Ideologies and power relations in a global commercial English language textbook used in South Korean universities: A critical image analysis and a critical discourse analysislysis and a critical discourse analysis

| September 7, 2015

Title: Ideologies and power relations in a global commercial English language textbook used in South Korean universities: A critical image analysis and a critical discourse analysis

Keywords: critical discourse analysis, critical image analysis, critical pedagogy, ideology in language education, English language teaching, English as a foreign language


Linda A. Fitzgibbon

  • PhD Applied Linguistics
  • Graduate Diploma in Applied Linguistics
  • Bachelor of Education
  • Diploma of Teaching


Language is not neutral; there is a strong yet hidden relationship between language, ideology and power relations (Fairclough, 2003; Janks et al., 2013). The focus of this research is a global commercial English Language Teaching (ELT) textbook written in one part of the world and used to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in another part of the world. This can often be problematic because the socially constructed system of content that it contains may be unquestioned by the educational system, administrators and instructors and, consequently, passed on to EFL students as legitimate knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, in other words, as reality.

The first aim of my research was to interrogate the ELT textbook Top Notch 2 (TN2), which is used in South Korean university EFL classes for its ideological content. The second aim of my research was to investigate the same textbook for the ways in which it presented power relations. A further aim was to invite South Korean reactions to ELT textbooks and to my research findings. The ultimate aim was to determine the discursive manifestations of ideology and power in the discourse and images in TN2.

The methodological framework of this thesis was selected to achieve the research aims and is based on the work of Fairclough (2001; 2003) and Kress and van Leeuwen (2006). To analyse ideology and power relations, I conducted critical discourse analysis on multiple samples and critical image analysis on multiple images. I used phenomenological research methods, theorised by Husserl (1970), to identify South Korean participants‘ responses to images of South Korea in the ELT textbook and certain general results of my analysis.
My research findings show that TN2 includes five recurring ideologies: imperialism, linguistic imperialism, colonialism, orientalism and UScentrism, largely through the discourse of consumerism. The critical analysis of the demographic data from TN2 and the critical image analysis demonstrates that high status power relations have been attributed to the US, while lower subaltern status has been attributed to South Korea.

Overall, TN2 promotes discourses in which people are portrayed as social equals and friends. The resultant restricted nature of the discourse places the student at a disadvantage because the need for a variety of pragmatic strategies is withheld, the lack of which can result in further unequal power relations being imposed on South Korean students.

My research contributes to the discipline of critical pedagogy, in which the social natures and lives of students are acknowledged (Norton, 2000; Janks, 2013 et al.). I argue that textbooks inclusive of South Korean representations of the world would better serve cohorts of compulsory EFL classes at typical universities in South Korea. Such a change would be both emancipatory and empowering.

Category: 2015 Thesis, Thesis