Students´ opinions about the use of L1 in an intermediate level course
Arenas-Iglesias, Laura M.
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DescriptionThe use of the mother tongue in the language classroom has created controversy for years and its role in the different teaching methods that have been developed has also been clearly defined. Experts in the language-teaching field have conducted studies whose results have approved its use whereas others have disapproved it. Two reasons against its use are that learners do not have sufficient exposure to the target language and that they do not receive the necessary amount of input resulting in poor language proficiency. On the other hand, some researchers claim that the judicious use of students’ L1 produces benefits such as stress relief. However, despite the disadvantages of the use of students’ mother tongue in the language class and in the personal need to do what is best for students in my teaching context is how this research project began. This project was conducted at a private university in Mexico, where I am currently working, and 38 students were used as subjects. The participants, whose L1 is Spanish, belong to two pre-intermediate level groups and answered an online questionnaire in class. Also, two different teachers participated: a Spanish native speaker (myself) and an English Native speaker who speaks Spanish but does not talk to her students in their mother tongue. Their responses were analysed through a mixed-method (Dörnyei, 2007; Borg, 2009, in Hall and Cook, 2013) that combined qualitative and quantitative approaches. Based on the results, I tried to find the answers to the following research questions: Under what circumstances do students consider the use of their mother tongue a benefit for their learning process? Do affective factors influence the learning process? Can the use of students’ mother tongue help diminish anxiety? In general, the results showed positive opinions on the use of L1 in the language classroom by both students and teachers but only under certain circumstances. The use of L1 does not seem to hinder their learning process, but having to speak only English does make them experience negative feelings. The fact that both students and the teacher can interact in the same language seems to lower students’ anxiety levels and perform more easily.