Materials for teaching English in a non-native context

Creating suitable materials for teaching English in a non-native context is a challenging proposition even for an established material writer. Apart from the theoretical issues involved in the planning and the actual production of the materials, the material writers on English language teaching are often confronted by the diverse English language teaching scenario prevailing in the non-English speaking countries of the world. The question of the suitability and the authenticity of the material from the point of view of pedagogy and cultural sensitivity haunts a material writer of an English textbook right from the conceptualization to the actual publication of the book.
I remember the days when I had to teach communicative English to a group of undergraduate science students. The course book published by an international publisher and prescribed by my Indian University for the “Functional English Course” had a lesson which started with an advertisement published in an English newspaper. The caption of the advertisement said, “Wanted a wife for a Month”. In the same book, there was a task for the learners, “Tell your friend how you spent your last week end,” Well, I had to use these materials for facilitating communicative activities in a large class of 18 year old boys and girls. An advertisement published in a local daily catering to the needs of tourists in an island and an innocent topic like ‘week end’ or ‘ Friday night’ were too embarrassing for some of my colleagues who used the said textbooks in other sections of the same class!
The use of culturally unacceptable issues in English textbooks used in non-English speaking countries can make the teaching-learning of English a very uncomfortable experience for the teachers as well as the learners. Therefore, in order to make the English course books ‘global’, publishers and course book writers should be careful of the ‘sanitisation of content’ (Gray,2002:166).
But, a mere ‘sanitization of content’ in the English textbook is not enough from a pedagogic point of view. I would, rather suggest that English textbook writers who write textbooks for the countries of the ‘expanding’ and the ‘outer’ circles should aim at ‘deculturizing’ the course books. The mere avoidance of culturally inappropriate materials in the global English text books does not yield the desired learning outcome. Deculturiszing the English textbooks by incorporating locally available resources appears to be a more meaningful alternative. The inclusion of local topics, concerns and the perspectives of the local people make the course book acceptable, socially as well as psychologically to the non-native learners of English.
Balancing ‘globalisation’ and ‘glocalisation’ is a difficult task for an English course book writer who wants to write an English textbook aimed at capturing the international market. Too much ‘glocalisation’ may affect the ‘authenticity’ of the material presented in the English textbook. Can we present English in our textbooks without taking note of the ‘target language culture’? How to make a balance between ‘inclusivity’ and ‘authenticity’. Any answer?
Tomlinson’s book, ‘Materials Development on Language Teaching’ (CUP), Block and Cameron (ed) book, ‘Globalization and Language Teaching’ (Routledge) and Canagarajah’s ‘Resisting linguistic imperialism in English Teaching’ ( (OUP) are good resources for refining our theoretical understanding related to material production in ELT, but the actual production of good authentic materials suitable for non-native learners of English needs something more than a theoretical understanding of the principles of material production. Empathy with your English learners coupled with a sound theoretical understanding of the principles of material production in language can make you a successful course book writer in English in a non-native context.

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