STUDENTS’ L1 USE: A STUMBLING BLOCK OR A FACILITATOR IN L2 LEARNING?

Authors

  • Yukie Saito Temple University

Keywords:

An English-only policy, L1 use, L1 functions, teacher belief, language policy

Abstract

This article explores Japanese university students' use of their first language (L1) in English discussion classes taught by two teachers who share the L1. First, the amount of L1 use in six observed classes was quantified by using a 20-second sampling procedure. Then, turns including Japanese words or phrases were identified and categorized based on various functions: (a) for scaffolded help; (b) for task control; (c) for social purposes; (d) as accidental reactions; (e) as responses to L1 use; and (f) as private speech. The amount of L1 use and its functions were examined in relation to teachers' attitudes toward an English-only policy, which is an institutional requirement. Data from observations and interviews indicated that in general, students were following the English-only rule, in particular, while engaged in Student-Student interactions. The data also revealed the variability in the amount of students' L1 use between the teachers, which ranged from 0% to 14.7%, and this difference seems to have resulted from a contrast in the teachers' interpretations of the language policy and their flexibility in dealing with students' L1 use. Consistent with the findings of previous studies, the L1 played cognitive and social roles in L2 learning, and was most frequently used for social purposes, that is to say, to establish a positive learning environment. Hence, the author argues that before prohibiting any use of L1, teachers should recognize the educational values that L1 holds and decide how much L1 should be accepted, depending on the purpose of the class and the needs of students.

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Published

2014-10-30

Issue

Section

Articles