10 SES 07 D, Language and Teacher Education
The possibility of maintaining an all-English approach has always been the quest of English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom teachers as it has been for years treated as the ideal learning environment with greater learning opportunities (Copland & Neokleous, 2011; Hall & Cook, 2012; Inbar-Lourie, 2010). Despite being based on groundless premises, as there is no empirical evidence that supports the positive effects of the exclusive use of English on EFL acquisition, its implementation has been enforced by national curricula across the globe (Macaro, 2001; Meiring & Norman, 2002). To abide by the ideal setting principle, Inbar-Lourie (2010) argued that “language teaching pedagogy has tended to ignore...bilingual or multilingual options endorsing a predominantly monolingual policy, one which equates ‘good teaching’ with exclusive or nearly exclusive target language use” (p.351). As a result, the students’ mother tongue (MT) was often interpreted by EFL teachers as a source of embarrassment and even, in some cases, borderline incorrect practice (Levine, 2003; Prodromou, 2002), engendering in some cases certain attitudes of segregation and exclusion.
Recent research advocates a bilingual approach to teaching with the MT being actively present; what has been identified as optimal or judicious MT use (Macaro, 2005; Lee & Macaro, 2015). The potential of the balanced alternation between the MT and English is further strengthened by recent research investigating the concept of translanguaging (Creese & Blackledge, 2010; García, 2009; Otheguy, García & Reid, 2015). Most studies investigating the topic, however, analyse it from the teacher perspective as the existing scholarship provides only marginal discussions with respect to what young language learners believe (Neokleous, 2017). For this reason, it is often assumed by teachers that students prefer an environment that makes little to no use of their MT. Furthermore, the definition as to what judicious/optimal MT use encompasses remains rather vague and unexplored (García et al., 2011; Neokleous, 2017). To bridge this gap, the purpose of this presentation is to broaden the research lens by focusing on the perception of young learners on MT use and the pivotal role they could serve in terms of delineating optimal/judicious MT use, which is seen as a tool for students to access the contents of the curriculum thus facilitating learning. With this in mind, the presentation also aims to reflect on the use of the MT to develop students’ identity and to help teachers in the process of inclusion
In contemporary EFL settings, the practice of including the students’ MT is complicated by classrooms becoming increasingly multilingual with students sharing different MTs instead of a common one. For this reason, the study attempts to explore whether but also how the students’ MT(s) are included in these settings. Although there is a multitude of school practices in relation to the inclusion of children whose mother tongues are different from English, it was not until very recently that attitudes towards these children have changed for the better. This change was in part because of new understandings of the cognitive and linguistic capacities that they bring to the English-only contexts thus enriching the learning experience of all the children in the primary school classrooms (Moya, 2016).
Trying to elicit the views of young EFL learners in the UK and Norway with English as their second or even third language, the purpose of this presentation is to address the following questions:
a) What do students think of the general presence but also their teachers’ use of the MT in the classroom?
b)What is the value of using the mother tongue as a resource for learning English as seen by the participants?
c) Do the perceptions of EFL students in a British context and students in a Norwegian context differ?
To examine the three research questions, the researchers adopt a qualitative approach. The presentation draws on data collected from two groups of bilingual/multilingual children in EFL classrooms in the UK and Norway. The rationale behind the decision to conduct a non-random sample lay in the researchers’ desire to depict a representative portrayal of the students’ attitudes. The two groups in each country are observed different periods of an entire academic year while at the end of the academic year the students of these classes are individually interviewed. The interviews, which are audio-recorded and transcribed, allow the young learner participants to provide their perspectives on the paper's topic while their semi-structured nature enable opportunities for queries that might arise from the observations to be elucidated. Field-notes taken during the observations constituted the third data collection strategy. Interview and observation protocols are employed during the interview and observation sessions respectively to maintain a sharper focus during the observations. The two protocols assisted the researchers in acquiring and preserving a clear focus during the interviews and the on-site observations. An interpretational approach is employed to address the research questions while triangulation is also adopted to consolidate the findings. The individual interviews with the young learners are transcribed and coded using Saldana’s (2009) two coding cycle methods. The purpose was to identify the students’ attitudes regarding the use of the MT in the EFL classroom along with their beliefs as to the value attached to the integration of the MT in their classes. Data from the British and the Norwegian contexts are then contrasted employing Saldana’s (2009) two coding cycle methods to make comparisons between the two settings. Even though the results of this study offer an insight into what students think regarding the use of the MT in an attempt to shed light on a topic that neglected their opinion, it is clear that these could not be generalized to all EFL students across the UK and Norway. While this is a relatively small sample of data, the study also aspired to transcend some of the limitations with which previous research studies were associated. Most studies, for instance, mostly consisted of university students either majoring in English or taking English language lessons as part of their curriculum. Taking these aspects into consideration, the researchers maintain that the results of this study are fairly representative of the attitudes that surround MT use.
