Investigating Teachers’ Perspectives on Using Students' First Language in the English as a Second Language Classroom in Guangzhou China

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Wu, Jing
Teachers’ Perspectives , Monolingual Approach , Bilingual Approach , Teaching Practice , Individual Factors
The widely-used monolingual approach, meaning avoiding or minimizing first language (L1) use in classrooms, by increasing the input in the second language (L2) in the course of learning can effectively develop students’ comprehension skills (Krashen, 1981; Genesee, 1978). However, the monolingual approach could not explain the transfer that happens between the L1 and L2. Different theories suggested different outcomes for the transfer between the L1 and L2. Studies investigating students’ opinions on using the L1 in L2 learning indicated that the L1 was necessary in classrooms (Dujmović, 2014; Schweers Jr., 1999; Tang, 2002). However, not many studies were conducted to investigate teachers’ perspectives on using students’ L1 in English language learning. Therefore, this study examines how teachers perceive the role of students’ L1 in English language learning and the related practices. The methodology for the study follows Tang’s (2002) research by first collecting teachers’ opinions through surveys with follow-up interviews. 18 middle-school English teachers in Guangzhou, China took the questionnaire and ten of them participated in the follow-up interview. The questionnaire provided an overview and the interview results were analyzed using theoretical frameworks by Krashen (1981) and Cook (2002). The results indicate that most of the participants would apply Krashen’s (1981) Input Hypothesis in teaching to gradually reduce the amount of the L1 used in the classroom and provide input for learning although they offered an adaptation. While all of the participants would allow the use of students’ L1 in explicit conditions, some participants observed that certain skills can be accessible in both the L1 and L2. Teaching experience influenced the participants more than the L2 learning experience. Two major implications for practice could be concluded from the results. First, the L1 is helpful in explicit learning and maintaining a low affective filter while minimizing the L1 allows the students to get used to an L2-speaking environment. Second, ongoing support and reflection in teaching provides teachers with a positive development of their professional experience. Future research on a larger scale on those mechanisms is suggested to further establish the trustworthiness of those results.
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