Materials and methods in teaching ESP in tourism

Written by: Irina Petrovska, MA, Senior Lecturer of English Language
Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality, Universiry of Bitola

SUMMARY
The cultural content in language teaching has recently moved to the interest of many textbook writers and EFL teachers. Different subjects as varied as national identity, national language policy, language and politics, language and gender, etc. are being introduced through the materials and methods in the EFL classroom.

The paper examines some ways in which culture is reflected in course materials for teaching ESP in tourism. Culture of learning shows certain paradoxes in a way it is represented in the textbooks and materials. It is generally expected that second or foreign language textbooks should include elements of the target culture. However, our analysis show that a target culture is not always represented; some books include topics for non-English speaking cultures, some of them stress more international uses of the language.

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Intercultural competence and language teaching

The cultural content in language teaching has recently moved to the interest of many textbook writers and EFL teachers. Different subjects as varied as national identity, national language policy, language and politics, language and gender, etc. are being introduced through the materials and methods in the EFL classroom.

The paper examines some ways in which culture is reflected in course materials for teaching ESP in tourism. Culture of learning shows certain paradoxes in a way it is represented in the textbooks and materials. It is generally expected that second or foreign language textbooks should include elements of the target culture. However, our analysis show that a target culture is not always represented; some books include topics for non-English speaking cultures, some of them stress more international uses of the language.

Until recently, the concept of culture has been predominantly monocultural and ethnocentric and not involving student’s personality to any significant extent. If we take a look back to the grammar -translation approach, or latter at the situational versions, or even communicative models, as an alternatives to structuralism, we can come to a conclusion that cross-cultural content is not given explicit priority, that is these approaches have been trivial. So what content in the EFL textbooks should be promoted? What methods should be used in the classroom in order to implement intercultural education?

Well-known sociolinguists like Byram, Kramsch, Valdes, Robinson, etc. claim that language learning and learning about target cultures cannot realistically be separated. The term culture can have different meanings. Some language teachers use the term to refer to cultural products (e.g. literary works, works of art), whereas others use the term to refer to background information (e. g. facts about the history or geography of countries where the target language is spoken). The term culture may include ‘such aspects       but it also includes behavior and attitudes, and the social knowledge that people use to interpret experience’ (Cortazi &Jin, 1982:197).

In the contemporary world, a person does not need to travel to encounter representatives of other cultures: popular music, the media, large population movements tourism, and the multi-cultural nature of many societies combine to ensure that sooner or later students will encounter members of other cultural groups. With these points in mind one would expect EFL textbooks to reflect a range of cultural contexts and to include intercultural elements. But this is not very often a case.

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Functions of the course materials

For many teachers the textbook is the major source of culturalcontentbecause

suplementary materials on target cultures are not available. So, the textbook is a resourse, which means a set of materials and activities from which the most appropriate or useful items will be chosen. It can be seen as an authority, as a very reliable, valid and written by experts. Less experienced teachers understandably rely on them without having any critical attitudes towards them.

A textbook is also a trainer for unexperienced or untrained teachers it is of great help by giving step by step instructions, explanations and guidance. According to De Castel, a textbook can be seen as an ideology because it can express a worldview or cultural system that may influence teachers or students’ view of culture.

Richards (1993:490) clearly defines the resource based view of the use of textbooks:

“I see textbooks as sourcebooks rather than coursebooks. I see their role as facilitating teaching, rather than restricting it. However, in order to be able to serve as sources for creative teaching teachers need to develop skills in evaluating and adapting published materials.”

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Textbook and culture

Target – Perceived benefit

C1
- talk to visitors
- directly reinforce own identity

C2
- talk to visitors
- be a visitor
- develop knowledge, awareness of other cultures
- indirectly reinforce own identity

C3,4,5….
- talk to others
- develop knowledge, awareness, skills of other cultures
- develop intercultural skills
- indirectly reinforce own indentity

According to Cortazzi and Jin (1982:204), there are three patterns in English textbooks reflecting cultures. C1 refers to learner’s own culture, the source culture. C2 refers to a target culture where the target language is used as a first language. C3,4,5… refer to cultures that are neither a source culture nor a target culture; these are varieties of cultures from English or other countries around the world, using English as an international language. These can be termed international target cultures.

No doubt that the three patterns play an important role in designing EFL courses. Prodromou (1992:42) supports this hypothesis by stressing the importance of cultural foreground, cultural background, and cross-cultural understanding and multi-cultural diversity. For a classroom teacher, cultural goals should comprise a greater awareness of and a broader knowledge about the target culture, understanding differences between the target culture and the students’ culture.