Throughout the years many scholars grappled with the perennially pressing question concerning the use of the MT in the EFL classroom but a vast majority of them explored the teachers’ outlook on the topic (Butzkamm, 2003; Neokleous, 2017). This presentation, on the other hand, endeavours to remedy this discrepancy by focusing on the way young learners feel about it. Current research encourages optimal/judicious MT integration in the classroom (Hornberger & Link, 2012; Lin & Wu, 2015). This optimality, however, is not defined or further exemplified while it also excludes what the students have to say about its inclusion in the classroom. Embracing the student voice embodies the missing step towards the conceptualization of the ideal EFL learning environment, which is responsive to but also founded on the students’ needs while also being up to date with current societal issues could shape students’ education in the best way possible. This is precisely the gap that this study attempts to close by trying to incorporate young learner attitudes from the UK and Norway. Expectantly, the results of this study could contribute to the alleviation of the negative attitude that surrounds MT use, especially among EFL teachers, towards an effective and efficient approach of it. The use of the MT should neither be treated as taboo, nor as an obstacle for the EFL classroom. Embracing usage of the MT in the classroom would certainly assist teachers but also students in the creation of a more productive and more effective classroom.
- Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language learning journal, 28(1), 29-39. -Copland, F., & Neokleous, G. (2011). L1 to teach L2: complexities and contradictions. ELT Journal, 65(3), 270-280. - Creese, A. and Blackledge, A. (2010). Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching? Modern Language Journal, 94(1), 103-115. -García, O., Makar, C., Starcevic, M., & Terry, A. (2011). The translanguaging of Latino kindergartners. In J. Rothman and K. Potowski (Eds.), Bilingual youth: Spanish in English-speaking societies (pp.33-55). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. -Hall, G., & Cook, G. (2012). Own-language use in language teaching and learning. Language Teaching, 45(3), 271-308. - Hornberger, N. H., & Link, H. (2012). Translanguaging and transnational literacies in multilingual classrooms: A biliteracy lens. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 15(3), 261-278. - Lee, J. H., & Macaro, E. (2013). Investigating age in the use of L1 or English-only instruction: Vocabulary acquisition by Korean EFL learners. Modern Language Journal, 97(4), 887-901. - Levine, G. S. (2003). Student and instructor beliefs and attitudes about target language use, first language use, and anxiety: Report of a questionnaire study. The Modern Language Journal, 87(3), 343-364. - Lin, A. M., & Wu, Y. (2015). ‘May I speak Cantonese?’–Co-constructing a scientific proof in an EFL junior secondary science classroom. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 18(3), 289-305. -Macaro, E. (2005). Codeswitching in the L2 classroom: A communication and learning strategy. In E. Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers: Perceptions, challenges and contributions to the profession (pp. 63-84). New York: Springer. -Moya, M. (2016). Exploring the linguistic capital and the perceived identity of primary school children in an urban London school. EAL Journal, 6(3), 76-85. -Neokleous, G. (2017). Closing the gap: Student attitudes toward first language use in monolingual EFL classrooms. TESOL Journal, 8(2), 314-341. - Otheguy, R., García, O., and Reid, W. (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281-307. - Prodromou, L. (2002). Prologue. In S. Deller & M. Rinvolucri (Eds.), Using the mother tongue (p. 5). London: English Teaching Professional-Delta Publishing. - Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: Sage.
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