Situational Responses

By Mr Mustapha Louznadji
Inspector of National Education

Political and Ideological L1 Usage

      There seems to be political and ideological reasons rather than pedagogical reasons behind the challenging debate on L1 use. These ideological / political reasons date back to the Americanization movement in the 19th century. While this  movement  gave  rise  the spread of ESL instruction, ELT methodology advocated the use of English-only instruction, for example as in direct method, in contrast to the earlier ones in which the use of learners’ L1 had been allowed, as in Grammar-Translation (Celce-Murcia,1991; Auerbach,1993; and Richard & Rodgers, 1986).

         With the World War I, the number of immigrants increased in America. This immigration movement made ESL instruction more important than ever because those immigrants were working at different jobs and expected to speak good English.This Americanization movement influenced ELT methods. For example; Direct Method, which put an emphasis on using English only with no L1 was allowed  (Auerbach,1993).

        L1 use in ELT methodology  was not only affected  by the Americanization  movement  but it was also  affected  by  British policies. In the  late 1950s and  early1960s, English  was regarded as  a tool which helps  the spreading colonies  of  Britain. Therefore, L1  use had no  place  in  ELT. In a conference at  Makare University, Uganda in 1961, an ELT  expert mentioned  that ;

      “English is best taught monolingually. The ideal teacher of English is a native  speaker. The earlier English is taught, the  better  are the results. The more English is  taught, the  better  are the results. If other languages are used too much, standards of  English  will drop” (Phillipson, 1992.p.185).

       So we conclude that spreading English was such a  strong  purpose in America and Britain that using L1 was excluded in  ESL during Americanization movement.

         However, researches   in ELT showed that L1 can be a very important source. The belief that L1 use might play an important  to improve the  foreign language has  received great attention in bilingual education (Collingham, 1988; and Piasecka,1988 ) lists the advantages of using learners’ L1 in ESL classrooms like:

      - Valuing and building on the knowledge that learners already have and bring to the classroom.

       - Raising the position of  languages  used by ethnic minorities in Britain, which in turn raises the self esteem of the speakers of those languages, making them more confident and effective  learners.

       -  Raising language awareness.

       - Learners already have some linguistic skills and knowledge; by thinking about their own and other languages, a class will learn  more about language and languages in  general.

      This can speed up aspects of  learning and  increase learners’ tolerance of one another’s  difficulties. Using learners’ first language improves English learning. Using L1 Reduces learner anxiety and increases confidence and motivation in  the classroom. Gaining every learner, no matter how limited their knowledge of English.