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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > Should we use mother language in ESL classes?why?why not ?when?how?    

Should we use mother language in ESL classes?why?why not ?when?how?


Should we use mother language in ESL classes?why?why not ?when?how?

dear friends:

I am writing a report about ( using mother language in ESL classes).it is to be published in an education corner in a magazine.

we, non-native English speaking teachers, teach  English to non-native English speaking learners. It is highly recommended to use English and encourage our students to use it inside the class. What is the advantage and disadvantages of using mother language in ESL class? Should we use mother language? when? and how?

I will be happy if you add you name and your nationality for the opinion pull



28 Nov 2009      


Good evening marwan380
Have a look here:


28 Nov 2009     


Hi marwan380,
I remember when I first started to learn English (as a foreign language), 35 years ago (you can see I �m an old biddie!). The teacher used to speak English from the very first minute we got into the classroom. Believe me it was really hard. However it also increased our curiosity and at the same time it was rather challenging to try to understand what was going on. In fact, I think that was an advantage because it helped students to develop surviving strategies!
As a teacher nowadays, I think that sometimes there �s no point in keeping tuning English when students have other challenges. However, I just find it to be a good idea to use mother tongue in 2 situations: 1. when it is a single word to be translated or 2. when there is a parallel between the two languages. Otherwise, ALWAYS use English from the very beginning.

28 Nov 2009     

Czech Republic

I would argue that a single word should never be translated! 

1. It is very rare that two words mean the exact same thing and are used the very same way in both languages.
2. Even with proper nouns it is detrimental to the students to link the L2 with the L1. 
When I hear the word "pes" in Czech (i am learning czech) I should see a "pes" in my mind with his big nose and brown eyes and wagging tail. Can you see him? What animal is he? 
Creating the picture in the persons mind and linking it with the word in their L2 will allow them to remember it much longer than a simple translation. You �re a teacher not a dictionary! 
It is a silly step for the mind to think "pes".. that means "dog".. and THEN see a picture of a dog in their mind, the middle part should be cut out. It is not natural for the mind to go through these three steps and so it creates an extra barrier against memory. 

Even with words which are not proper nouns the context is the best way to explain them, both for the students understanding and their recollection. 

28 Nov 2009     


Dear RabbitWho,

What I mean is: translation in context of course, and when the grammar structure is parallel. Not in ANY other circumstance! As I absolutely agree with you!

28 Nov 2009     

Czech Republic

Half of my classes are children with special needs, dyslexia, dysortography..and most of them  is really on very low intelligence level. I use English most of the time, use role playing, drawings, sounds making...but I �ve got the feeling it �s absolutely useless and I am not able to go on without using Czech. There are fourteen sts in one class but only 3 - 4 of them are able to figure out what is going on. I think the main problem here is a lack of fantasy because I don �t have the same problem with "normal" classes. I don �t feel exactly great about using mother tongue but  if I don �t use it, we stay stuck with one simple sentence ("The dog is barking" - for example) for the whole lesson:o((

28 Nov 2009     

United Kingdom

A few of these might be worth a browse.

28 Nov 2009     


to my mind , there is no harm in using the mother languague in the English classroom  .I myself use it all the time  even if I know that my students would get accustomed to that and would never try their own strategies to decipher what I m trying to get across to them . However , when Idont use Arabic ( our mother tongue ) or french ( our second language ) I can see dissatisfaction and sometimes anger in their eyes as they think that I m just mystifying the ease of knowledge for them. 

28 Nov 2009     

Costa Rica

Hello. I �m not a professional teacher yet. I �m just a college student. In 2 years I will be a teacher. However, I already have experience. I had an experience last year that was very interesting. A teacher came to my college and taught us techniques. To do so, she started teaching us Hawaian. She didn �t speak English or Spanish (Spanish is the native language of the country I live in), she just spoke Hawaian, but I understood every word she said. I think the same can be done to teach English. What we need in order to do that is the use of gestures and other means for them to understand without having to use the mother language. But trust me, it �s possible to speak to the students only in English without having many problems for them to understand.

28 Nov 2009     

Czech Republic

Dear Paul,
I can �t agree with you. As I wrote above I teach children with special needs and learning difficulties. And trust me it is not possible to speak to them only in English. If I did so, they would not understand at all. And I am sure of this as my colleague speaks to sts English only and loads of his sts who aren �t so good at English attend tutorial classes I have for some of my weakest students or their parents pay private lessons for them. 
You are an educated adult so you might not have problems with understanding, but my sts are children - and that is a huge difference.
Regards, Michaela

28 Nov 2009     

United Kingdom

Dear Rabbit,

Even with proper nouns it is detrimental to the students to link the L2 with the L1. 

A wee bit of a generalisation there, don �t you think? English, as you probably know, is often referred to as a �bastard tongue � and, as such, has incorporated elements from a host of other languages(apart from the obvious Latin, Greek, Germanic variations, Norman French and Celtic [Irish/Scots Gaelic, Welsh etc]). Loan words in modern English from all over the world are, well, legion; the Czech-derived word �Robot � is a case in point. How would you introduce this word without using L1? 

Most language teachers are, of course, well aware of the problem of �false friends � so we should be able to cope with semantic nuances and relay these comfortably to our students.

There is no detriment. Used appropriately, L1 is simply another resource. So, I would suggest to Marwan: use your common sense. 

(By the way, Marwan, for the purposes of your poll: I �m a native speaker from Scotland)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


28 Nov 2009     

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