English Non-Localized Textbooks national identity

On the Effect of English Non-Localized Textbooks on Iranian UpperIntermediate EFL learners ' National Identity
Naeemeh Ghasemian
English Department, Islamic Azad University, Torbat-e Heydarieh Branch, Iran
Email:[email protected]il.com
Khalil Motallebzadeh
English Department, Islamic Azad University, Torbat-e-Heydarieh Branch, Iran
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
Hamid Ashraf
English Department, Islamic Azad University, Torbat-e-Heydarieh Branch, Iran
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
The present study explores the effect of English textbooks on Iranian upper- intermediate
EFL learners' national identity. Top Notch and Four Corners series were selected as nonlocalized textbooks. All of these books were thought through Communicative Language
Teaching (CLT) method. The questionnaire employed in this study contained 44 items test of
cultural attitudes for measuring national identity of Iranian learners, investigated the cultural
attitudes of Iranian EFL learners. This questionnaire was used in this study as both the pretest
and the posttest. The sample of the study consisted of 90 Iranian upper intermediate learners
who were selected from different Institutes in Yazd. In order to homogenize, IELTS test
(General Training module) was administered to the participants. For qualitative section, an
interview was administered. In order to measure the probable effect, t-test was used to
analysis data. The results showed these English textbooks have significant effect on Iranian
upper intermediate EFL learner's national identity. However, Top Notch had the highest
effect on Iranian upper-intermediate learners.
Key words: National Identity, English textbooks, Upper Intermediate Learners
Most textbooks being used in different institutions are designed and published in
European countries. Thus, these English textbooks either have directly or indirectly
influences on learners' identity. Therefore, learning a second language may have some
consequences such as loss of identity, changes in beliefs that might lead to alter culture and
influencing individual and social behavior. Estel (2002) points out that:
National identity is a measure of self-identity, which permits a person to
belong to which country or countries, nation or nations and feel closely
connected to the members of that community. Therefore; one aspect of
collective identity is national identity which is defined as its interpretation
by the members of that collective not the systematic connection which is
built by human beings (p. 108).
Thornbury (2006) states that the extent to which a language learner is identified with speakers
of the target language might effect on their motivation and their success or failure. Similarly,
their second language identity may support or threaten their first language identity, too.
According to Guibernau (2007), national identity is defined as a collective sentiment based
on the belief of belonging to some nation. This belief shares most of the attributes that make
it different from other nations.
The present study is an attempt to investigate the effect of English textbooks on
Iranian upper-intermediate foreign Language learners' national identity. The researchers try to
consider how EFL learner's national identity is influenced by the English textbooks; in other
words, the question is whether English textbooks could have any significant effect on Iranian
upper intermediate EFL learner's national identity.
Thornbury (2006) believes that identity is not a stable, unified entity. Instead, people
construct many identities out of attributes of their gender, ethnicity, job, family, relationship
and so on those change a lot. The notion of identity is a very broad concept. It encompasses
different dimensions such as individual, public, ego, social, cultural, and national identity.
Therefore, learning a foreign language may have significant effects on identity, especially the
national one. According to Bloom (1990), national identity is defined as a condition in which
most people have made the same identification with national symbols and they attempt to
internalize the symbols of the nation - so that they may act as one psychological group when
there is a threat, or the possibility of enhancing these symbols of national identity. According
to Piller (2007), actual identity of each person includes a sense of continuity, a sense of
uniqueness from others, and a sense of affiliation. Identity helps individuals recognize
themselves as separate and distinct entities.
Related Studies
Few studies have investigated ELT textbooks in Iran. For example, Abbasian and
Khajay (2011) studied English language teaching in public schools in order to investigate the
textbooks in relation to national identity and globalization in Iran. They used three ELT
textbooks, which were published by ministry of education, taught at Iranian high schools, to
examine if they were suitable for the age of globalization. The results of the study clearly
indicated that high school textbooks have not been successful in familiarizing students with
cultural matters of other countries. Therefore, the results illustrated that the percentage of
textbooks materials related to globalization was very limited. The percentage of textbooks
materials related to national identity was quite inadequate. This study revealed that current
ELT textbooks, which are being taught in Iranian high schools, were not efficient at the age
of globalization.
Mozaheb. and Behnam, (2013) studied identity, religion, and new definition of
inclusiveness in Iranian high school EFL textbooks. The main aim of their study was to
investigate the relationship between religion and education in Iranian EFL textbooks. The
instruments were "English 1, 2, 3", written by Iran' ministry of education. These researchers
used non-linear and linear analysis. The result demonstrated that there was only two explicit
mentioning of word "Islam" in book one. Scan of the dialogues demonstrated that the
participants engaged in the dialogues were mostly from the same sex or they had relative
relationship for instances both males and females were either father and daughter or brother
and sister. Therefore, the findings of this study revealed that religion was an integral part of
Iranian EFL textbooks, which taught indirectly. In addition, Iranian EFL textbooks promote
Islamic notions and ideology regarding theocratic countries.
