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English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Inconvenience?

English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Inconvenience?


In considering the use of L1 (the learners mom tongue) in ELT (English Language Teaching) on the portion of the trainer, a single of the very first assumptions is that the instructor has a adequate command of the students L1 to be of value in the to start with area. An additional assumption which may possibly perfectly influence this state of affairs is that all the learners in a class or group have the very same L1. Though these assumptions might frequently be the situation in numerous EFL (English as a Foreign Language) instructing / learning options, lots of instances they are not. In the situation of multi-cultural courses (i.e., in the United states, Uk, Australia, Canada, India, etcetera.) wherever the learners have distinctive L1s, or when the teacher does not have a functioning expertise of the learners L1, a recurrent prevalence in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe, utilized L1 use in the EFL classroom is seriously constrained or may be rendered nearly unachievable.

Use of L1 in the Classroom

In my circumstance, I’ll speak about those people situations wherever I do in truth use the learners L1 in my EFL classes. I have obtained a performing awareness of Spanish and all my college and independent learners have Spanish as their L1. Though I’m versus any significant use of L1 in ESOL (the training of English to Speakers of Other Languages) classes, there are scenarios in which its use is really precious. In addition, at early amounts a ratio of about 5 for every cent indigenous language to about 95 for every cent target language may perhaps be extra profitable than the use of “English only”. (Atkinson, 1987) On the to start with day of course with a new team, I clarify to the learners that they are allowed to check with “How do you say ______ , in Spanish?” where by the Spanish (L1) term or phrase is stuffed in the blank. This makes it possible for the students to get critical vocabulary in their prepared or spoken expression when restricting their use of L1 in course.

When learners are stumped for summary lexis, a phrase or phrase which can’t be very easily elicited for the duration of the course of a lesson, I am going to only “give” them the phrase in Spanish to aid in continuing with the smooth flow of the lesson and not get “bogged down” in hoping to arrive up with the elusive lexis by other indicates. When a scholar gives me manufacturing of incomprehensible language, i.e., I (nor the other learners) can not decipher what the student is attempting to say in English, I am going to say “Convey to me that in Spanish.” Armed with this new knowledge I (or a single of the other learners) can then deliver that learner with corrected, comprehensible types which usually could elude the two (or even all) of us.

In the course of a penned exam, I am going to also “give” the learners a word or phrase crafting it on the board in English and / or Spanish to stay away from intensive disruption of the exam-getting method. Considering the fact that I do not prepare the examinations, new lexis can creep into readings, recommendations or routines. When a learner, and as extra learners, ask for this means or explanation of the word(s), I am going to just position to the lexis on the board without having talking.

When taking part in communicative, TPR (Asher, 1966 and passim) or “quickly-paced” vocabulary game titles this kind of as a learner favored called “Prevent”, I am going to once again provide a translation of new lexis to assist establish the learners vocabulary. These could be lexis of spots, names in English / Spanish, foodstuff, animals or some verbs or use of the L1 in numerous code-switching functions. (Clandfield – Foord, 2003) This takes place in particular regularly when I want to make clear why a unique phrase is incorrect or cannot be utilised.

L1 Use with LEP Learners

One more occasion when I swap to Spanish is when I need to converse to LEP (Limited English Proficiency) learners about essential administrative matters or procedures for which they do not have the necessary depth of vocabulary to fully grasp. The value of the product and their need to have to recognize it outweigh the adherence of sticking to “English only” which is my “typical working technique” in the classroom. This is primarily genuine in my case with teams of learners with significantly less than about 250 get in touch with several hours of English which is equivalent to third semester or a lot less. Be aware: Atkinson (1987 and passim) states 150 several hours or less (next semester) for this stage even though I have uncovered it frequently extends into an extra semester.

On situation, students will provide in a tune or lyrics, ordinarily Rock or Pop music, and talk to the meaning of a phrase, phrase, expression or often even the title. In delivering the asked for rationalization (when I can), I use comparisons and / or translations into Spanish as normally as is required. The identical may arise with dialogue from well known movies, films and movies created for native speakers of English. In unusual situations, a cassette recording of a radio broadcast or reserve-on-tape has built its way into my classroom for the exact reasons.

A remaining prevalent occasion in my use of L1 in the classroom is with learners in “repeat” or “remedial” lessons of LEP learners. Because these learners have now shown that the “common” instructing strategies offered for in their course publications is insufficient in educating them the substance. All these learners have failed the class at this amount at the very least as soon as, some 2 times or much more. I subsequently use a series of substitute methodologies which include translation and other forms of input / comments in the learners L1 to assist in the studying – acquisition process. These approaches have, in point, proved to be really productive. Just one motive may be that use of specifically-qualified methodologies and altered classroom ailments enable to lessen the learners Affective Filters (Krashen – Terrell, 1983) and immediate the new material and lexis to them in techniques more suitable with their particular person Several Intelligences and favored finding out kinds (Gardner, 1983).


In summary I have stated that my use of L1 in the EFL classroom is small and should not exceed a ratio of a lot more than 5% of the L1 to 95% of the goal language. Crucial EFL classroom cases in which L1 can be used include:

o requesting new lexis

o explaining summary conditions

o to assist in the generation of comprehensible input / creation

o through tests and other large-stress predicaments

o to keep the flow of dynamic activities

o to demonstrate idioms and expressions in tracks, movies and videos

o supplying information and facts / instructions to LEP learners

o in adapting components to the distinctive wants of the learners

Although the use of the learners L1 should really be strictly controlled, it is plausible to make correct use of it in functions to market discovering and acquisition. Ongoing language acquisition research and in-class follow supports that use of L1 should not be prohibited for its possess sake, but permitted from time to time as an supplemental software in the repertoire of the teacher and the learners as circumstances warrant.

Be aware: Educational references for this short article are available on ask for.