Sociopragmatic and Pragmalinguistic Failure: A Comparative Study of Global and Local Textbooks of English in Indonesian Elementary Schools

This study attempts to answer the following questions:

  1. How are the sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic failures represented in Global and Local elementary school textbooks of English?
  2. How are the language expressions naturally used in the conversations in the textbooks from sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic point of view?


  • Problems and previous studies on pragmatic competence in language teaching and learning have been discussed over the past few years. Boxer and Pickering (1995), Bouton (1994), Kasper (1997), and Bardovi-Harlig (2001) (as cited in Salemi, Rabiee & Ketabi, 2012), Boxer and Pickering (1995, as cited in Salemi, et al., 2012) reported that EFL learners with high grammatical competence are not necessarily competent in pragmatic aspects of the foreign language.
  • Boxer and Pickering (1995, as cited in Salemi, et al., 2012) underline that advanced learners who have high grammatical competence do not necessarily know how to use appropriate language in different situations. In other words, they are less knowledgeable about pragmatic competence because they lack pragmatic information either from textbooks or from other sources.
  • Kasper and Bardovi-Harlig (1997, 2001, as cited in Salemi, et al., 2012, p. 189) emphasize the need for teaching pragmatics in both second and foreign language classrooms. They state that “appropriate and adequate input from teaching materials, especially ESL (English as a Second Language) textbooks, is crucial in the development of ESL learners’ pragmatic competence.”
  • With regard to English Language Teaching (ELT) materials, Richards (2001, p. 251) underscores that teaching materials are “a key component in most language programs”. They function as the language input the learners receive. Cunningsworth (1995, as cited in Richards, 2001, p. 251) stated that teaching materials (particularly course books) have some roles:
  • “(They are) a resource for presentation materials (spoken and written), a resource of activities for learner practice and communicative interaction, a reference source for learners on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and so on, a source of stimulation and ideas for classroom activities, a syllabus (where they reflect learning objectives that have already been determined), and a support for less experienced teachers who have yet to gain confidence.”
  • To sum up, if the materials are not written and designed properly, then it might result in poor achievement in language learning as they function as language input. Therefore, if English textbooks do not contain appropriate and adequate pragmatic information, EFL or ESL learners will lack pragmatic competence.

Definition of Pragmatics

  • Crystal (1985) defines pragmatics as the study of language from the point of view of the users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interaction, and the effects their use of language has on other participants in the act of communication. (p. 240) Given that, Glaser (2009) declares that high level of pragmatic competence in the target language has a constructive effect for successful communication within the L2 contexts.

Pragmatic Competence

  • Pragmatic competence, according to Saville-Troike (2006 as cited in Wichien & Aksornjarung, 2011, p.2) is “what a speaker must know in order to interpret and convey meaning in communication”, while sociolinguistic competence, according to Canale and Swain (1980; 1983, as cited in Kumaradivelu, 2009, p.17), discusses the knowledge of “the extent to which utterances are produced and understood appropriately in different sociolinguistic contexts depending on contextual factors such as the status of the participants, purposes of the interaction, and norms or conventions of interaction.” Language functions, the topic of this research, is closely related to pragmatics and sociolinguistics because they deal with the culture, setting, topic, and social relationship.

Sociopragmatic and Pragmalinguistic Failure (in EFL textbooks)

  • Given the fact that the naturalness (formality, appropriateness, and obscurity) is an important aspect in language functions, the pedagogical implications which can be taken into account in developing ELT materials for language functions, particularly in Indonesian context, are local English textbooks should incorporate pragmatic knowledge, i.e. meta-pragmatic information, sociopragmatic, and pragmalinguistic knowledge so that learners can avoid sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic failure in the actual communication. Authentic materials are one of the best sources to learn how to use language expressions naturally. Movies, talkshows, or any other authentic English programs can be adequate input to learn language functions and their language expressions.
  • Owing to this, L2 learners need to be exposed to pragmatic content in their context of L2 learning. ELT textbooks are among the various means used to provide L2 learners with pragmatic content represented in the speech acts such as request, refusal, and apology. According to Vellenga (2004), textbooks are among the most important instructional materials that have to be considered as the vital backbone for second/foreign language learning.
  • As Diepenbroek and Derwing (2013) suggest, considering the significance of pragmatic knowledge in successful communication, material developers must give special attention to the important role of English Language Teaching (ELT) textbooks in promoting learners’ pragmatic competence in L2 classroom settings. Textbooks not only provide English as Second/Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) learners with grammatical and lexical aspects of the L2, but they also present pragmatic content that is necessary for the successful L2 learning.
  • Given the significant role pragmatic content plays in L2 material development for language learning, the purpose of this study is to explore how sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic failures found in global and local ELT textbooks. Whereas global ELT textbooks are prepared according to global norms and are instructed around the world, local ELT textbooks are prepared according to the norms of a particular EFL context.
  • Pragmatic knowledge is closely related to cultural information. Thus, if a language is taught without incorporating its culture, the teaching of the language might not be successful. In other words, authentic materials should be integrated in ELT materials as they contain authentic cultural information and consequently, learners will have exposure to real language use and their pragmatic competence will be improved.
  • However, a research carried out by Dat (2008) points out that local English textbooks contain some weaknesses regarding the language use and language skills such as an uncommunicative use of English; an inauthentic use of English; poor development of writing skills; a lack of consistency in appearance, content, and method; little opportunity for the recycling of language; and poor effective engagement.
  • In conclusion, studies on pragmatic knowledge in English textbooks show that many English textbooks seem to pay less attention to pragmatic competence, e.g., they do not contain sufficient pragmatic information, such as meta-pragmatic information regarding the realization of language functions and speech acts.

Objective of the Study

  • The study aims at exploring sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic failures found in global and local English Language Teaching (ELT) textbooks used in elementary schools in Indonesia. Therefore, the researcher tries to answer the following research questions.

Research Gap

  • So far there has not been any research on pragmalinguistic failure and sociopragmatic failure in English Global and Local textbooks used in elementary schools in Indonesia. Therefore the researcher would like to fill in the gap by conducting the study.

Research Questions

This study attempts to answer the following questions:

  • How are the sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic failures represented in Global and Local elementary school textbooks of English?
  • How are the language expressions naturally used in the conversations in the textbooks from sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic point of view?

Research Methodology

  1. Text analysis
  2. Pragmatic Judgement Task (by 2 Native Speakers of English: British and American)
  • The data are taken from the language expressions used in the global and local textbooks (each 2 global and local textbooks)

There are 2 (two) kinds of textbooks used as source of data:

  1. Global Publication Textbook (Global English, Big English)
  2. Local Publication Textbook (Basic English, Grow with English)
Jimmy Sapoetra, S.S., M.Pd.