The Nature of Language in Foreign Language Textbooks

By Violeta Ramsay.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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

Textbooks used to teach European languages in American university programs should facilitate the acquisition of foreign languages in the classroom. Accordingly the ways Language is used in the book should be carefully considered: the selection of cultural and structural components, the manner in which both are presented to the student, the linguistic level of the student, the realistic level of proficiency learners should reach.

No matter how you look at current textbooks, the language used or portrayed has serious flaws: the language of the cultural component and the vocabulary the learner is exposed to are chosen randomly. Most critical, there is no effort to connect grammatical concepts in logical and necessary ways because the grammar component is a simple list of concepts that trivialize Language in ways that prevent learning. This conventional list of structures portrays language as a simplistic system made of disconnected concepts and is dictated by tradition rather than by careful consideration of how Language works and how people learn language.

This critique provides examples from Spanish textbooks that illustrate the inefficient and old-fashioned ways language textbooks use to present Language and shows how learners are not encouraged to see Language as a coherent, organized system where structural concepts interweave in logical and efficient ways.

Keywords: Foreign Language Textbooks, Second Language Acquisition, Learning Strategies, Language Learning and Language Teaching, Effective Language Learning, Language Pedagogy

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.43-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 641.122KB).

Dr. Violeta Ramsay

Co-Chair, 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 18 years at Linfield College, a liberal arts institution in the state of Oregon. 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. Her professional work is in the areas of language program assessment, language learning, language teaching, and foreign language textbooks.

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