Najafi and Rashidi (2010) studied the representation of culture in Iran Language
institute advanced level textbooks. The results indicated that in Advanced one and two most
of the sentences were of no reference and culture free statements. In addition, there were
1749 sentences in all these books, 420 sentences did not have no references culture.
However, in Advanced three and four, most of the sentences did not have any specific
statements referring to culture.
Zarei, G. R. (2011) examined cultural effects of L2 learning on Iranian learners
learning English. In order to figure out the cultural issues used in English textbooks, the
researcher compared the learners of English who were taught special books (Interchange)
with those not yet treated with the books. A questionnaire was administered to collect data
from two groups of English Language learners. They were selected from an English
Language Institute in Isfahan, Iran. The research findings showed learning English largely
modified the language learners’ perceptions of cultural issues. The conclusion was that
textbooks could make learners conceptualize the world as designated therein. Asgari (2011)
examined the compatibility of cultural value in Iranian EFl textbooks. Analyzing the
ideological content of textbooks is one of the major issues in critical linguistics and language
education. In her study, she attempted to find the cultural values, which were used in EFL
books and tried to find their influence on Iranian learners. In addition, the researcher tried to
detect the differences between culture and language among learners and evaluate the relative
importance of language. The instrument, which was selected for analyzing was one set of
textbooks -interchange series- which were taught in English language institute in Iran. The
result illustrated that new interchange series do contain cultural values. Although, the results
showed that cultural impact did not just occur through one book. On the other hand, the
results found by the researcher illustrated that these cultural values did not influence learners
studying these books differently from those who study English through another set of books.
Therefore, the researcher believed that if foreign books are considered without bias, the
learners in Iran could be encouraged to learn the positive values expressed in these books.
Poorebrahim (2012) studied sociocultural identity in EFL textbooks. The main
purpose of this study was to examine sociocultural identity of EFL textbooks, which have
been prescribed for use in the Iranian high schools by the ministry of Education. The
researcher selected English book 1, 2, 3, and Learning to Read English for Pre- University
Students. The result demonstrated that the authors of the book did not illustrate clearly the
final objectives of the curriculum. The short-term objectives remained unspecified in the
According to the structural complexity, starting from less complex structures to more
demanding ones, the authors of the books had sequenced the linguistic content of the
materials. There were not any authentic English pictures in all of these books. Therefore,
students had to look at culturally different pictures (Persian), but read and speak English. The
language of the textbooks, being decontextualized, was not used to communicate meaning,
and the main purpose of learning such "English" for Iranian students was to pass exams. The
materials and contents utilized in the process of learning were not linguistically or culturally
appropriate .The language used in our Iranian English textbooks was still based on the oldfashioned syllabus. While in contrast, language learning should be considered cyclical, the
language learning was linear. Finally, the result of the study illustrated that the materials used
in Iranian English textbooks did not take into account the creative aspect of language
(culture) and sociocultural theory. The use of culture-based activities in the classroom-helped
learners be familiar with the target culture. Therefore, the activities in the materials should
involve the cultural values of the target language designed for every level.
Javadi and Javadi, (2008) studied the national identity and globalization among 165
undergraduate students of the Payame Noor University in Islamabad and Gilane gharb cities
in Iran. They selected participants from these cities because most of their populations were
Kurds and Kurds were considered as an ethnicity in Iran. In this study, national identity was
considered as the pendent variable and age, sex, the degree and the kind of internet, satellite
and VCD use, in addition to family, friends, facility, satisfaction with education and life and
job in Iran, were considered as independent variables. As a result, they illustrated that the use
of sexual environment of the Internet, satellite programs and their kinds, VCD and related
programs had a negative effect on national identity. On the other hand, they considered that
the other factors including facilities of welfare in the nation of Kurds, intimacy with family;
had a positive effect on national identity.
Learning English as an international language has many implications for EFL
learners. For instance, learners spend more time in acquiring English and thus comparatively
less time remains for their native language so their proficiency in the native language
becomes weak. In addition, learning a second language may have some consequences such as
loss of identity, changes in beliefs that might lead to alter culture and influence individual and
social behavior. On the other hand, most textbooks being used in different institutions are
designed and published in European countries. Thus, these English textbooks (Nonlocalized) either have directly or indirectly influences on learners. Therefore, it has been
frequently investigated by many researchers including Ashraf, Motallebzadeh and Kafi
(2013) who investigated the relationship between English textbooks and cultural attitudes of
Iranian EFL learners whose English proficiency was intermediate and upper intermediate.
