10 SES 10 A JS, Language and Teacher Education
Joint Paper Session NW 10 and NW 31
Current scholarship promulgates a judicious or optimal Mother Tongue (MT) use in the classroom with few studies attempting to shed light on what this term encompasses (García et al., 2011). As this issue arises in monolingual environments, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers who share the same language with their students are often left wondering when they should and when they should not use the MT. To mitigate this, starting with a discussion of interview and observation findings in four monolingual classrooms in Norway, the presentation will look at the active role teachers could play in terms of scrutinizing the two terms that are often used interchangeably.
Throughout the years, the use of the MT in monolingual EFL classrooms has been frowned upon and advised against, as it was perceived as a form of poor teaching that negatively affects target language (TL) acquisition (Copland & Neokleous, 2011; Hall & Cook, 2012; McMillan & Rivers, 2011). The English-only approach, on the other hand, has become synonymous with optimizing pedagogy. However, research on the potential disadvantages of teaching approaches that integrate MT use is inconclusive, as is research on the positive effects of an all-TL learning environment (Hall & Cook, 2012). Currently, there seems to be a pendulum shift away from a belief that inhibits MT use towards a bilingual approach to teaching; what has been labeled in the literature as optimal or judicious MT use.
Yet, because of the lack of research on the use of the MT in the EFL classroom in the European context but also because it is a topic that is rarely discussed in teacher training programs, it is often assumed by teachers that students prefer an environment that makes little to no use of their MT. What complicates matters further is that while policy makers often suggest the maximal use of TL, European curricula for the subject of English do not contain any direct statements prescribing English as the sole language of instruction. Thus, EFL teachers who share the same language with their students are often left wondering to what extent and in what contexts they should employ TL and MT. Furthermore, the definition as to what judicious/optimal MT use encompasses remains rather vague and unexplored in the literature. As a result, this gives rise to pertinent questions from which the teachers in these settings cannot extricate themselves and often find quite difficult to answer. Should they indulge in MT usage during the lesson? If so, how much time should be allotted to its use? To bridge this gap, the purpose of this presentation is to broaden the research lens by focusing on the perception of EFL teachers in monolingual environments on MT use and the active role they could play in terms of delineating optimal/judicious MT use.
The research questions that the presentation will focus on are:
- What do teachers think of the use of the mother tongue in the monolingual EFL classroom?
- Do teachers use the MT? If so, when?
- When do teachers think the MT should be used? For what classroom purposes?
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