Reasons I don't like most text books (2)

  • cultural incompatibility

If we were to do a demographic poll of all textbooks written for the TEFL industry in the last 25 years, then we would probably find out that an outstanding majority have been written by:

1. people who look like Mr Bean and who share gender
2. people from within Mr Bean's age group
3. people who actually think that Rowan Atkinson is funny

And yet, were we to do a demographic poll on all the learners of English we would discover...


see also: reasons I don't like most textbooks (1)
reasons I don't like most textbooks(3)

16 Responses to “Reasons I don't like most text books (2)”

  • rliberni says:
    October 06, 2009

    Another interesting reason, yet I find that many books are aimed at 18 to 25s (even work-related books)and don't resonate with older students. Inevitably we choose a vocab book as the main text and then plough through a mountain of course books to put together the course. Is it possible to write the perfect course book - I doubt it - teacher workloads are here to stay I fear!

  • Elizabeth King says:
    October 06, 2009

    I love your sense of humor (Mr. Bean! hahahha) and obvious point you're making; however, I would love the post more if you'd summarize in a couple of bullet points the actual stats about English learners. I suppose I can assume what they are, but fact would be more effective and helpful for a potentially loyal reader like me. The link to the 100+ page document was a bit rough for those of us with a more distanced interest in your subject.

    Thanks for posting on this important topic!

    October 06, 2009

    Coming Elizabeth,

    I promise. The first version of this post had statistics and percentages and then I thought it took away from the humor and main point (also of series) but by end of week I'll add these in the comments here!

    Ta, for my finger knuckling...

    ;-) K

  • Darren Elliott says:
    October 06, 2009

    I am constantly amazed by the number of students who like Mr. Bean.

    It's got better, but I hate the middle-classness that oozes out of so many British textbooks. "Let's go and play tennis, have you booked the theatre tickets?"

  • Simon says:
    October 06, 2009

    Hehe, ouch! Well aimed, well judged. A wounded textbook writer replies:

    1 I don't look like Mr Bean (although Rowan is actually strangely handsome, but share the gender.

    2 I was at university with Rowan (mid seventies)

    3 Rowan was in fact very, very funny, actually so much better than anyone else on the comedy scene at the time. But I never found Mr Bean very appealing.

    Sorry you don't like textbooks, and you're right to complain. Rliberni asks if it's possible to write the perfect courseboook ... well, I'm still trying after twenty-seven years.

    BTW, you're right about crowded pages. I now always try to avoid them.

    Nice blog, got the link from Tamas Lorincz on Twitter just now. Will keep following ...

    Simon Greenall

    October 06, 2009

    Whoops, Simon... that'd be my Reward wouldn't it, that you would stop on by... promise am mostly just taking the piss while making a handful of points!

    Thanks v. much for contributing to the conversation and I'm very glad to hear that you don't look like Mr Bean.

    Hi ya Darren, yes the middle-classness annoys me too.

    The series shall continue... I just have to learn photoshop for the next one...

  • Simon says:
    October 06, 2009

    Top marks for the correct series title!

    No problem, piss very happily taken, and I think your scepticism is very healthy. I'm waiting for Reasons I don't like most textbooks (3).

    I don't think any textbook writers set out to annoy their users and teachers, but it's amazing how often it happens. But maybe it's cultural/geographical ... I've been working in China for the past nine years on two textbooks series which go into state schools and universities. I haven't met this scepticism there ... yet.

    But the reason I'm joining in is that I'm coming back to work in Europe, so it's great to get back in touch. Thank you - I think your site looks fascinating, and will explore more.

    Incidentally, IATEFL YL SIG is holding a discussion on ELT publishing next week, with me as moderator. Come and join in?

  • glennie says:
    October 06, 2009

    Global English is going to have some fascinating consequences.

    Will we see many students deciding not to do 'international' exams like First Cert if what they want is language competence for their part of the world?

    I have already started to think about what I should teach as far as pronunciation is concerned. Why is my pronunciation entitled to be a model? Minimum pron. requirements need to be identified. The 'scwha's' reign of terror may be brought to an end.

    And questions now arise about the importance of stressing the use of contractions in everyday speech. Whose everyday speech?

