In my experience, teachers often have quite strong feelings about the use of a pupil’s L1 (first language) in the classroom – it is either encouraged or forbidden. Garcia and Sylvan (2011) describe monolingual education as outdated in our current ‘globalized’ world and discourage the practise of imposing only one language. In fact, they suggest that teachers should support students in developing their awareness of their first language as well as the language of instruction. This may not feel entirely practical, as in order to do this, the teacher often feels the need to be competent in all of the languages being used in the classroom. However, it is certainly possible to support L1. Have a look at some strategies recommended by Scott (2016):
The importance of developing the mother tongue is now widely accepted among researchers. Cummins is at the forefront of this discussion, as he contends that knowledge in one language helps learners understand information in another language (2000). Other researchers such as Atkinson (1987) and Kim (2011) advocate the importance of the mother tongue in the classroom and suggest that the L1 is an invaluable tool. In Kim’s 2011 study, it was clear that the use of the mother tongue, specifically translation, helped the learners to recognise the importance of accuracy and led them to be more objective about their writing.
The accompanying EAL resources aim to facilitate vocabulary building through translation. It is considered good practice to provide students with vocabulary lists, and these often come with a definition. However, the definition is often too abstract for the pupils to fully comprehend and they would benefit far more from seeing the word in context. The material therefore combines translation with example sentences.
Atkinson, D. (1987) The mother tongue in the classroom: a neglected resource? ELT Journal, Volume 41, Issue 4, 1 October 1987, Pages 241–247, //doi.org/10.1093/elt/41.4.241
Cummins, J. (2000) Language, Power and Pedgogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters
GARC´IA, O. & SYLVAN, C. (2011) Pedagogies and Practices in Multilingual Classrooms: Singularities in Pluralities, The Modern Language Journal, 95/3
Kim, E. (2011) Using translation exercises in the communicative EFL writing classroom, ELT Journal, Volume 65, Issue 2, 1 April 2011, Pages 154–160
Scott, C (2016) How you can support students’ mother tongue development International School Magazine, Volume 18, Issue 3
Author: Emma Mijailovic, EAL Teacher