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Presentation on theme: "SHOULD WE USE L1 IN THE CLASSROOM?"— Presentation transcript:


2 First of all I would like to outline the course of my presentation
Use of the Mother Tongue survey in classroom through discussion and comparison with a survey undertaken by the British Council in Greece. Conclusions from that survey. Discussion on the arguments for and against using L1 in the classroom Comments made by teachers and students in the BC Teaching Centre in Mexico City. Conclusions to be drawn. USE OF THE MOTHER TONGUE IN CLASSROOM – SURVEY In your groups discuss the following questions:- Should the teacher know the students’ mother-tongue? Should the teacher use the students’ mother-tongue? Should the students use their mother-tongue?

3 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 Briefly how far would you identify with these statements?

4 SURVEY RESULTS – Undertaken by Luke Prodromou – teacher, teacher trainer, writer, British Council Greece with 300 students. The figures refer to percentage (%) responses by beginner, intermediate and advanced levels 1. Should the teacher know the students’ mother-tongue? | 65 53 2. Should the teacher use the students’ mother-tongue? 66 58 29 3. Should the students use their mother-tongue? 63 35 4. Explaining new words 25 18 5. Explaining grammar 31 7 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 9. Talking in pairs and groups 10. Asking how do we say’..’ in English? 13 38

5 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 13. Translating as a test 2 14. Check listening comprehension 27 9 3 15. Check reading comprehension 14 16. Discuss the methods used in class

6 What conclusions can be drawn from this?
Has a survey like this been undertaken in Mexico, and if so, what were the results? Do you think the results would be the same in Mexico as in Greece? GENERAL CONCLUSIONS According to Luke Prodromou he concluded that in general students seemed sceptical about the use in the classroom, particularly at higher levels. However, the 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. In these examples, Luke 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. How many people in the audience would agree with this?

WHAT ARE THE TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST USING L1 IN THE CLASSROOM? These are some of the quotes that I got from the website Comfort now, pay later. It is absurd to talk a language other than the target language for any reason at all. Learning a language is a new language, and learners have to get used to it. 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. The skilled teacher will use the L2 to make students feel comfortable and not simply assume that the only way to reduce stress is to use L1.

8 An analogy from one of the writers that I consulted was of giving small babies shots to protect them from illness. The little ones cry and cry and you know that your decision to get the shots resulted in pain, but as a parent you believe that this pain is short-lived and worth it. I think the same thing about learning a language. It’s awful that you don’t understand at first, and you feel miserable and stupid. But it doesn’t last long….AS LONG AS NO WELL-MEANING TEACHER DOESN’T PROLONG IT BY SPEAKING L1. 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 A well trained and resourceful L2 teacher can act out, demonstrate, illustrate or coach new learners to do what is required in class without every using L1. Teachers of heterogeneous groups ALWAYS have to use these techniques because they cannot use all of the L1´s of all the students and certainly not the L1 of just some of the students in the group. There is no reason why the techniques used in heterogeneous classes can’t be used in homogeneous classes too.

9 Of course it is important for teachers to feel fine in L2 too, so they need to be helped to break out of the L1 straight-jacket and be given a repertoire of techniques to operate effectively in L2 with beginners and all other students. It seems to me that maybe it is the TEACHERS who subconsciously are imparting to their students the impression that L2 is the only way to feel comfortable and at ease. This is simply not true, but if the teacher believes it or simply doesn’t know how to help students feel empowered in L2, then the students will not feel empowered in L2 and will be stuck in L1 (maybe even forever). 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 speak to students in L1 to make them feel better are misguided. The skilled teacher will use the L2 to make students feel comfortable and not simply assume that the only way to reduce stress is to use L1. 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.

10 Most idiomatic expressions cannot be translated.
Some grammar points are difficult to translate. No language is a direct translation of another, concept formation is enhanced by full immersion. In addition, if one specifically teaches communication strategies as paraphrasing, using paralinguistics, or even eliciting vocabulary from one’s communicating partner, there is no need for the L1, and if the grammar is taught inductively, there is no need for “explanations” in the L1. 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. If you find you are using L1 frequently in the classroom then it’s possible that the language level is too high for the students or they are in the wrong level. 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.

11 If you want to get the feel of the target language you have to learn the target language in the target language. Students will not learn L2 until they actually commit to using it as a living language. Understandable input in L2, enhanced with pictures, graphs, diagrams, measurements and so on and now the Web will bring students along faster than sterile grammar exercises on translating which can only be carried out with L1 input.