  • Lindsay Clandfield says:
    October 07, 2009

    Oh (wo)man! Think I'm going to let you get away with this Karenne?
    Posts like this are a bit like the snide articles about bloggers or tweeters or second-lifers being a certain type of person... and I know that drives you CRAZY! :-)

    But I realise this is a bit of a piss take and it always gets hits AND I like a lot of your other stuff so... I am content to read away and meanwhile get back to some coursebook writing. Ahhhh....

    October 07, 2009

    For those of you who don't know who Lindsay is: he doesn't look like Rowan either.

    LindsayClandfield and the Amazing Straightforward Series

    ;-) you boys are gonna be so so so pissed off next week. Just don't tell your bosses.

  • Lindsay Clandfield says:
    October 07, 2009

    Don't worry Karenne, all these posts just make me more determined than ever to try and avoid many of the typical criticisms levelled at coursebooks when working on mine. If things are broke, we can also try and fix!

    By the way, you may be interested to know that I've convinced my publisher to do a "try before you buy" download of a unit of my upcoming book. (remember you mentioned that once?) Will let you know.

  • Nick Jaworski says:
    October 08, 2009

    I have a lot of problems with text books and, more often than not, usually put them aside. However, you gotta give em some props. I know I couldn't write one of those things.

    I saw an excellent post from a text book writer somewhere about this, but I can't remember where. If I find it I'll link it. Something about writers being constrained by publishers and the market.

    I do also find textbooks to be like a nice syllabus to follow and they sure helped me out when I first started teaching. Now I got the materials and ideas to go it alone, but many teachers don't have the time to compile that much stuff.

    I certainly agree with a few commenters that are calling for country specific coursebooks. This would be so nice. So much info or points of focus just don't apply to my learners. Not only here, but this is where English teaching methodology has gone wrong in general. We need to start developing more area specific books, techniques, and methodologies. The one size fits all strategy only works in the multi-lingual classrooms.

    I also despise Mr. Bean, but, God, did my Vietnamese students think he was the funniest man alive. Never could understand it. I've got a lesson using him around here somewhere :)

    October 08, 2009


    If you find that lesson email me and I'll post it up on the blog with full credit to you of course... seems an awful lot of people do find him funny - and judging from the comments, a lot of students too!


  • Shelly Terrell says:
    October 08, 2009

    I was looking for your great Twitter resources link and had to stop & comment! I think you make a lot of sense and I laughed so hard at #3! When I chose reading literature for my high school ELLs, cultural relevancy was my primary concern. Students need to be able to identify with the literature and it should mimic their experiences. Moreover, this type of literature exposes them to other experiences. I found the Brief Bedford Reader which was made up of essays from women and men as well as showed assimilation experiences from authors of various cultures

    October 14, 2009

    Hi Elizabeth: here's the globablity of English, in response to your call for a summary of the Graddol report:

    World of Englishes

  • Moomin says:
    October 25, 2009

    Hi Karenne,

    Love your site and I've been following a lot of the debate about course books/technology and Dogme from the back row - I follow you guys on Twitter etc. Ok, so now I sound like a freaky stalker, I would like to ask whether any EFL teacher/trainer, ever feels that they have truly nailed it. Is there ever a point in our calling when we feel we know what we're doing (I do hope I'm not the only one!) or is it our chosen path to always feel a tad like a fraud? :)

    I've been teaching for about five years and my only regret is that I didn't come into it sooner *am 32* - however, I share passionately your opinions on the majority of the coursebooks out there and I wait eagerly for Global English. I lesson plan and research my own lessons for my students' needs but I'm increasingly finding myself grinding my teeth when having one weekend to turn around an intensive BE course for one student and an innate feeling of self-loathing if I break in a weak moment and rely on a the 'Making Presentations' chapter in any given coursebook. Before I go mad or suffer huge dentist bills due to aforementioned ground teeth can you or any of your readers tell me if they to find they exist in a state of indecision most of their teaching life?

    As a bit of background - I teach private students on a one to one basis mainly as therefore also don't really have a pool of colleagues with whom I can discuss such things or learn from. I therefore find the internet and the debates going on around these topics are my life line if I am to develop as a teacher and not become a smelly dinosaur in the corner of some staff room - a recurrent nightmare of mine!

    I write somewhat in jest but I do find the various material out there on methodology vast, interesting, contradictory, persuasive and enlightening all at the same time!!

    Not sure if I've actually posed a question here or not! Either way, it was a therapeutic exercise and my teeth don't hurt as much now!

    BR and keep up the wonderful and thought-provoking work.
    Emma H


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