"Use of Students' First Language in the ESL Classroom."
Use Of First Language:
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Research studies have showed the advantages of using L1 as a bridge to learn L2. Bilingual teaching accelerate language vocabulary and diminish language attrition.
Speaking from my own experience as a student where my teachers seemed more interested in practicing or showing off their knowledge of my L1, my recommendation is to use it only as a last resort with beginning students and very quickly wean off. My listening skills in L2 were greatly stinted by such teachers - anxious to quickly translate their instructions or explanations into my L1, not giving me time to think through and figure it out in L2. It wasn't until I finally had a teacher who couldn't speak my L1 that my listening skills finally began to develop.
I do agree with most of you who believe that the use of students first language in the class, SOMETIMES, can be very beneficial. Let's consider the fact that students may have a terrific contribution to give/share with their classmates but, because of the language barrier, they may nt be able to do so. whats the purpose of being in a classroom and not being able to understand or being understood? When necessary I always "allow" students to use their first language and then come back to the target one.
Stefanie Moreno, Cape Verde
Interesting topic. I'm bilingual Italian-English with a leaning towards English as I lived in UK for al my school years. I teach privately and am teaching a lot of kids in the 8-16 age group. As I am integrating normal school lessons parents are extremely happy that I talk in English only in class even if some of my students will ask direct translations of some words and evidently have had everything explained to them in Italian by their school teacher. If I need to explain what they need to do, I always use English, however if I see that there are problems understanding despite simplified explanations I give them a quick translation in Italian and repeat in English using miming gestures or using visual cues/signs. Apart from these cases they are weaned very quickly off the Italian in class as I make gestures as if I can't hear them whenever they talk to me in Italian. They soon understand that if they want to talk to me it has to be in English.
Something that I always do before getting to know my students, is to allow them to know English is not that difficult and they will overcome every difficulty they might face in the future. I encourage them to be confident and never give up. Over all use english from the beginning and other languages are banned. If students keep using Spanish, the whole group charge them candies. A sweet way to have a class!
As a student of ESL class, my opinion is students should not speak in different languages other than English, what is the point of being in ESL class if your speaking in other languages if your trying to learn in English!
Mary Joy, South Carolina, USA
I totally see both sides of the argument, and I think it partially depends on where you teach. If you are in a country where everyone in your class shares the same L1 (EFL setting), it makes sense to use their L1 to assist their understanding to explain abstruct ideas and grammar points, for example. Though if you teach in an ESL setting and your class consists of students from different L1 background, like others already said, you can't expect a teacher to be able to use multiple languages. Also, as Jon in the US pointed out, even the majority of a class shares the same language (Spanish at my school, for example),it's not fair for the students of minority languages at all if a teacher uses the majority language. I also think it depends on what you are trying to achieve in class. Sometimes a little help in students' L1 saves time and helps their understanding. On the other hand, if students are practicing English by actually using it, they should need much less or no support in their L1.
Azumi, Idaho, USA
Well, this is a very complex consideration, whether to permit or even encourage ELL students to use their first language/L1 in their English classes. I teach high school in an international private boarding school in Ontario, and the majority of the teachers are very much against the use of L1. For the most part, we in Canada are accustomed to the well-established rules implemented in classes of French immersion programs. In those academic environments, students who speak anything but French could get a detention, or even in a suspension from the program. For my part, I occasionally ask a student who has grasped a difficult concept to translate the idea to a fellow student in their L1, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Later this month, my staff is having a PD day with this topic as the main focus; I am certainly looking forward to learning the opinions of my comrades. I just hope there will not be any riots!
Lori Hodder, Canada
I teach ESL to young adults and older students. The first week I use L1 exclusively. The second week I teach bilingually; and the third week I teach exclusively in English. I tell students this the first day of class, and they do not have a problem with it. If there is any word that they want to use and do not know the word in English, I place an onine dictionary at their disposal and they write the word on a piece of paper. Thus, they also learn writing and the use of a dictionary.
I am Cambodian and english is NOT the first language I grew up speaking. Being that I grew up in a predominately Spanish speaking neighborhood, I remember in elementary school, the Spanish speaking kids would get the extra attention I suppose they needed with the ESL program they had in place. I don't believe in the extra L1 assistance in explaining words or phrases or anything else in that matter because I do not recall there being a program that helped me with my English. To learn english, I was taught in English. I'm sorry but, these Spanish speaking children can learn English just as well as I did and they shouldn't be given the handicap of extra L1 assistance. Where was my cambodian speaking teacher that translated English to Cambodian for me to help me understand better? It's just unnecessary. This is just my personal experience and does not have anything to do with say, for example, a class in Japan that is taking English classes. Which in that case I would understand the whole L1 translation. Thanks.
I teach English to Kindergarten and First Graders in Puerto Rico and it works fine for me to use the L1 language as I do so. Little children cannot go to their dictionaries to look up meanings. They are just learning to write and read their L1 language at the same time. I give them a huge amount of vocabulary words which we repeat and use on a daily basis as a routine. It feel so good when I can eventually give instructions and directions and they understand automatically what I say. First graders begin early in the school year to write 3-5 word sentences in English. Using L1 gives them security and relieves their fear of using English. My experience has been great and the students self confidence makes them avid English learners.
Although it is good to explain some certain sentences or topic to students in their native language, but when it become too much in the classroom it wil definitely affect the student mentality in the sense that the student become lazy to sort out meaning from the dictionaries by themselves and also affecting their vocabulary developement...thanks for the opportunity given to me to express my view.
Use Of First Language:
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