UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Culture and language ideology in Chinese foreign language textbooks : a thematic analysis Bewley, Fiona


Culture is central to a language learner’s trajectory to develop communicative competence. Textbooks are often the first point of contact to a foreign language (FL) learner’s target culture. It's the textbook’s responsibility to authentically help learners in their construction of cultural knowledge. With this responsibility comes a significant amount of power. For instance, many foreign language materials choose to reinforce inequality and nationalist cultural and linguistic ideologies. This thesis explores the language ideology behind the cultural representations in two popular series of Chinese foreign language (CFL) textbooks published in China: New Practical Chinese Reader and America: Integrated Chinese. Although many studies explore cultural representations in English FL textbooks, there is a scarcity of comparable studies focusing on CFL textbooks. Borne from my own experience, I often found CFL materials to be culturally reductive and outdated. A handful of scholars are challenging the cultural aspects and ideological orientations of CFL textbooks, and this thesis adds to that body of research. By way of thematic analysis, I chose a semiotic framework to connect pictures and texts about culture themes and analyze the latent ideologies of the textbook series. The prominent themes I found in the series published in the U.S. (Liu,Y. 2010) relate to basic language functions. Although the textbook employed traditional approaches to grammar sections and pattern drills (Zhou, 2011, p. 144), overall its approach attempts to be more interactive and communicative than the series published in China. Cultural themes in the materials published in China illustrate traditional learning styles and emphasize traditional culture. Both series reduce culture to nationalist ideology, which feeds into native-speaker bias, and are outdated in their representation of technology in FL use. I conclude that textbook authors must shift the focus of textbooks onto the learner’s needs. Additionally, teachers and students must be aware of the types of representations they come across. They must employ open and communicative methods to deconstruct them. Finally, textbooks authors must match learners’ realities through more use of technology, more open-ended communicative style exercises, and instead of idealizing native speakers, they should promote the goal of reaching communicative competence.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International