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English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Problem?

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English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Problem?


In thinking of the use of L1 (the learners mother tongue) in ELT (English Language Instructing) on the section of the teacher, one of the initially assumptions is that the trainer has a sufficient command of the learners L1 to be of benefit in the 1st position. One more assumption which could very well influence this situation is that all the learners in a course or group have the very same L1. Even though these assumptions may well normally be the circumstance in various EFL (English as a Foreign Language) training / learning configurations, lots of periods they are not. In the scenario of multi-cultural classes (i.e., in the United states of america, Uk, Australia, Canada, India, etcetera.) exactly where the learners have different L1s, or when the trainer does not have a doing work expertise of the learners L1, a repeated occurrence in Asia, Africa and jap Europe, utilized L1 use in the EFL classroom is seriously confined or may possibly be rendered pretty much not possible.

Use of L1 in the Classroom

In my circumstance, I am going to speak about these situations where I do in reality use the learners L1 in my EFL courses. I have obtained a operating awareness of Spanish and all my university and impartial college students have Spanish as their L1. Although I’m towards any sizeable use of L1 in ESOL (the instructing of English to Speakers of Other Languages) classes, there are predicaments exactly where its use is really beneficial. In addition, at early degrees a ratio of about 5 for every cent native language to about 95 per cent focus on language might be more profitable than the use of “English only”. (Atkinson, 1987) On the 1st working day of class with a new team, I clarify to the learners that they are authorized to question “How do you say ______ , in Spanish?” the place the Spanish (L1) term or phrase is loaded in the blank. This enables the learners to get key vocabulary in their composed or spoken expression though limiting their use of L1 in class.

When learners are stumped for abstract lexis, a word or phrase which are unable to be easily elicited during the course of a lesson, I’ll just “give” them the phrase in Spanish to support in continuing with the sleek move of the lesson and not get “bogged down” in hoping to appear up with the elusive lexis by other implies. When a university student offers me creation of incomprehensible language, i.e., I (nor the other learners) cannot decipher what the university student is hoping to say in English, I will say “Notify me that in Spanish.” Armed with this new being familiar with I (or one of the other learners) can then provide that learner with corrected, comprehensible forms which usually could possibly elude both of those (or even all) of us.

In the course of a prepared test, I will also “give” the learners a term or phrase crafting it on the board in English and / or Spanish to keep away from considerable disruption of the test-having process. Because I do not prepare the exams, new lexis can creep into readings, directions or workouts. When a learner, and as additional learners, check with for that means or explanation of the phrase(s), I will just position to the lexis on the board without talking.

When enjoying communicative, TPR (Asher, 1966 and passim) or “fast-paced” vocabulary games these as a learner favourite referred to as “Prevent”, I am going to all over again supply a translation of new lexis to support acquire the learners vocabulary. These could be lexis of sites, names in English / Spanish, foodstuff, animals or some verbs or use of the L1 in different code-switching actions. (Clandfield – Foord, 2003) This occurs primarily often when I have to have to make clear why a unique word is incorrect or can’t be applied.

L1 Use with LEP Learners

Just one added instance when I swap to Spanish is when I should discuss to LEP (Restricted English Proficiency) learners about vital administrative issues or methods for which they do not have the vital depth of vocabulary to recognize. The importance of the material and their will need to have an understanding of it outweigh the adherence of sticking to “English only” which is my “typical operating technique” in the classroom. This is in particular legitimate in my scenario with groups of learners with less than about 250 contact hrs of English which is equal to 3rd semester or less. Note: Atkinson (1987 and passim) states 150 hrs or significantly less (second semester) for this stage whilst I have discovered it often extends into an additional semester.

On celebration, pupils will deliver in a track or lyrics, usually Rock or Pop songs, and inquire the this means of a term, phrase, expression or sometimes even the title. In providing the asked for explanation (when I can), I use comparisons and / or translations into Spanish as typically as is necessary. The identical may arise with dialogue from preferred films, motion pictures and videos developed for indigenous speakers of English. In unusual situations, a cassette recording of a radio broadcast or guide-on-tape has made its way into my classroom for the identical causes.

A final prevalent instance in my use of L1 in the classroom is with learners in “repeat” or “remedial” courses of LEP learners. Because these learners have by now shown that the “regular” teaching procedures provided for in their program books is inadequate in instructing them the material. All these learners have unsuccessful the study course at this degree at the very least at the time, some 2 times or much more. I subsequently use a series of alternative methodologies which include translation and other styles of enter / feed-back in the learners L1 to support in the finding out – acquisition system. These techniques have, in point, proved to be very productive. Just one motive could be that use of specially-focused methodologies and altered classroom disorders help to lower the learners Affective Filters (Krashen – Terrell, 1983) and direct the new material and lexis to them in means a lot more appropriate with their person Multiple Intelligences and preferred discovering variations (Gardner, 1983).


In conclusion I have mentioned that my use of L1 in the EFL classroom is minimal and should not exceed a ratio of a lot more than 5% of the L1 to 95% of the concentrate on language. Key EFL classroom predicaments in which L1 can be used incorporate:

o requesting new lexis

o detailing summary terms

o to support in the era of comprehensible enter / generation

o in the course of tests and other superior-stress conditions

o to sustain the stream of dynamic functions

o to demonstrate idioms and expressions in music, films and movies

o providing info / guidelines to LEP learners

o in adapting materials to the distinctive wants of the learners

Even though the use of the learners L1 must be strictly managed, it is plausible to make correct use of it in functions to boost discovering and acquisition. Ongoing language acquisition study and in-course practice supports that use of L1 should not be prohibited for its very own sake, but allowed at times as an extra resource in the repertoire of the instructor and the learners as situations warrant.

Take note: Academic references for this post are out there on ask for.

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