One of the salient characteristics of the Moroccan textbook of English as a school subject is that it takes the Moroccan culture into account and gives it primacy. At the very moment the learner of basic elements in the English language is supposed to be introduced to Anglophone cultures such as the British and the American, our local Moroccan culture claims a major place as a target culture too. At the time the learner is supposed to learn about other « imported cultures » and grasp some of their basic features, he is also trained on how to build self-confidence and speak of one’s own culture and represent it. Therefore, given the modern situation in which the world has become a small village and globalization is threatening many cultures, I try in this paper, as a teacher that has more than ten years of experience in the domain of ELT to be practical and look for and expose Moroccan cultural aspects found in the Moroccan 9th year (9éme) textbook Manual entitled « FOCUS » and see to what extent the Moroccan culture is well represented in it, and whether its content is able to equip the Moroccan learner with the right cultural and linguistic material necessary to present one’s own culture and identity.
Language Items Presenting the Moroccan Culture:
I would like to refer to some linguistic items that are important for the Moroccan English language learner and which present the Moroccan identity and culture. These, I should, in fact, say, are many and scattered throughout the whole book. Although many would look at the textbook as being full of mistakes and shortcomings, it should be remarked that, although it is not perfect and many teachers would like to work with a developed version of it, it contains many positive things that are crucial to the development of the Moroccan identity and the spreading of the Moroccan culture worldwide.
Table of contents:
The book is made up of ten units, and each unit represents a special field of learning that the learner is in need to know the elements of at a primary stage. These units are:
- Food and Drink
- Body and Clothes
- Holidays and Travel
Each of these units is subcategorized into five important sections or lessons. These sections are:
- Study Skills,
- Skills Work,
- Mini Project/Interdisciplinary Work/Cultural Studies.
Each of these sections targets very precise skills and competencies, which it seeks to develop. Besides, it introduces very specific cultural elements that re-present Morocco and the Moroccan individual who is, in this case, the learner.
In case we take Unit number 1 as an example, and its title is Hello, we will put our hands on many important things that concern the place of culture and identity in such a textbook.
The first section in Hello Unit is entitled Communication. In this part of the unit, the learner is supposed to learn and understand the basics of how to introduce oneself as a Moroccan and at the same time let others get introduced to you. What we can notice here, is that the designers of the textbook could have satisfied themselves with a dialogue in which people not Moroccan are communicating and forget about the Moroccan as he is still a learner and most of Moroccans do not speak English at all nor does it take part of their daily administrative, media, economic, and social life. Nevertheless, the designer, well aware of the need to get the Moroccan engaged in communication, represent himself, his nation, and culture, they inserted within the dialogue Moroccan individuals taking a full part in the communicative dialogue. Hence, the Moroccan individuality, citizenship, culture, and identity are taking part in the process of learning and being made to speak. This is very important in fact for a beginner who is learning a powerful language associated with a powerful nation, economy, politics, society.
The dialogue takes place between Teacher, Olivia, and Leila. They are, as the picture shows, inside a classroom studying English. The dialogue is the following:
- Teacher: Hello! I’m your English teacher. My name’s Mrs. Jones. What’s your name?
- Olivia: I’m Olivia.
- Leila: I’m Leila.
- Teacher: Nice to meet you
- Olivia and Leila reply: Nice to meet you too.
The last part of the dialogue presents Leila and Olivia both repeating the phrase « nice to meet you too ». Neither Leila is left back to reply last, since she is supposed to be a learner, nor Olivia is put afore. Both are imagined to be learning the basics of the language for the first time and speak the same language and answer to the teacher’s announcement on equal footing.
This way the Moroccan learner gets his identity shaped little by little in the textbook. He is, whenever necessity dictates the rules, put forward to speak for himself and his culture. He is, along the textbook, present everywhere. If in the first dialogue Leila is present, in the second dialogue Nora is at the courtyard getting introduced to a group of foreign names (Olivia and Philip).
The grammar section, although it is supposed to teach the learner the verb « to be » and how to conjugate it and use it in the simple present form, we can notice that the Moroccan identity is present again. After conjugating the verb in both full and short form, an exercise follows. In this latter, the student is supposed to complete given sentences with the right form of the verb to be. The sentences given are the following:
- This is Samira. She is a student
- My name is Saliha. I am twelve years old.
- This Mr. Kettani. He is my teacher.
The following exercise in which the learner is again supposed to complete with one of the verb « to be » forms (am, is, are) is a letter. It reads as follows:
125, Taroudant Street
My name is Hamid Lamrani and I am thirteen years old. My friend Khalid is fourteen. We are students.
Apart from the grammatical skills and understanding it tests, it plainly assumes the role of a Moroccan writer called Hamid, from Larache, living in a neighborhood named Massira I, and Taroudant Street, and his house number is 125. Clearly, the writing paragraph is one that is produced by a Moroccan. In fact, it is a Moroccan who is able to communicate his identity and interact with others using the English language. Besides, as everybody may remark, the information given above in the letter engages many things and brings them into context. The given information in the letter is not, by nature, innocent nor are they simply things that merely refer to certain superficial facts. From culture to politics, to geography, things that have to do with the Moroccan identity in its entirety find a way to the surface in a grammar lesson I the form of a writing-a-letter exercise. Here, I should stress once again, every bit of a detail alludes to a whole range of things that overlap between history, economy, geography, society, politics, and identity.
Hamid is a Muslim name. Larache is a Northern Atlantic Moroccan city whose internal as well as the colonial history that goes beyond expectation. The name of the neighborhood, Massira I, calls for the famous March led by his Majesty Hassan second to liberate the Moroccan Sahara. Its number, which is 1, is very expressive as to say that there will be a number 2 Massira, and in fact, it exists as a neighborhood’s name. Taroudant is a South Moroccan city, which, together with Larache claims Moroccan monopoly over its territories from South to North.
This way, we can realize that the Moroccan textbook is a construct in which the Moroccan identity is strongly blended in an implicit and explicit way that gives the Moroccan learner of English language primacy and presents him in a way that is very symbolic. At the very time, it helps him acquire Other’s language; it never misses the opportunity to turn that same language into a medium through which Moroccan identity and culture are given the opportunity to come forth speak, and present oneself in a powerful foreign language. This way the power the Anglophone language is expected to exert is implicitly undermined and substituted. Therefore, I can say that that language functions in the Moroccan textbook this way: English is evacuated from its foreign content, and then filled with a local one. After, the power of that strong language is kept, and it is kept for the sake of benefiting the local culture and identity. Hence, English turns to be a communicative medium used in a way that helps the Moroccan learner acquire that strong communicative medium, but at the same time build the local Moroccan identity and transfer the Moroccan local culture.
By Fatima Chafyq