The role and use of mother tongue (L1) in language teaching has been variously described and researched. Prodomou (2000) describes the use of L1 in language classroom as ‘skeleton in the closet’, while Gabrielatos (2001) describes it as ‘a bone of contention’ (http://www.gabrielatos.com/L1UseInELT-TGNL.pdf, 06.12.2009). Gabrielatos states that the skeleton has been there all the time; he argues if there is a pedagogical or psycholinguistic framework to be used. Furthermore, he notes that there are too many parameters in the language teaching for success or failure to be attributed to the procedures and materials used (http://www.gabrielatos.com/L1UseInELT-TGNL.pdf, 06.12.2009). Giving pupils immediate translation is seen as one of the failure, as the immediate translation tends to create a dependency for the students. Cameron explains that pupils will soon realize the pattern of their teacher’s explanations and learn that they do not have to concentrate on working out the meaning because the translation is predictably given afterwards. (Cameron 2001: 86), in addition, Cameron suggests avoiding translation and trying other techniques. However, the limited and judicious use of mother tongue (L1) in FL classroom indeed leads to several and is very productive for certain circumstances.
First, the use of L1 is justified to be used in FL classroom to convey the meaning of an unknown word, clarify the confusing word, and explain difficult concepts. Visual aids, props, textbook illustration are used to explain a new term and clarify the words that remain confusing. However, visual aids sometimes mislead the understanding. According to Butzkamm (http://www.fremdsprachendidaktik.rwth-aachen.de/Ww/programmatisches/pachl.html, 03.12.2009), the additional techniques to convey the meaning function less and can even be harmful. In the target language (TL), the teacher has to be precise on whatever terms explained. A rough explanation is certainly not enough. The explanation, demonstration, or whatever picture used should be carefully graded and selected (Byram 2004: 416;http://www.fremdsprachendidaktik.rwthaachen.de/Ww/programmatisches/pachl.html, 03.12.2009). Therefore, L1 is the precise means of getting the means across. According to Lemos, Harmer (1991) notes that translation is a quick and efficient technique (http://www.ask.com/bar?q=the+presence+of+the+mother+tongue+in+the+foreign+language+classroom&page=1&qsrc=2417&dm=all&ab=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefreelibrary.com%2FThe%2Bpresence%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bmother%2Btongue%2Bin%2Bthe%2Bforeign%2Blanguage%2Bclassroom.%2B…a080679248&sg=yBFmOhzyeaSthtCrnc9b9mtmP4ixhGh63qZcAuk2QWI%3D&tsptsp=1260118300976. 05.12.2009). Dodson (1967/1972) in “Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning” shows a combination of idiomatic and literal translation that clarifies both what is meant and how it is said:
Why have you marked this word wrong?
Warum hast du dieses Wort angestrichen?
(clarifies the meaning)
Warum hast du dieses Wort falsch markiert?
(renders the structure transparent) (Byram 2004: 417).
This technique, for instance, provides precise meaning immediately. The pupils understand and at the same time feel assured. Besides giving immediate translation, code-switching from the TL to L1 seems to make a positive contribution to the learning process if it is used judiciously by teachers and pupils. Code-switching in the FL classroom involves pupils substituting vocabulary items from their L1, when they have not acquired sufficient knowledge of L1. To illustrate, Setati and Adler conducted research projects in South Africa about the use code-switching to communicate mathematics to pupils by primary mathematic teachers.
T: Ee ke raa gore tla re baleng potso e. [Let’s read the question.]
Ps: How many dogs are there altogether?
T: Go raa goreng? [What does it mean?] Ke batla go tlhaloganya seo pele. [I want to understand that first] Morero ke eo potso e re botsa gore dintja tso tsotlhe tse di mo dicaging di di kae. [Morero, there’s a question, it says, how many dogs are there altogether in the cages.] Dintja tso tsotlhe di di kae? [How many dogs are there altogether?] Jaanong ke batla go itse gore karabo re a go e bona jang. [I would like to know how are we going to find the answer.]
P: We are going to write tens, hundreds, thousands and units. (Puts chart on the board.) . . . and we must underline, when we are through we say 12 times 12, we underline again when we are through we put the button here and we say 2 × 2. . . (Learner goes on with the procedure in English until he gets the answer)
P: The answer is 144.
T: Go raa gore re na le dintja tse kae? [It means how many dogs do we have?]
