Global Views: A Multicultural Reader with Language Exercises
Jeanne B. Becijos (1995)
San Diego, CA: Dominie Press
Pp. x + 94
ISBN 1-56270-422-2 (paper)
According to its introduction to the teacher, Global Views is "appropriate for ESL and bilingual students in elementary grades, junior high, high school and adult basic education" (p. ix). With an emphasis on the concept of "cultural literacy," this book aims to expose the language learner to information of a cultural nature from various regions of the world. As such, it has an important and useful aim. Basic grammar concepts, such as an introduction to verb tenses, question forms, possessives and others are included in each of the book's thirty units.
In an attempt to offer a balanced selection of the world's regions and cultures, Global Views includes readings that describe life and customs in North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Asian and European cultures are well represented for the most part, but only two African countries (South Africa and Ghana) are included.
To help the student, a number of maps are reprinted in the book's opening pages; however, in some cases, these are fraught with printing errors, geographical inaccuracies, omissions, and inconsistencies. A number of countries represented in the readings are not identified on the map, while a large number of African countries are named, even though only two are represented. It is hoped that these problems can be rectified in later editions of this text.
The simple readings offer selections that describe cultural holidays and festivals, famous locations and attractions (e.g., the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon), and folktales. A number of chapters also present well-known public figures (such as U Thant and Vaclav Havel), artists (Frida Kahlo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and others (Jane Goodall, Edmund Hillary). Grammar and language exercises are included in each chapter and also listed in an index at the end of the book.
The book is organized on the principle of grammar topics arranged in increasing order of difficulty and complexity. For example, [-2-] simple present tense, personal pronouns, and indefinite articles are presented in the earlier chapters, while comparative forms, question forms in the past tense, and modal verbs are introduced later. Other language topics are arranged in an order that seems less logical or useful: indentation in writing paragraphs and capitalization of U.S. states don't appear to be critical language skills needed in all cases. Also, students who are literate already know cursive writing and alphabetical order. Perhaps some of these topics could have been better presented in a separate appendix.
The chapters themselves all follow a similar pattern. They open with an introduction in which students are asked to rely on their background knowledge (geographical location, for example) or to consult a map. These questions lead into a story, which in extreme cases is only three or four sentences long, and which often does not give much concrete information about the subject presented. For example, the opening story concerning the Eiffel Tower gives no information at all about the landmark. Happily, though, a later exercise describes the tower and some of its history. Comprehension questions, grammar charts, and exercises reinforce the language presented. As the textbook progresses, the language presented in each of the units becomes more complex and the stories longer and, consequently, more interesting.
There is no teacher's manual, and because the textbook is not very complex, none is really needed.
Although there is a need for textbooks such as this one, which incorporate cultural material from various parts of the world into language study (especially at the very beginner levels), Global Views falls short in two areas: first, its various errors and inaccuracies do not help to instill a feeling of confidence in the teacher, and second, its short readings tend to be monotonous in their methods of repetition. The challenge for writers of such books is to be able to provide a rich variety of content while addressing the needs of elementary learners in terms of language. This book is a first step toward such a need; perhaps teachers of language will borrow from its strengths and aim to incorporate a greater range of cultural material in their own classrooms.
Universite de Montreal
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