USING THE L1
Using the L1 is appropriate for students
to use the L1 in class when their main
object is, after all to learn an L2 (in our
The first thing to remember is that, especially
at beginner levels, students are going to
translate what is happening into their L1
whether teachers what them to or not. It is a
natural process of learning a foreign language.
It is advisable for teachers to use
English as often as possible, and not
to spend a long time talking in the
To use the translation process in the ways
described above does not mean return to a
traditional grammar translation method, but
rather that, from time to time , using the
students first language may help then to see
connection in differences between the first
language and the second language.
USING THE FIRST LANGUAGE IN
The majority of English language teaching
takes place in classrooms where both the
students and the teacher share the same L1
(first language). In these contexts, the L1 is
often banned from the classroom, and for
many good reasons. Many teachers and
heads of department forbid the use of L1
because an all-English speaking environment
is prized since it actively encourages
communication in English.
BELOW WE CAN SEE SOME GUIDELINES IN
THREE LEVELS; FROM BASIC TO MORE IN-DEPTH.
LEVEL ONE: FUNCTIONAL
Level one can be used by all ELT
teachers to help the class function
more effectively without essentially
compromising the popular principle
that English should be used at all times.
The use of the L1 is quite restricted and
the teacher is always in complete
control so there is no chance of the L1
taking over the class.
Now encourages students to
draw on their knowledge of
their L1 and English to
develop language learning
strategies. This is essentially
done by asking students to
make comparisons between
the two languages. The
teacher is able to do this
without the need to use the
L1 themselves if they do not
want to. Again, if the teacher
fears losing control they can
use the time out idea to
create a ‘window’ from the
exclusively all English
atmosphere in the classroom.
Three uses the L1 to develop
language awareness, higher order
thinking skills, and to explore and
comprehend features of discourse
in English. The teacher also
incorporates the ideas from levels
one and two.
These ideas are designed to encourage teachers to make principled use
of the L1 in their classroom without feeling guilty about doing do so,
while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls that are often associated
with its use.
Making use of the students´ L1 does not mean we should abandon the
commitment to creating an English environment. Although we have
seen that the L1 can be used as a enabling tool, English should
predominate in an English lesson, especially where the teacher is
concerned since, as we have seen, he or she is the best provider of
comprehensible input that he students have got. Not only that, but
English is the language they are learning, no their L1. However, despite
our best efforts, some students find it difficult to use English in the
Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. England: Pearson.