Based on the results the researchers proved that English textbooks, Interchange and Top
Notch series, have had a significant impact on learners’ cultural attitudes. Moreover, it was
also stated that EFL learners were interested in Interchange series rather than American File
Research Questions
The present study will address the following research questions:
Q1. Do Four Corners English textbooks have any significant effect on Iranian upper
intermediate EFL learner's national identity?
Q2. Do Top Notch English textbooks have any significant effect on Iranian upper
intermediate EFL learner's national identity?
Research hypotheses
In order to avoid subjectivity and any other prediction, and based on the questions, the
researcher proposed the following results:
HO1. Four Corners English textbooks do not have any significant effect on Iranian upper
intermediate EFL learner's national identity.
HO2. Top Notch English textbooks do not have any significant effect on Iranian upper
intermediate EFL learner's national identity.
In this study, the researchers selected 90 upper intermediate EFL learners from
different language institutions in Yazd, Iran. The age of participants ranged from 16 to 45 and
their level of proficiency was upper-intermediate. The researchers assigned the participants
into two groups: experimental group and control group. Participants in experimental group
(N=45) had all passed all Four Corners textbooks. The other group control group (N=45)
included the Iranian upper-intermediate EFL learners who had passed all Top Notch
textbooks. It should be mentioned that the participants in all groups were taught through the
same method "Communicative Language Teaching"(CLT). The institutions use CLT method
for teaching, this is mentioned in the introduction of their books. Therefore, the researcher
asked the regular English teachers to teach the required English textbooks according to the
The instruments used in this research were both qualitative and quantitative.
International English Language Testing System Test (IELTS)
In order to make sure that all participants were homogeneous, the participants in this
research were required to pass IELTS test (General Training module) developed by
University of Cambridge ESOL examinations (2009), which could indicate the learners'
upper- Intermediate level of proficiency. Those participants who could score 6 above were
selected. Out of 120, 90 female participants were picked for the purpose of this study. (See
Appendix A)
National Identity Questionnaire
Acculturation test developed by Ashraf, Motallebzadeh and Kafi (2013) was
employed to pinpoint the cultural attitudes of Iranian EFL learners towards the cultural
elements which was embedded within the English textbooks. They claims that in their
questioner, they study the national identity and Iranian culture of English learners who were
exposed to English textbooks. This questionnaire included 44 items based on a five-point
Likert scale, ranging from (1) “strongly agree” to (5) “no idea”. It should be noted that the
reliability of the inventory was reported as 0.87 in Cronbah Alpha. The questionnaire is
included in the appendix. The time allotted for answering the questionnaire was estimated to
be 15 minutes.In addition, a bio-data section was included in questionnaire in order to
provide some information about the learners' experience. National Identity Questionnaire was
used as pretest and posttest. In order to respond the questions with no limitation, the
researchers asked the participants not to write their names at top of the page and code the
questionnaire by numbers or optional names. (See Appendix B )
Qualitative Data (Interview)
For Qualitative section, a semi-structured interview was administered. According to the
framework of the study, the researcher prepared four questions and interviewed eight
participants for confirming the findings of the study. The interview had one section which
was done face to face in twenty minutes. The questions were as follows:
- Do you like to immigrate to English-speaking countries? Why ?
- Is it interesting for you to learn English language? Why ?
- Are you interested in the national identity of the English-speaking countries?
-To what extent are you proud of being an Iranian?
The administration of this research took place in May, 2013. Data collection was performed
in two sessions for pre-test and posttest being held within 9 months. In the first phase, for
homogenizing the participants of both groups and making sure about their general proficiency
level, IELTS test (General Training module) was administered to the participants. Therefore,
the students were put on the same level. It indicated that learners' proficiency was upperIntermediate level. The purpose of the second phase was to identify how English textbooks
had effects on EFL learners ' national identity. Then, the researchers provided the
questionnaire. Participants in both groups took pretest. In the next phase, after 9 months, the
participants were asked to fill out the attitude language learning and national identity
questionnaires again, in order to find out whether their national identity would have been
impressed by using different kinds of English textbooks. The researchers interviewed with
eight EFL learners in order to extract their exact idea about English textbooks and to identify
whether they had any significant effect on Iranian learners’ national identity. Finally,
according to descriptive statistics, the effect of English textbooks on Iranian EFL learner's
national Identity was measured. Moreover, interviews with participants confirmed the
accuracy of the results. The obtained data was analyzed by the employment of SPSS
In order to answer the research questions, SPSS software was run to carry out the
analyses. Results obtained from the analyses are demonstrated as follows, and the researchers
have tried to address research questions and research hypotheses.
