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USING

L1 IN THE CLASSROOM

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Should we Use L1 in the Classroom?

“Using L1 for checking, listening or reading skills, seems once again a


decision to throw out a valid opportunity for communication in order to save
time, and cannot really be recommended on any grounds.” (Harbord 1992:353)

“Mother tongue is indeed the mother of the second, third and fourth
languages. To exclude MT from the English classroom is like trying to wean a
baby on day one of their life.” (Deller & Rinvolucri 2002:10)

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The monolingual EFL classroom

Let’s remind ourselves of the sorts of classrooms we’re talking about…

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The 3 key questions in the “debate”

1. Should the teacher know the students’ mother-tongue?

2. Should the teacher use the students’ mother-tongue?

3. Should the students use their mother-tongue?


Source: Richard Pemperton, (2011)

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Is it useful if the teacher uses L1?

• Explaining new words


• Explaining grammar
• Explaining differences between L1 and L2 grammar
• Explaining differences in the use of L1 and L2 rules
• Giving instructions

Should students be allowed to use L1 when?

• Talking in pairs and groups


• Asking how do we say’..’ in English?
• Translating an L2 word into L1 to show they understand it
• Translating a text from L2 to L1 to show they understand it
• Translating as a test

Can the teacher and the students use L1 to?

• Check listening comprehension


• Check reading comprehension
• Discuss the methods used in class Source: Rigoberto Tuckness (2017), http://slideplayer.com/slide/1379405/

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2002 Survey, Luke Prodromou (British Council Greece)
n=300 Greek students

QUESTIONS BEG. (%) I/M (%) ADV. (%)


1. Should the teacher know the students’ mother-tongue? 65 53 53
2. Should the teacher use the students’ mother-tongue? 66 58 29
3. Should the students use their mother-tongue? 63 53 35
4. Explaining new words 25 35 18
5. Explaining grammar 31 7 0
6. Explaining the differences between L1 and L2 Grammar 27 4 6
7. Explaining differences in the use of L1 and L2 rules 33 22 20
8. Giving instructions 3 9 0
9. Talking in pairs and groups 22 3 3
10. Asking how do we say’..’ in English? 13 38 6
Source: http://hltmag.co.uk
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QUESTIONS BEG. (%) I/M (%) ADV. (%)
11. Translating an L2 word into L1 to show they understand it 18 13 6
12. Translating an L2 text into L1 to show they understand it 21 7 6
13. Translating as a test 21 2 6
14. Check listening comprehension 27 9 3
15. Check reading comprehension 14 7 6
16. Discuss the methods used in class 21 13 6

Source: http://hltmag.co.uk

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Conclusions from Prodromou study
1. In general, students especially those of a higher level seemed sceptical about
the use in the classroom.

2. However, Prodromou advocates that bilingual/bicultural teachers are in a


position to enrich the process of learning by using the mother tongue as a
resource, and then, by using the L1 culture, they can facilitate the progress of
their students towards the other tongue, the other culture.

3. In these examples, Prodromou says that the foreign language is a medium


through which the students explore their own culture, using the mother tongue
as a bridge towards English. The English language can help them learn things
about their own community.

Source: http://www.hltmag.co.uk

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“If L1 is the language of action and power, the language of classroom
organisation and discipline and the language through which the L2 is
mediated, then it is rather a bad example to students and gives the message
that the L2 is merely a classroom subject, not a real useful language.”

Source: http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

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Arguments against using L1 in the classroom
Quotes from: www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

1. Comfort now, pay later.

2. If you want to get the feel of the target language you have to learn the target language in the target
language; concept formation is enhanced by full immersion. In addition, if one specifically teaches
communication strategies as paraphrasing, paralinguistics, there is no need for the L1, and if the grammar is
taught inductively, there is no need for “explanations” in the L1.

3. The more the student speaks L1 instead of L2, the longer they will remain in the miserable limbo of
being unable to communicate in L2. It is a disservice to students to imply to them that the only way they
can feel comfortable is to speak L1.

4. Some grammar points and most idiomatic expressions cannot be translated.

Source: http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

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Arguments against using L1 in the classroom
Quotes from: www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

5. You can’t learn a language by speaking or listening to another language. No one ever has learned a
language this way, and no-one ever will. Teachers who use L1 to make the students feel better about L2 are
really misguided. It is a form of sabotage.

6. A well trained and resourceful L2 teacher can act out, demonstrate, illustrate or coach new learners to
do what is required in class without ever using L1.

7. Learning a language is like learning to swim. You have to get in there, splash around, get wet, probably
swallow a few mouthfuls of water. If you continue to hold on to the bar at the side – and are not discouraged
from doing so, you will never win an Olympic medal.

Source: http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

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“The students L1 is not an enemy of learning unless we make it
one… It can be a resource, but one that has to be used sparingly
and appropriately. It may actually help students learn.”

Source: http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

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Arguments in favour of using L1 in the classroom
Quotes from: www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

1. Are we teaching beginners or advanced levels?


• L1 can be used to facilitate the acquisition of the L2. Concepts at lower levels can be
introduced in L1 for example to ensure the students’ understanding and avoid delays in
learning academic content while they are studying English vocabulary.

• Clarification in the target language, or comparison between grammar practices in English


and L1 can help adult learners, and provide them with an anchor so that they don’t feel
totally adrift, but with the aim eventually of maximising L2 usage in the classroom.

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Arguments in favour of using L1 in the classroom
Quotes from: www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej20/fl.html

2. Some contrastive analysis can be done on difficult grammar points.

3. Young learners are often forced to go to classes and insistence on L2 at all times may cause resentment.

4. Using L2 all the time in a monolingual situation is “pretend”, not authentic. (Cook 2008)

5. L1 can be a useful cognitive tool when the L2 task is complex. (Swain & Lapkin 2000)

6. L1 facilitates collaborative dialogue during tasks. (Cook 2001)

7. Helps in classroom management.

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Deciding whether or not to use L1 in class should be subject to the
following questions:

 What is the learners first language?


 What is the learners age?
 Are we teaching at lower or higher levels?
 What is the ratio of students/teaching time per one class?
 How long is the learner going to study the second language?
 What are his/her learning purposes?
 Is it a one nationality or a mixed nationality group?
 What is the institution’s pedagogical policy?
 What kind of educational background does the learner have?
 In what kind of social context is the teaching of L2 taking place?

Source: Rigoberto Tuckness (2017), http://slideplayer.com/slide/1379405/

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Conclusions

 Foreign language learners need as much exposure to the L2 as possible.

 if you use only English, you force your students to try to communicate with you in that language, giving them
the opportunity to produce comprehensible output and negotiate meaning.

 English should be the primary vehicle of communication in the English. However, the affective benefits of L1
use justify its limited and judicious use in the second or foreign language classroom.

 A second language can be learned through raising awareness to the similarities and differences between the
L1 and the L2, and that the prudent use of L2 in the English classroom affirms the value of our students’ L1
is their primary means of communication and cultural expression.

 Bringing L1 into the classroom could make learning English appear to be less of a threat and students learn
first hand that the two languages can coexist. Using L1 could lead to positive attitudes toward the process of
learning English and better yet, encourage students to learn more English.
https://www.slideshare.net/LuisAlmeida48/using-l1-in-the-l2-classroom

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