Table of Contents

An Investigation of Culture Specific Items in English Textbooks Taught at Iraqi State-run High Schools and Private Institutes

Shahad Qays

University College of Science and Technology, Basrah, Iraq

Corresponding author: Shahad Qays, University College of Science and Technology, Basrah, Iraq. Email: shahadqayss@gmail.com


Introduction: The issue of culture has been a controversial topic in foreign language teaching. One of the best resources for familiarizing foreign language learners with another language culture is textbook. Therefore, the current study aimed to investigate the culture-specific items in in terms of Kachru’s (1985) concentric circles in English textbooks used in state-run schools and private language institutes in Iraq. Methodology: Two textbooks of New Interchange series and English for Iraq series were analyzed in terms of their culture-specific items using Newmark’s (1988) framework. Cultural items related to categories of ecology, material culture, social culture, organizations, customs and ideas, gestures and habits as well as anthroponyms, were identified, and their frequency counts were computed. The Chisquare test was run to test the significance of each category. Results: The results of a Chi-square test indicated that there were no significant differences between New Interchange and English for Iraq series in terms of culturespecific items related to “the expanding circle”. However, a significant difference was found between the two series of textbooks as to the culture-specific items related to “the inner circle”. With regard to cultural items related to the Iraqi native culture, Organizations, Customs, Activities, Procedures, and Concepts were found to be the most frequent items, while Anthroponyms turned out to be the least frequent cultural items reflected in English for Iraq series of textbooks. Conclusion: It can be concluded that English textbooks published in English speaking countries (inner circle) and those published in non-native countries, such as Iraq, include items from expanding circle countries.


Phenomena such as globalization, diversity, and intercultural interactions have urged the need for the study of language and culture. It seems that communities are more concerned about their unique cultural identities as globalization has grown throughout the world. Several researchers have focused on the relationship between culture, language, and identity (e.g., Bucholtz & Hall, 2004). The issue of culture in second language learning is, by its nature, a controversial one although culture is an inevitable part of any language. Campbell (2000) believes that the ability to move across cultural boundaries is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. Peterson and Coltrane (2003) suggest that language and culture are so interlinked that ignoring culture specific elements of language may cause failure in understanding and communication. If such familiarity leads to alienation from one’s native and home culture, then it may cause social and cultural problems. The importance of culture in English as a foreign language (EFL) education becomes more evident when individuals understand that culture is necessary for communication. One of the best resources for familiarizing EFL learners with another language culture is textbook. Students take the cultural information from textbook more seriously and valid as they have the perception that they are valid sources of information. Textbook evaluation in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT) has not received the attention it deserves.

Read more

Leave A Comment