks. The significance of the study also stems from the research gap the researchers found while reviewing the literature. The adopted theoretical framework is Critical theory drawn from Post-structuralism. The rationale behind their choice is that “post-structuralism underlines the heterogeneity of the text as well as its political and ideological aspects” (p. 7). Therefore, in the following Literature Review chapter, they go over the concepts elucidating the notion of ideology and hegemony from many perspectives, including politics.

The second chapter of the book, Literature Review, defines the key concepts that influence the textbook content and stance. The authors' review includes various topics including globalization, the role of English in the globalization process, the diversity of Englishes or the development of World Englishes, the concept of ideology, including some political, linguistic, economic, and cultural ideologies. All these concepts are tied to the textbook evaluation process which is also explained in this chapter. As they assert “Textbooks [include]… representations of political, cultural, economic negotiations and conflicts. In that sense, textbooks cannot be innocent and pure” (pp. 42-43).

The third and the fourth chapters describe the Methodology and Data analysis processes respectively. The chapters comprise the description of research design, employed methods, settings, instruments, and involved participants. The mixed-methods approach was chosen for this study, in which qualitative (semi-structured interviews and textbook or documentary analysis) and quantitative data (questionnaire using a Likert scale) was involved. The study focuses on both descriptive and interpretative phenomenology to examine the ingrained ideology and hegemony of EFL textbooks. In total 18 EFL textbooks (6 globally written and 12 locally written in Turkey and Iran), 1176 participants (1014 students and 162 students) were involved. The participants were students and teachers having affiliation to two preparatory schools of two universities and five high schools located in the city of Adana, Turkey. All instruments used for the analysis, including questionnaires for textbook analysis and the semi-structured interview, were piloted and examined using statistical tools for reliability and validity purposes.

The fifth chapter includes information on the findings of the data analysis. The results pertaining to ideological elements, and hegemonic elements identified from the students’ and teachers’ interview transcripts are described. The interview analysis and salient coded data are presented thoroughly. The findings also include the documentary analysis of locally and globally written EFL textbooks in which they analyzed the textbooks for the presence of ideological elements pertaining to culture, economy, religion, history, education, language, sports, politics, law, gender, partialism, multiculturalism and affirmative action in the textbooks.

The sixth chapter, Discussion, is devoted to discussion of the findings concerning research questions imposed at the beginning of the study. The researchers systematically investigated the compounds of ideology and hegemony in both globally and locally written textbooks used in Turkey and compared and contrasted their findings with other scholarly work similar to theirs. It is worth noting that the book is very comprehensive in determining the elements of ideology and hegemony depicted overtly and covertly in the textbooks. The major finding of the study is that, the inner-circle countries' cultural ideologies and hegemonies in globally written textbooks were prevalent, while expanding-circle countries were mainly present in locally written textbooks along with the hegemony and ideology of host/local countries (Turkey and Iran). While discussing a research question on participants’ perceptions about underlying ideological and hegemonic practices existing in the EFL textbooks, the chief finding showed a discrepancy in views of student and teacher populations. The high school and university students’ perceptions and teachers’ perceptions did not match on many aspects of ideology and hegemony of the textbooks, thus demonstrating varied pedagogical values and educational demands/needs.

The last chapter, Conclusions, reiterates the focus, the objectives, the research questions, and evaluations of major findings by giving detailed implications and recommendations to EFL in-service teachers at high school and university, EFL learners, language policymakers, and the textbook authors/publishers.

EVALUATION

There are plenty of strong points of the book that need to be mentioned first. To begin with, the organization of the book is excellent; all sections are very clearly organized, and very readable. The literature review encompassing definitions of key terms associated with a variety of ideological and hegemonic compounds is well-defined and concise. The review section effectively brings different economic, political, theoretical, pedagogical concepts together to clarify the subject matter and its significance for status quo. Apparently, the authors intend to make the book accessible to all kinds of reading audiences and provide very systematic review. Clearly, this is a plausible aspect of the book as well. Yet, they keep subtle epistemic stances until the end of the section, and do not clearly indicate the research gap or the niche in the field of textbook evaluation while examining and defining ideological and hegemonic components in general. Also, while introducing the notion of World Englishes (WE) and the countries described in Kachru’s three circles, the authors convey their opinions subtly regarding WE ideology in textbooks. Additionally, at the end of the chapter, they provide a definition of two approaches, a Process-based, and Application based approach of ideological meaning analysis; yet it is vague how these approaches are related to their study and how they could be implemented in general. Finishing up the chapter with these definitions is confusing.

The methodology section is also well organized and coherently put for the reader to clearly picture the study with the possibility to replicate it, if one desires to. However, what confused me is to determine who the principal investigator (PI) or the person who conducted the interviews, collected and analyzed the data is. By looking at the cover of the book, many assume that it is a collaborative work of two scholars, yet it is not reflected in the methodology when they describe the PI and they refer to the person as “He” or the “Researcher”, for example, “the researcher had worked as an English teacher at state schools for several years” (p.49). This ambiguity distances the reader from the writer(s) and generates distrust in relation to collaborative work. In this chapter, the authors also explain the process of documentary analysis, i.e. textbook evaluation process, in which they analyze ideological and hegemonic elements through the checklist suggested by them. The checklist is neither included in appendices nor described in the Methodology section and the statements of the checklist remain problematic to the reader. It is also unclear if the analysis included only a language/textual component, or a multimodal semiotic approach was applied to the analysis. The uncertainty deepens when they discuss both images and textual representation of ideology and hegemony in the textbooks when they mention the findings in the subsequent chapters. How the checklist functions in this case is problematic for not only understanding the process of documentary analysis, but also to implement it for replication purposes.

The chapter I found particularly enlightening is the Discussion section in which they review their findings and put them in juxtaposition with other similar works conducted in the area. Thus, they were able to accomplish the goal they pursued, which is to determine ''what is contained in the textbook as ideology, (and) what is not contained as well'' (p.3). Accordingly, they found the topics which were excluded or ignored in the textbooks, such as ''racism, critical thinking, sex education, gender-related issues including LGTBQ+ population, feminism, poverty and some political issues''. Indeed, finding out the exclusion of these topics from the textbooks is an exceptional discovery for the study; however, one wonders whether these topics have to do with the general scope of the study which is ideology and hegemony. At least, it remains unclear to the reader.

Last but not least, the last section comprising conclusive remarks and implications for a variety of population engaged in education is done very thoroughly, enumerating recommendations to avoid “ideological and hegemonic” biases. The implications, in particular, exclusively highlight and exemplify the role of English and EFL textbooks can play not only in the educational life of language instructors and learners, but also for their identity construction and future endeavors. Yet, the researchers failed to mention the limitations of their work as well as recommendations for the future work to avoid them.

To sum up, despite some shortcomings, I would like to reiterate the excellence of the book. It is very comprehensive and well developed and highly suggested to read, reflect, and apply to teaching and language learning practice.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
I am a first-year Ph.D. student in Applied Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, specializing in ESL & bilingual education. I obtained a BA in English Philology (BSU), an MA in Applied Linguistics (UPV), and an MA in English: TESL (MNSU). My research interests include how multilingual speakers use their linguistic and cultural capital to construct their identities; exploring bilingual speaker-identities through narratives, and integration of Global Englishes in the ESL writing curriculum, textbook evaluation. Currently, I am a Research/Graduate assistant and ESL instructor at UMass Boston.