English Only in the EFL Classroom: Well worth the Headache?

English Only in the EFL Classroom: Well worth the Headache?


In considering the use of L1 (the learners mother tongue) in ELT (English Language Teaching) on the portion of the teacher, a person of the 1st assumptions is that the trainer has a enough command of the college students L1 to be of worth in the initially position. One more assumption which may possibly perfectly impression this circumstance is that all the learners in a course or group have the same L1. Whilst these assumptions may possibly typically be the case in numerous EFL (English as a International Language) training / discovering configurations, a lot of instances they are not. In the situation of multi-cultural lessons (i.e., in the United states of america, Uk, Australia, Canada, India, etc.) where the learners have unique L1s, or when the instructor does not have a working awareness of the learners L1, a frequent incidence in Asia, Africa and japanese Europe, utilized L1 use in the EFL classroom is severely limited or could be rendered just about extremely hard.

Use of L1 in the Classroom

In my circumstance, I’ll converse about individuals instances wherever I do in fact use the learners L1 in my EFL courses. I have acquired a working understanding of Spanish and all my university and impartial pupils have Spanish as their L1. Though I am against any considerable use of L1 in ESOL (the training of English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses, there are cases the place its use is really beneficial. In addition, at early amounts a ratio of about 5 for each cent native language to about 95 for every cent focus on language may perhaps be extra financially rewarding than the use of “English only”. (Atkinson, 1987) On the initially working day of course with a new team, I describe to the learners that they are authorized to inquire “How do you say ______ , in Spanish?” exactly where the Spanish (L1) term or phrase is filled in the blank. This will allow the college students to get key vocabulary in their published or spoken expression even though limiting their use of L1 in class.

When learners are stumped for summary lexis, a word or phrase which simply cannot be quickly elicited in the course of the program of a lesson, I’ll basically “give” them the word in Spanish to aid in continuing with the sleek move of the lesson and not get “bogged down” in striving to arrive up with the elusive lexis by other usually means. When a university student provides me creation of incomprehensible language, i.e., I (nor the other learners) can’t decipher what the pupil is trying to say in English, I am going to say “Inform me that in Spanish.” Armed with this new knowing I (or one particular of the other learners) can then deliver that learner with corrected, comprehensible forms which normally could possibly elude both equally (or even all) of us.

Throughout a written test, I’ll also “give” the learners a phrase or phrase composing it on the board in English and / or Spanish to stay away from in depth disruption of the examination-getting approach. Since I do not prepare the exams, new lexis can creep into readings, recommendations or routines. When a learner, and as more learners, request for indicating or clarification of the word(s), I will merely place to the lexis on the board devoid of speaking.

When actively playing communicative, TPR (Asher, 1966 and passim) or “rapidly-paced” vocabulary video games these as a learner most loved termed “Stop”, I am going to once more deliver a translation of new lexis to help acquire the learners vocabulary. These could be lexis of destinations, names in English / Spanish, meals, animals or some verbs or use of the L1 in a variety of code-switching things to do. (Clandfield – Foord, 2003) This takes place specially commonly when I want to explain why a distinct phrase is incorrect or cannot be made use of.

L1 Use with LEP Learners

1 added occasion when I swap to Spanish is when I will have to speak to LEP (Confined English Proficiency) learners about critical administrative matters or strategies for which they do not have the necessary depth of vocabulary to realize. The significance of the content and their have to have to realize it outweigh the adherence of sticking to “English only” which is my “normal operating method” in the classroom. This is especially real in my situation with groups of learners with fewer than about 250 make contact with several hours of English which is equivalent to third semester or significantly less. Observe: Atkinson (1987 and passim) states 150 several hours or much less (2nd semester) for this phase whilst I have observed it often extends into an additional semester.

On occasion, college students will carry in a song or lyrics, typically Rock or Pop music, and check with the which means of a phrase, phrase, expression or occasionally even the title. In giving the asked for explanation (when I can), I use comparisons and / or translations into Spanish as frequently as is vital. The similar might occur with dialogue from well known films, motion pictures and video clips produced for indigenous speakers of English. In exceptional scenarios, a cassette recording of a radio broadcast or guide-on-tape has produced its way into my classroom for the very same explanations.

A last widespread instance in my use of L1 in the classroom is with learners in “repeat” or “remedial” lessons of LEP learners. Considering the fact that these learners have now shown that the “common” educating approaches delivered for in their course publications is inadequate in educating them the product. All these learners have unsuccessful the training course at this level at minimum the moment, some two times or extra. I subsequently use a sequence of choice methodologies like translation and other forms of input / feedback in the learners L1 to assist in the studying – acquisition process. These methods have, in fact, proved to be pretty profitable. One purpose may well be that use of specifically-specific methodologies and altered classroom situations aid to lower the learners Affective Filters (Krashen – Terrell, 1983) and direct the new material and lexis to them in means extra appropriate with their individual Many Intelligences and most popular mastering variations (Gardner, 1983).


In conclusion I have mentioned that my use of L1 in the EFL classroom is minimal and ought to not exceed a ratio of extra than 5% of the L1 to 95% of the target language. Key EFL classroom scenarios in which L1 can be utilized contain:

o requesting new lexis

o explaining summary terms

o to assist in the era of comprehensible enter / manufacturing

o for the duration of exams and other significant-anxiety scenarios

o to preserve the move of dynamic pursuits

o to explain idioms and expressions in tracks, films and videos

o providing details / instructions to LEP learners

o in adapting resources to the particular requires of the learners

Even though the use of the learners L1 ought to be strictly managed, it is plausible to make correct use of it in things to do to encourage mastering and acquisition. Ongoing language acquisition exploration and in-course observe supports that use of L1 ought to not be prohibited for its own sake, but permitted once in a while as an supplemental tool in the repertoire of the instructor and the learners as circumstances warrant.

Observe: Tutorial references for this report are obtainable on request.