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Around the world, there is a conventional thought that foreign languages should only be taught by native speakers and that the students’ native language should be banned from the classroom. This problem is more rampant among English classes since English is taught much more often across the globe, but the prejudice remains for all languages.
The success of immersion programs has been used as the rationale to support banning the L1, and even though teaching non-language courses in a foreign language can improve language learning, many immersion programs do not ban the L1 completely. Language students should always be thought of as developing bilinguals or multilinguals, rather than two or more monolinguals. Students should never be denied the opportunity to use their L1 in any type of learning, especially young students who haven’t even completely acquired their native language yet.
Fortunately researchers have started calling for a more bilingual or lingua franca approach to teaching English which focuses on context and learner needs, which really should be applied to all languages.
This entry was posted in Learning Other Languages, PhD Research on February 17, 2012 by Dr.
I know that when I taught English in Italy, I relied heavily on the grammar I learned when learning Italian.
The question of not using L1 in the classroom is one that I’ve had strong feelings about for years. The point about monolinguals not being good role models for language learners is an interesting one too. I used to teach English in France myself, and I was horrified when I discovered one day that I had taught the wrong pronunciation of a word to my English students – I had definitely not spent enough time in English speaking countries at the time. I definitely think there should be a standard that speakers of different dialects can fall back on when talking to each other, but we need to get away from this idea that there are mistakes and correct language that only intelligent people use. I am not a prescriptivist either and do not agree that language should be thought of as correct vs. I try to present all forms of language in the classroom so that students see the value in every variety and can understand all users of a particular language.
When I said that some native speakers make mistakes as well, I mean that they are not using the accepted standardized form (such as I seen instead of I saw) that is used for most communication, especially in writing. Interesting article to me, since I have always considered that it is important that the teacher of a second language is a native speaker of that language. It is not only because of the accent (and probably the grammar, although as you say it may be worse than that of a non-native teacher) but also because of the culture itself.
But as you say, it is not black and white, not to speak about research conclusions, which I didn’t know about and seem to support non-native teacing. Grammar probably can be equally taught by non-native speakers since it is something we always have to work on and a non-native teacher may have it very fresh (as a result od their working and focusing on it). The ulitity of native speakers lies in the fact that they can teach you how to say things naturally, but that doesn’t automatically make them good teachers o even experts in their grammar.
Learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and English with authentic videos by Yabla that include subtitles and translations.



Learn to read languages with interlinear bilingual books that include the original language and an English translation below in a smaller font. This is especially commonplace among English as a Second or Foreign Language schools which tend to exclusively employ native speakers of English, even if they have absolutely no experience or training in language teaching.
I certainly feel insulted when people say they will not learn languages from non-native speaking teachers because I am a non-native teacher of French. And it leads into the second issue of banning the L1, because if the teacher is monolingual then he or she cannot resort to another language in the classroom. In fact, much of the research on immersion programs show the importance of adding an L2 to an L1 instead of replacing the L1 by an L2. The monolingual native speaker model that is portrayed in essentially all pedagogical materials (as well as by hiring monolingual teachers) presents an unattainable and impossible goal for language learners. When you learn a second language, you are no longer monolingual and by definition, you will never be a native speaker of another language. So why is that the model that we teach to students? Ideally the teachers are multilingual and multicultural, who know the language of their students and have some knowledge of the particularities of the varieties of the language used throughout the world. It seems totally illogical for a teacher not to use L1 in situations where otherwise there would be confusion, when even my classes of little French 7 year olds were automatically applying their knowledge of their native language to help them to learn English. It happens all to often in schools that teachers, instead of  promoting intercultural understanding and tolerance, all too often, explicitly or otherwise, assert the superiority of one language or culture over another. Some native speakers, who are from different regions use different regional accent that is not good for students as they can also learn the regional accent.
But they do need to know the standardized form as well and how it will be perceived by native speakers if they do not know it. But even though it would be classified as a mistake in that context, it would be appropriate in other situations for certain varieties. As second language teachers, we are sometimes faced with students whose affective filter is very high because they do not understand certain instructions in or what is being said in the L2. However, this is mostly done for reasons related to money, prestige and prejudice and it is not, in fact, supported by linguistic research. I am fluent in the language and have years of teaching experience, as well as several degrees and publications, and yet because my native language is not French that somehow makes me inferior to native speakers with no experience or education in teaching. Yet second language acquisition research provides no reason to ban the L1 completely from the classroom, and there certainly exists research to support that using the L1 is more effective for certain aspects of language learning – such as explaining grammar or tasks, disciplining students, translations for ambiguous words, etc. Unfortunately it happens all too often that the opposite of research reported in the popular press immediately becomes wrong.
When talking about world languages, we tend to think of English, Spanish, French, Arabic, etc.
I also used my Italian to translate words that were untranslatable by context or body language. Non native speaker learn the language approprietly and explore the language in various ways. Every style of language has its purpose and everyone *should* think of it in terms of appropriateness but the reality is that many people have misconceptions about language and will, in fact, think of others as uneducated or plain wrong if they use a variant that is not socially acceptable.


The research shows it clearly; the best atmosphere for L2 learning is one free of anxiety, one which is relaxed. Imagine any other business where you could teach someone else to do something in which you have absolutely no knowledge or success. In many ways, I actually prefer non-native speakers as teachers because then I know they have gone through the same experience as me in learning the language and they know the mistakes that I am likely to make and how to avoid them. Of course, there are limits to how much the L1 should be used as the amount of input in the second language (L2) is extremely important. We are too quick to assume that evidence for an idea also means evidence against the competing idea. Students should certainly never be made to feel as though their language is bad or wrong, because if their language is undesirable, then what about the culture linked to the language or the people themselves who speak the language?
So, Non- native speakers seems more eligible in teaching than non-experienced native speaker. I was horrified to see that the assignment he received from his American French teacher was full of mistakes, on some very easy grammatical points. How can you teach someone to speak a second or additional language when you do not speak a second or additional language yourself? Many people do not want to learn from non-native speakers because of their accent or the fear that the teacher will make mistakes, most of the input in the foreign language needs to come from authentic sources of language use rather than from the teacher anyway. But the L1 does indeed help in learning the L2 and creating connections between the two languages. For more information on lingua franca teaching, World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching by Andy Kirkpatrick is a great introduction. The success of a few immersion programs should in no way imply that non-immersion programs are a failure, especially when there is no evidence for it.
I think that even if the ultimate goal of the teacher is to use only L2 in the classroom, at times, reverting to the L1 is necessary or perhaps helpful and will not impede fluency-building. Code-switching and constantly moving between languages and cultures is entirely normal – it is not something to be banned or looked down upon.
And thanks to research on code-switching, the cognitive benefits of L1 use, and L2 language exposure (input alone does not suffice – it must become intake), many scholars have softened their position to agree that the L1 should not be banned completely.
If the student realises that value is placed on his or her language he will be more accepting of the L2. This is especially so in the case of younger learners who have been learning the language for a few years. With prek or even Kindergarten using the L2 exclusively in class is easier as at that level they’re learning pretty basic elements.




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