n South African Journal of Education - A proverb in need is a proverb indeed : proverbs, textbooks and communicative language ability

Volume 40 Number 1
  • ISSN : 0256-0100
  • E-ISSN: 2076-3433



In the study reported here we focus on proverbs in English Language Teaching (ELT) coursebooks and how the pithy structure and the “wisdom”-loaded content of proverbs can contribute to the development of foreign language learners’ communicative competence as defined by Bachman (1990). We discuss how the most frequently used coursebooks in the context of English as a foreign language (EFL) were identified through a questionnaire administered to 127 first and fourth-year EFL pre-service teachers. We also show how these popular coursebooks were scrutinised for the inclusion and presentation of proverbs by using content analysis and an analysis form to uncover (1) the number of the proverbs incorporated, (2) whether or not the presentation of the proverbs in the coursebooks would foster the development of the competencies identified by Bachman (1990), and (3) whether they were among the most known and frequently used proverbs in present-day English (i.e., currency). The findings reveal a number of problems related to the frequency and currency of the included proverbs, and to the adequacy of the presentation of the proverbs in the examined coursebooks to help students develop their communicative competence.

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