Whose “Culture” Is It Anyway? Learning Communicative and Intercultural Competence from EFL Textbooks

Ruhma Choudhury

Due to the rise of the Internet and internationalization of English, teaching of English as a foreign language (EFL) has undergone a paradigm shift from drills and grammar to communicative competence which Spitzberg (1988) defines as "the ability to interact well with others" (p.68); EFL learners develop intercultural awareness and communicative competence by engaging with the cultural content presented in the instructional materials (Dunnett, 1996; Kumaravadivelu, 2008). Culture, therefore, plays an important role in learning the target language. For the majority of EFL learners, the textbooks are the only source of linguistic input and cultural knowledge (Kim & Hall, 2002), providing them with communicative practices that mimic real-life conversations. Given the importance of culture in language learning, an important question is how and whose culture should be presented in the EFL textbooks. In this presentation, I will argue that the intercultural content covered in majority of the EFL textbooks presents a cultural bias because textbooks focus more on the cultural practices of the English-speaking countries than local customs (McKay and Bokhorst-Heng, 2008; Triyoga, 2010). Using the findings from EFL textbook research, I argue that learners are more motivated when the target language is learned through the context of the local culture (McKay and Bokhorst-Heng, 2008). Finally, I offer suggestions to educators on how to address culture to complement EFL textbooks they are assigned