A Call for Redesigning the Foreign Language Textbook

By Violeta Ramsay.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Foreign language textbooks are unrealistic in expectations and largely unproductive in leading learners into the acquisition of languages. Their design is based exclusively on one principle: To include all grammatical concepts of the target language. The objective of each chapter is to move from one structural concept to the next, in what has become a traditional sequence of presentation.
By introducing so many grammatical concepts, most belonging to the verb phrase, and by heavily focusing on the most advanced of those concepts, traditional textbooks sacrifice what learners need most: a) useful guidance towards an understanding and appreciation of the organic nature of Language; b) sufficient practice at all levels of learning and on all skills—speaking, writing, listening and reading; c) acquisition of productive learning habits. Instead of creating efficient learners able to continue studying language on their own beyond language courses, language textbooks produce students with low linguistic proficiency and a large inventory of memorized words, who constantly rely on translation. It also presents Language in simplistic, erroneous, and trivialized ways. Modern pedagogy, second language acquisition research, and what we know about the development of critical thinking demand that language textbooks be redesigned. The new book must consider students needs and possibilities, set realistic goals and improve the way we teach Language. This critique on the shortcomings of the language textbook suggests overdue changes designed to make the language book a productive tool for teaching languages and for creating efficient language learners.

Keywords: Foreign Language Textbooks, Second Language Acquisition, Language Learning And Language Teaching, Inefficient Learning, Learning Strategies, Teaching Grammar

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.73-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 494.783KB).

Dr. Violeta Ramsay

Chair, Department of Modern Languages, Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon, USA

A native of Mexico and educated as a linguist, with a doctoral degree in Theoretical Linguistics and expertise in second language acquisition, Violeta Ramsay has been an instructor of Spanish for 17 years at Linfield College, a liberal arts institution in the state of Oregon, in the USA. She is Chair of the Department of Modern Languages. She teaches Spanish at all levels of the curriculum and advanced courses in culture. In that area her main interests are pre-Columbian cultures and present-day Indian groups of Latin America. She has done research in the areas of language programs assessment, language learning, language teaching, and foreign language textbooks.

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