What's in a book? Foreign language textual contents (and discontents)

Date
2019-01-01
Authors
Fabbian, Chiara
Valfredini, Alessia
Carney, Emanuela Zanotti
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Cengage
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2019
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9
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31
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Abstract
Traditionally viewed as value-free commercial commodities, language coursebooks are cultural constructs shaped by dominant discourses, commercial interests, pedagogical trends, ethical concerns, and larger political issues (Canale, 2016; Gray, 2002, 2013) and play a critical role in institutionalizing certain views of the world as representational samples of objective truths (Meyer & Rosenblatt, 1987). The present study examines a sample of learning units in popular firstyear textbooks of Italian produced in the United States and designed for use in a first-year language classroom at the college level, in which images and text were scrutinized for their representation of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, socioeconomic class, age, and disability, in an effort to verify whether cultural content promoted “intercultural awareness and reflective thinking” (Weninger & Kiss, 2015, p. 51). While the textbook may largely determine instructional content, faculty can engage students in a critical reflection about inclusion/exclusion and modes of representation of different groups in instructional materials. Problematizing curricular materials helps students to deconstruct traditional assumptions about race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality, and raises students’ awareness of persisting biases in instructional resources and society at large. The authors include examples of best practices and material designed to foster students’ critical appreciation of cultural complexities, to reflect on the ideological and concrete realities of their own world, and to empower them to become agents of social change in their own communities. The authors suggest ways to change the dominant paradigm on L2 instruction through a social justice perspective and within the framework of a cohesive curriculum (Nieto, 2010; Osborn, 2006). The ultimate goal of this chapter is to encourage L2 teachers to reflect on the ontology of the profession and devise creative ways to position the teaching of L2 at the core of the mission of academic institutions.
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Fabbian, C., Valfredini, A., Carney, E.Z. (2019). What's in a book? Foreign language textual contents (and discontents). The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 9-31. http://hdl.handle.net/102015/69790
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