When and how much L1 use in EFL has been a hotly debated problem among scholars over the decades. Since the existence of communicative approaches like direct method and audio-lingual method that prohibits the L1 in EFL classrooms the discussion on the subject has grown. This paper analyzes the role and effect of L1 in the English EFL classroom setting.
Researches and studies had been made by professionals have been used as a resource. In this article, I am going to show you the advantages and disadvantages of using and not using the first language besides how and when the first language should be used in foreign language classrooms. Furthermore, my observations as an EFL teacher has been presented in the study.
First language L1 use in English as a foreign language EFL classroom has been the focus of ongoing discussion by the researchers over the years since the existence of communicative approaches like direct method, audio, lingual method. It is easy to say that researchers have divided into two groups on the discussion, first who support monolingual classes and secondly researchers that support the idea of using L1.
But I can say that they all agree about the use of L1 could be limited teachers and students don’t rely on L1 too much. Prodromou 2000 mentions to the L1 as a skeleton in the closet whereas Gabrielatos 2001 refers it as a bone of contention. Some of the researchers conclude that L1 could be helpful as it may reduce the anxiety that learners have. But the others affirm that more English usage could be more advantageous as it may help learners to get involved more in English.
Researches have shown that switching between languages and translation happens instinctually to all language learners and the L1 is an actually crucial resource in foreign language learning Cook 2001. Hopkins 1988 states that when the L1 of the learners is ignored the learners may not be motivated and may feel threatened. Most of the studies about the subject suggest that English usage in the classroom should be maximized as EFL learners may expose to the English only in classes for only a few hours per a week. Thus according to these studies relying on L1 even for a little bit could hinder the learner development process. Krashen 1981 suggests that learners need to acquire a foreign language as they acquire L1 so L1 use should be minimized in a classroom. On the other hand researchers in the field of foreign language acquisition conclude that if teachers of English apply L1 when it is needed it could be facilitating role in EFL. As it can be seen there is a certain result that is accepted by all the researchers that relying on L1 heavily is not acceptable.
The place of L1 and how it should be used in EFL classrooms has always been questioned. It has been reported that prohibition of the L1 is almost impossible in Nunan Lamb 1996. Most of the professionals agree that the judicious use of L1 is acceptable in EFL classrooms. Atkinson 1987 lists acceptable uses of L1 in foreign language classrooms drawing out language for all levels checking comprehension for all levels explaining complex instructions to basic levels assisting learners. Moreover, Auerbach 1993 also lists following appropriate uses of L1 classroom environment language structure giving rules discussing cultural elements correcting errors and checking comprehension.
L1 can be used to give the accurate meaning of the unknown word that might take a few minutes to explain. Harmer 2009 supports the idea that using L1 has obvious advantages to keep the social atmosphere of the class translation and to make contact with the students. Khati 2011 says that Every journey starts from home. The linguistic journey into foreign language also starts from home. As it is seen L1 has a facilitating role in foreign language learning Dawson 2010 agrees that teachers could hinder using L1 in the classroom, however, the teacher cannot hinder students from using L1 in their brains. The advantages of using L1 in EFL classrooms cannot be disregarded.
Besides, the use of L1 could facilitate the language learning process in some way Harbord 1992 describes that using learners’ L1 is indeed an effective factor to develop teacher-student rapport. Even asking the students: Hello how are you in their L1 could draw the attention of the students to the teacher. Harbord 1992 As students realize that they can use L1 when they need it makes them more efficient in EFL classrooms. Tang 2002 says that limited and careful use of the L1 is practical and can help the learning and teaching process. Samadi 2011 pointed out that the teachers used the L1 generally for establishing a comfortable classroom environment giving structures of the language explaining meanings of vocabularies and giving instruction In the article. Atkinson 1987 states one of the crucial roles of the L1 is let students tell what they really want to tell.
The point of such exercises is to supply the students with the chance to express themselves more efficiently. Using L1 could help to make tasks meaningful for students as they focus on the task more efficiently. The use of L1 is useful in language learning because it helps the completion of the task and creates a social and cognitive space in which students can help each other throughout their work. Anton Dicamilla 1998 cited in Pan Pan 2010 L1 saves time while explaining the unknown word to enable learners to grasp the concept of grammar. In addition, L1 can be a motivating and useful factor to make students feel comfortable to remove learning disabilities or to reduce the anxiety of learners.