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Textbook E was the last one analyzed and also reflects a difference. Meaningful practice accounts for the largest average share, with The following table broadly summarizes the three types of language practice developed in the five English-language textbooks examined for this study.

Global Average for all the Textboooks. The results show Textbook A is the most grammar-oriented, with mechanical practice accounting for The data also reveal that Textbook D occupies second place, with a high degree of mechanical practice Textbooks A and D are the two with the largest amount of mechanical practice. We can conclude from the data that only two of the five textbooks: A and D, are characterized primarily by a large degree of mechanical language practice, while B, C, and E tend to be more communicative.

The following is an example of mechanical practice in one of the textbooks. Learners are asked to compose sentences in isolation, without a relevant context.

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By in large, it features a repetition drill model:. Complete the prompts in bold, using the present perfect and just or never, as in the examples. Textbook D has the least amount of meaningful practice: only As for to textbooks A and B , they provide a moderate proportion of meaningful practice: between Moreover, it is important to emphasize that although the proportion of meaningful practice in Textbook A is This is an example of meaningful practice taken from one of the textbooks. It requests learners to answer several questions about a girl's personal information.

It is a meaningful activity in a context. However, the context is quite limited. The instructions should offer more contextualization to make the activity more relevant.


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Language is controlled, seeing as it focuses on simple present tense usage. The following example also is a type of meaningful practice.

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It provides a context, and learners are required to make choices to complete a story. The language is controlled as well, because it focuses on the correct use of simple past tense. Although the language is placed in a context, it is important to consider whether it is truly meaningful to the learner. As illustrated, all five textbooks provide limited opportunities for communicative practice. Textbook E includes the most communicative practice, Textbook A provides the fewest opportunities for communicative practice 7.

The following is an example of communicative practice taken from one of the textbooks. It provides a meaningful context, because learners are asked to choose their favorite sports star. Although it suggests that learners make wh questions, the language is not totally predictable, because it allows learners to make their own decisions.


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Also, language production is more spontaneous and authentic, since learners are required to interview a classmate and, thus, engage in a process of meaning negotiation in a real communicative context where real information is shared. After the interview, learners are asked to write a report. The overall analysis shows Textbook E tends to be meaningful for the most part, because there is less concentration on mechanical practice However, Textbook E has more meaningful practice than communicative practice. Textbook C ranks second, with a limited degree of mechanical practice Yet, like Textbook E , it also offers more meaningful practice than communicative practice.

Textbooks B and D are not entirely communicative, but they can be classified as meaningful. Textbook A can be classified as oriented towards mechanical practice, since Given the results, the conclusion is that the most common type of language practice in English textbooks is meaningful. In other words, students are required to make meaningful choices, and language production in activities of this sort continues to be controlled. However, when examining the textbooks in question, it was determined that many of the meaningful activities are not, in fact, authentic tasks in authentic contexts.

They are meaningful in the sense that students are able to make choices and play with the language, but opportunities to use real language are not completely achieved. Most of these activities are displayed on formats such as those for matching exercises, multiple choice items, true and false statements, filling in the blanks, ticking the correct answer, and making sentences.

These kinds of activities obviously are an excellent way to begin mastering a foreign language, but the disadvantage is rooted in the fact that meaningful practice accounts for This reduces opportunities for more communicative practice. Although students do learn to play with the language and are challenged to use different cognitive strategies to make correct choices, the language still is highly controlled and predictable.

Moreover, some of the activities are very easy to answer and are not especially challenging when it comes to promoting communication. The results also show mechanical practice continues to account for a high proportion of the textbooks that supposedly were designed on a communicative basis.

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Surprisingly, The activities and exercises classified as mechanical practice consist of substitution drills and repetition of model sentences, which are perfunctory techniques used to memorize grammar patterns. So, real communication is not facilitated by these activities. As illustrated, only Task-based exercises such as writing e-mails, letters, and reports, having informal conversations, giving oral presentations, role-playing, interviews, and working on projects, are fewer compared to the amount of mechanical and meaningful practice.

The results point to one main conclusion. Although it is reasonable to expect a careful methodological procedure for learning a foreign language to contain the three types of language practice, communicative textbooks should offer a better balance in the number of activities per unit, if real communicative competence is the main goal. The study suggests that communicative competence cannot possibly be attained if the emphasis is on mechanical and meaningful practice. Textbooks should include more communicative practice to give students an opportunity to negotiate meaning and to produce spontaneous language on a genuinely communicative basis.

The fifteen data collection sheets see the sample in Appendix 1 provided additional, relevant information on how textbooks deal with practice in communicative skills reading, listening, speaking, and writing , plus grammar and vocabulary. To obtain the results presented below, the activities used to develop each skill were tallied to determine which skills are practiced more with these textbooks.


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Language Skills, Grammar, and Vocabulary. Grammar and reading skills are practiced the most, with Speaking, with Listening accounts for Writing is practiced the least, with only 5. Based on this data, it is possible to conclude that the communicative textbooks in question need to facilitate more meaning negotiation in real or simulated situations of everyday life.

This means textbooks should reduce the amount of grammar-oriented activities and incorporate more practice of the four language skills, in addition to increasing the number of tasks that are more authentic. The broad emphasis on grammar activities in the textbooks evaluated for the study raises the question as to whether or not they actually help learners to develop communicative competence.

The considerable amount of practice in reading and speaking skills featured in these same textbooks is worth mentioning. Some of the reading activities lack authentic reading resources. In the case of reading material, Brown says textbooks in general claim to supply a wide range of reading on different topics. However, while the range of topics in these textbooks is reasonable, the variety of material is limited.

Too many textbooks feature mostly magazine-style reading passages, while ignoring news reporting, prose fiction, poetry and other genres. As the study detected, the five textbooks in question lack authentic readings. They wanted to determine to what extent there is a correlation between the descriptors corresponding to the levels of competence proposed by the CEFRL and the contents of three textbooks commonly used in many countries.

They concluded that readings generally are deficient in the number of authentic materials used for reading comprehension tasks. For instance, some textbooks ignore advertisements, menus, and manuals; that is, material students normally would use in real life to accomplish actual tasks. Consequently, seeking extra reading material other than the magazine-style language presented in most EFL textbooks is a pending task for instructors, if they are to offer learners additional reading resources normally found in real life.

With regard to the other language skills, the aforementioned study shows it is necessary to increase the number of listening activities in textbooks, as is also the case with writing, which is a very productive skill. Furthermore, listening and writing activities should include more authentic input that is designed to involve learners in meaningful tasks.

In short, the results indicate this type of language practice oftentimes does not feature complete meaning negotiation.

Is a Much Larger Escalation on the Horizon?

A third aspect to be analyzed on the basis of the information gathered for this study concerns the use of formats. Formats refer to the different ways in which language is organized and presented in different activities, so students can make choices and interact with, play with, and use language. These results are important because they show the type of activities and formats EFL students frequently are given when they work with textbooks. The following list includes the more usual formats employed in communicative English texts.

Table 3. The five textbooks examined for this study tend to include formats that do not reflect real communicative and authentic tasks. Repetition, formal grammar study, drilling activities, and matching are the most common exercises for mechanical practice. Other formats in this category include correcting statements, checking the correct answer, finding the mistake, and translating. Meaningful practice features formats such as answering questions, matching activities, filling in the blanks, and multiple choice questions; however, they are not entirely authentic. Other formats involve playing games, putting events in order, and writing questions.

Also, authentically communicative activities are not practiced often. There is a limited set that includes dialogues, writing letters and e-mails, answering open-ended questions, and exchanging ideas and opinions through small talk.