The role of the first language in meaning-focused and form-focused second language learning


  • Binh Thanh Ta Monash University


L1 use, L2 learning, form-focused task, meaning-focused task


Some second language teachers feel guilty when they let students use their first language (L1) in classrooms; other teachers may acknowledge that allowing students to use the L1 may be beneficial to L2 learning, but they are unclear how beneficial it is. The present article is an attempt to clarify how L1 use may facilitate L2 learning from a sociocultural perspective. It discusses the role of the L1 in L2 teaching in relation to meaning-focused and form-focused tasks. In both types of tasks, L1 use is found to function as an effective medium for learners to provide scaffolded help in managing, completing tasks and facilitating interpersonal relationships. It is also found to be a useful tool for learners to regulate their thinking in cognitively demanding tasks. It is suggested that L2 teachers should try to explore how to make use of L1 in L2 learning instead of prohibiting L1 use by all means.