Saves time in vocabulary items Some contrastive analysis can be done on difficult grammar points Gets the job done more quickly and effectively Young learners are often forced to go to classes and insistence on L2 at all times may cause resentment Older mature learners especially at lower levels may need this safety net for a time Can be used at all levels sparingly for new vocabulary items and clarification 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 Spanish for example to ensure the students’ understanding and avoid delays in learning academic content while they are studying English vocabulary

13 Peter Groot from Utrecht University has said that the L2 learner has a system of conceptual categories at his disposal to accommodate the new L2 labels. This may imply that L2 word learning represents a simpler cognitive task than L1 word acquisition where new concepts and labels have to be learned simultaneously. To the extent that this is indeed the case the question arises whether attempts to make L2 Word learning a condensed copy of L1 acquisition process are cost effective especially in the case of L2 words that have equivalent L1 counterparts. In such cases, a simple bilingual presentation followed by some rehearsal practice may be more efficient… Some students don’t have the language for performing linguistic tasks, so at the lower levels it may be helpful to give the language through L1 Clarification in the target language, or comparison between grammar practices in English and Spanish 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

14 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 Absolutism restricts teachers, denying them the use of their good judgement in applying all the tools they may have available in a teaching-learning situation. If for example, use of a set of advertisements in L1 and L2 for comparable products leads to a good classroom discussion in English of the different values displayed in those ads, that is class time successfully used. At higher levels, we could use articles in Spanish from newspapers for discussion in English and vice versa. We could examine false friends between English and Spanish Students could research difficult points and do presentations on the differences between English and Spanish to help overcome some conceptual difficulties. A decision in favour of a lifetime acquisition of L2 is a students’ prerogative, not a teacher´mandate. Helps to manage the class better Giving instructions helps to ensure that the students understand what they have to do through L1 Meaning can be conveyed more effectively Difficult grammar points can be explained through L1

15 I did a similar survey (to the one we saw in Greece) where I work in the British Council here in Mexico and these are some of the comments that the teachers made. “I agree that L1 can be used in the classroom. At lower levels, to save time if it’s difficult to translate a world (though to be used sparingly); and at higher levels when direct translations may not be possible. This supposes that the teacher has near perfect knowledge of the L1 language and that classes are monolingual” “I think L2 only is generally best as a general rule. Speakers in an English speaking country probably will not have a knowledge of the L1, and they should get used to this” “I find it useful in pronunciation, asking students to think of Spanish words with similar sounds /w/ guey etc)” “its use should be limited to lower levels and emergencies” “It certainly helps as a ‘short cut.” “L1 should therefore very definitely be used, especially when teaching very useful skills that cannot be taught in a typical ESL classroom, such as translation”.

16 “I think it is important to use as little Spanish as possible with Younger Learners, because they don’t need to understand every word like adults do because they don’t have the same feelings of insecurity. However, using L2 with adults is also very important, but they need to be trained to help them realise that they don’t need to understand every single word in order to function in English” “One of the most important things about using English at all times in the classroom is all the peripheral language that students benefit from during an explanation” “I think teachers get lazy when they have a good knowledge of L1 and have lost sight of the fact that we should be re-creating an L2 situation during the time the students are in the class in order to encourage maximum exposure to L2”

These are some of the comments made by British Council students. I was unable to conduct a survey like the British Council did in Greece, but here are the main points All students felt that the teacher should have some knowledge of Spanish and the typical problems that Spanish speakers have Generally as a rule the teacher shouldn’t use Spanish and it should only be used as a last resort to understand difficult grammar concepts and vocabulary items When asked if the teacher should use Spanish in the classroom, most students said it should be limited to Basic classes and only used in other levels if the students specifically ask, but they frowned on its use generally speaking When asked about new vocabulary, many students felt it was laziness on the teachers’ part to use Spanish and also that it did not help in the retention of a new word, because many felt that some kind of context was a better way to learn

18 Students were evenly divided between those who feel that Grammar can be explained through Spanish especially where there is a similar structure or to highlight differences, others felt that it didn’t help in L2 acquisition. Some felt that it might be useful when students have a tendency to translate and highlighting of this could help draw their attention to the recurring problems they have All students said that Spanish should not be used when they working in groups or pairs Some students felt that to speed up the process the teacher could give the translation of a difficult word in English in order to save time Some students felt that translation could be used at advanced levels because many of them have to do translation at work or will do so in the future, but they felt that translation should not be used as a test in the classroom The vast majority of students felt that Spanish should not be used to check listening comprehension or reading comprehension, or to discuss the methods used in class. Only two students approved its use for the situations mentioned above

Look at these statements below:- L2 Users’ knowledge of a second language is not the same as that of native speakers even at advanced level? L2 Users’ knowledge of their first language (L1) is not the same as that of monolingual native speakers? L2 users think in different ways to monolinguals? Which of the three statements above would you identify with? Antonion Portaluri from

20 Our decision 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 ration 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?


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