The teacher’s language practice suggests an important relationship between code-switching, the kinds of mathematical discourses used and whether these enable or constrain learner access to communicating mathematics. The research’s result states that it makes sense for teacher to encourage and use pupil’s L1 as learning and teaching resource. L1 is found as an effective method of learning.
Secondly, the use of L1 in the L2 classroom is used to check the pupils’ comprehension. Asking pupils questions, for example, “How do you say ‘I have been there’ in German?” is a quicker and accurate path to check how far they have comprehended the language. Schweers (1999) investigated a monolingual Spanish-speaking class in Puerto Rico. He carried out an experiment on his own classes.
“I use Spanish to make comprehension checks. It is important as you go along to periodically make sure students are understanding. I will ask, “Does everyone understand? Who can tell me the Spanish translation?” Or, after making an important point, I will ask, “Who can say what I just said in Spanish?”.”(http://www.exchanges.state.gov/forum/vols/vol37/no2/p6.html, 01.12.2009)
He found that the pupils are enthusiastic and receptive with the classroom activities. He noted the pupils spontaneously use English in class and while working on the task. Even though all teachers reported using the L1 to some degree, they saw a place for a more restricted use of the L1 than pupils in the situations mentioned above.
Thirdly, L1 is justified to be used particularly when the teacher and pupils need to compromise or negotiate disciplinary and other management circumstances. In the classroom, noise and indiscipline might seem to occur to circumstances, for example: when pupils are not clear what to do, when the task is too easy or too difficult, or when the characteristic of the task provokes noise. The pupils prefer to talk to friends rather than work on the task, and then the noise is generated. It is very difficult for the teacher to maintain the classroom. Furthermore, if the class size is big then the noise and in discipline’s probability is greater. Therefore, the teacher needs L1 for its immediate effect in order to minimize the noise or indiscipline during the task. Mee-Ling (1996) recalls Lin’s (1990) and Pennington’s findings (1995) that Cantonese (L1) was used to keep discipline and draw pupil’s attention.
“Some naughty boys didn’t pay attention in class. They looked puzzled when I told them to keep quiet. Therefore I used Cantonese “ngon jiung ! m goi lau sam seung tong! (Keep quiet! please pay attention to the lesson!) Then, they were immediately conscious that they were too talkative in keeping discipline.”
Furthermore, teachers tended to use Cantonese to control the class in order to finish the lesson as quickly as possible (www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/en/pej/0601/0601091.ht / 02.12.2009).
Last, the use of mother tongue in the classroom creates a better teaching-learning environment (reducing language anxiety and building self confidence). Meyer cites Brown (2000) that language anxiety has a strong effective influence on second language acquisition. Language anxiety is aroused when pupils have communication anxiety, fear of negative social evaluation, or academic evaluation (www.kyoai.ac.jp/college/ronshuu/no-08/meyer1.pdf. 05.12.2009). The use of the L1 allays the language anxiety. Comparing to the monolingual classroom’s situation, pupils dropped to silence when they were fined by the teacher every time they were caught using their mother tongue. This attempt has blocked pupils’ process of learning. Pupils do not have a positive state of mind to learn. The use of L1 in the language classroom helps students to understand the expressions used, they can use the expression with a great confidence. At the next step, the pupils can use the expression based on their needs. The pupils feel secure and assured as they can understand and use it based on their needs.
In conclusion, the L1 in the FL classroom is used for various purposes that serve mainly classroom management. Classroom management comprises organizing the class what to do, controlling behavior (discipline), explaining activities. In simpler terms, the teacher might use L1 when the communication breaks down, the lesson plan is destroyed by discipline problems, and the teacher uses ineffective teaching strategies. Therefore, the use of L1 is indeed very judicious. The teacher should be sensible enough to reflect on their teaching strategies and find out the core teaching problems (www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/en/pej/0601/0601091.ht / 02.12.2009). The use of L1 might turn up as a disadvantage if the teacher does not seek any attempt to work on their ineffective teaching strategies. Nevertheless, L2 use in the foreign language classroom needs to be maximized whenever possible, by encouraging its use and using it for classroom management. If the use of L2 is demonstrated carefully and constantly then classroom management can be a very effective tool for EFL process. In this way the role of L1 in classroom management can be minimized, on the other hand, the role of the L2 can be increased.
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