Participants’ Demographic Analysis
In addition, a bio-data section was included in questionnaires in order to collect
information about learners. In this section, gender, age, learning experience, their English
proficiency, name of the language school they were studying at were given.
Table 1:
Results of Bio-Data (Age)
Frequency Percent
under 18
Language Learning Experience
Less than a
1-2 years
2-3 years
3-4 years
Over 4
Very good
Too weak
Top notch
According to table 1, it can be seen that 7.8 percent of the participants were under 18
years, 14.4 percent were between 18-20, 71.1 percent were between 20-30, and 6.7 percent
were between 30-40. Thus, the highest percentage of participants, that is 71.1% were in the
age group of 20 to 30 years. Also about language learning experience 1 percent were below 1
year, 18.9 percent were between 2-3 and 36.7 percent were between 3-4, the highest
percentage of the participants i.e. 43.3 percent were related to the learners who have passed
the language courses over four years. According to the results of the English Proficiency,
31.1 % percent of the participants’ skill levels were good, 30% were excellent or very good,
8.9 percent were average.
To analyze the related data Statistical Package for Social
Sciences (SPSS), version 21 was used to analyze the gathered data. The level of significance
was 0.05.
Table 2:
Results of Paired samples Statistics for National Identity, Experimental Group
(Four Corners)
Paired Differences
95% confidence interval
of the Difference
Mean SD Std. Error Mean
Pair1 Pretest
posttest -.5256
According to table 2, [t(29)=-5.252, p=.000
-5.252 29
(two-tailed)] there is significant effect on
national identity between pretest and posttest and the null hypothesis was rejected.
Table 3:
Results of Paired samples test for National Identity, Control Group (Top Notch)
Paired Differences
95% confidence interval
of the Difference
Mean SD
Std. Error Mean
Pair1 Pretest
posttest -.6337
-10.193 28
Table 3 revealed that [t(28)=-10.193, p=.000 (two-tailed)] there is no significant
effect between pretest and posttest in the terms of national identity.
To answer the research questions, as mentioned before, for Non-localized English
textbooks Top Notch and Four Corners were selected. The results of the analysis reveals that
Top Notch series English textbooks has effected %63 on national identity ' learners. Four
Corners %52 influenced on Iranian national identity learners. The results obtained in the
study show that the Non-localized English textbooks, published in Cambridge, had a greater
impact on national identity ' learners.
This finding is in line with that of Ashraf, Motallebzadeh and Kafi (2013) . The result
of their study proved that English textbooks of Interchange and Top Notch series, had a
significant impact on learners’ cultural attitudes. Besides, it stated that EFL learners preferred
Interchange series rather that American File series. Therefore, through the analysis of the
Interchange and Top Notch series in this study, the results indicated that textbooks were
artifacts, which were strongly grounded in cultural assumptions and biases. These are all
along with the result of this study which showed Non-localized text books as more effective.
The researchers interviewed with eight learners in order to extract their idea about English
speaking countries, their own country and why they were interested in learning English.
The result of interview showed that learners of both groups were intended to immigrate to
foreign countries and their aim was to improve their English language. Thus, they can
communize with English speaking countries and also get familiar with native accent.
However, during learning English, culture and lifestyle of English speaking countries have
little impact on them. They were proud of being an Iranian. They respected their culture and
they believed that our country had a rich history and literature and Iranian people were lovely
and so kind. They were interested in learning English because it was the easiest language
among other languages and it was the International language. In order to find a good job and
continue their education they needed to know English. In order to reduce the effect of these
series of non- localized books on learners' national identity the teachers can provide a
situation to improve the Iranian national identity. When teachers teach topics which are
related to English speaking countries they can emphasize on Iranian lifestyle and besides the
culture of other countries make students aware of Iranian culture.
Since Cambridge Press publishes most English textbooks, which are taught in
different institutions in Iran, the material developers while choosing the books, should
consider the national identity of learners to pay attention how much these series of books
could have effect on Ideological beliefs and values of learners. Instead of omitting the Iranian
names and Information about our culture, our society, our history, and geography of our
country, they should emphasize on these subjects in books. On the other hand, in order to
choose the book, material developers should consider the effect of the textbooks on learners'
The present work intended to find out which textbooks had more effect on national
identity. In its definition Identity has different dimensions: Individual Identity, Public Identity,
Social Identity, Ego Identity and National Identity. Other studies can be done about the effect
of each one of these different dimensions of identity on EFL learners who study localized and
Non- localized English textbook. For example, in terms of Individual identity, other studies are
also suggested to investigate "the relationship between Iranian Individual identity of English
teachers and teaching other Cultures to EFL learners ","the effect of English textbooks on
Iranian EFL Learners' Social identity" and " the effect of English textbooks on Iranian EFL
Learners' Public identity".
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