A textbook titled English for Tourism and Hospitality (Petrovska, 1999), has a text describing the cultural and historical heritage of the city of Ohrid – yet this can hardly be new content information for the Macedonian faculty level students with whom the book is used. When students practice asking for and giving explanations to foreign visitors the setting is in Ohrid, or Ohrid area. So, prime attention is given to the source culture that is of the learners, rather than to target cultures. The implication is that students learn English to talk to visitors who come to their country, but they are not expected to travel to target countries or to learn about target cultures. The reason for this approach could be a need for learners to talk about their culture with visitors. Another reason for producing these kind of materials is to help students become aware of their own cultural identity, according to Cortazi & Jin (1982:205).

However, incorporating local culture in the teaching materials and methods of EFL raises the question of local culture submergence into the dominant culture of the foreign language. In this position it is desirable of having ‘bilingual/bicultural teachers’ (Alptekin:1984:14). As opposed to target or local culture, some course designers give emphasis on cross-cultural issues.

There are a large number of EFL textbooks that focus on target culture. The content of these textbooks is designed to promote awareness of race, gender, environmental issues, etc.

Here students are asked to role-play and imitate the target behaviour rather than synthesise it with their own experience. Robinson (1985:100) therefore proposes a multilingual/multicultural model of education rather than a bilingual/bicultural one.

A third category of cultural content in EFL textbooks involves those materials that include a wide variety of cultures set in English – speaking countries or in other countries where English is not a first or second language, but is used as an international language. The reason for composing such materials could be that English is used in international situations by speakers who do not speak it as a first language.

Robinson (1985) for example, believes in the importance of developing cultural versatility to help learners meet the demands of an increasingly multicultural world; the ‘cultural background’ approach is criticized for its alienating effect on the learner, because cultural instruction does not usually build bridges between the home and target culture.

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Conclusion

It has been argued that foreign language teaching should carry the responsibility

of teaching culture as an educational objective, and that teaching language involves teaching culture automatically whether you like it or not. The target language culture teaching is to meet the purpose of enhancing communication between nations, visitors, and other cultures, avoiding problems of miscommunication in the areas of business, and social communication in addition to giving the learners the opportunity for critical analysis of their own culture that will create sensitivity and positive attitude toward other culture as points of view and not as right or wrong. However, the final objective of culture teaching is social or job survival in the community, which comes as a result of acculturation, that is the integration of the individual into the community.

Local culture can be included to enrich the new linguistic experience, encourage (motivate) learners by providing them with something familiar to them, and train them to talk about their own culture to other foreign language – speaking people for exchange of ideas, values, and knowledge.

The analysis suggests that there is a place for materials based on local culture, and target culture in the course materials of EFL classroom. But beyond these two approaches, there are other cultures, for which English is an international language and English teaching as a global profession are natural media. (Prodromou:1992:49). In a time of global intercultural communication in any field of learning, it is a growing interset in learning multi-cultural diversity.

“In teaching any language we are imparting information and therefore power: in teaching English we can impart to learners not only the present perfect, but also the power of knowing and caring more about the world they live in. English is at the center of international and global culture. It is a cultural activity: it is an important activity.” (Prodromou:1992)

The same implies for the teaching materials and methods used in the EFL classroom for future tourist experts. Having in mind their future careers in tourism industry, with many interactions with clients form different multi-cultural backgrounds, traveling abroad, acting as tour operators, animators, or hospitality managers, – it is an imperative for them to use textbooks with wide range of not only source and target culture, but international cultures. As for the textbook designers in ESP for tourism industry, they should follow a sequencing of topics that begin with an exploration of the home culture before contrasting values, expectations and behaviors of the target or international culture. Because once we are aware of how culture determines our lifestyles and behaviors, we are all in a better position to reach across many borders.

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REFERENCES

  1. Alptekin, C &Alptekin, M, (1984), “The Question of Culture”, ELT Journal. 38/1: 14-20.
  2. Brennan, M.,&M. Van Naerssen (1989), “Language and content in ESP”, ELT Journal 43:196-205.Oxford:Oxford University Press.
  3. Chambers, F. (1980), “A Re-Evaluation of Needs Analysis in ESP”, ELT Journal1:25-33.USA:Pergamon Press Ltd.
  4. Cortazi &Jin. (1989) “Cultural Mirrors”, Cultural Studies in Foreign Language Education, Multilingual Matters.
  5. Frydenberg, Gro (1982),”Designing an ESP reading course”, ELT Journal 36:156-163.
  6. Gonzalez, J.A.(2000), “In search of synergies in ESP: agents involved and their invaluable contribution”, Procedures of the ESSE5-2000 Conference, Helsinki.
  7. Jones, G.M (1990), “ESP Textbooks: Do they really exist? “English for Specific Purposes 9:89-93.
  8. Prodromou, L.(1992 “What Culture? Which Culture?”, ELT, V 46: 39-49).
  9. Robinson, S in Prodromou, L.(1992 “What Culture? Which Culture?”, ELT, V 46:39-49).
  10. Richards in Prodromou, L.(1992 “What Culture? Which Culture?”, ELT, V 46: 39-49).
  11. Swales, John (1980), “ESP:The textbook problem”, ELT Journal 1:11-23. USA:Pergamon Press Ltd.

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