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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > using one ´s native language in teaching English as a second language.    

using one ´s native language in teaching English as a second language.


using one ´s native language in teaching English as a second language.
Hi! I ´d like to ask you about using teacher ´s and learners � native language ( which is Arabic in my case) to explain some difficult words and concepts that seem impossible for the pupils to understand in English language. Inspectors say never use your native language in teaching English in the classroom. What do you think? Is it really practical especially for young learners?

25 Oct 2010      

United States

And what do inspectors know?
I ´m a native speaker teaching in Europe.
For young learners, I always use both languages.
You can ´t expect small children to understand much and you don ´t
want them to lose heart and feel like failures. Find lots and lots of chants
and songs with repetitions.

Everybody loves Saturday Night
Here we go round the mulberry bush
There were 10 in the bed
Old McDonald
Head and shoulders, knees and toes
 - whatever you can find. Explain words and then teach the English words.
Point to a table - say in your language "This is a table"  Everyone say table.
Do this over and over.  Hang up posters and pictures. Picture books are good too.
And don ´t forget to praise your students so they feel good about learning a new language.

I don ´t know about your inspector - but this has worked for me and my students for 25 years and my kids are really good and love learning.

Good luck

25 Oct 2010     

United States

Sometimes it is easier and more productive to explain  vocabulary words or concepts in the child ´s native tongue.

25 Oct 2010     

manonski (f)

My very first class in English, with first graders, is in English. 100% English. I so rarely go to mother tongue.

25 Oct 2010     

Puerto Rico

i am teaching english to kids from 5-9  yrs and i always speak in  english. when they dont  understand something  i use pictures or TPR. I dont know about your classes but here the students only have english one hour a day for 5 days so i have to make the most of it and speak english all the time.

25 Oct 2010     

hossein mehdaoui

As a teacher I resort to Arabic or French as a very last resort especially when I have to teach  words related to concepts, abstractions or philosophical notions . But still, I think it all depends on your students � lexical repertoire and intellectual background.  

25 Oct 2010     

United States

I teach beginning mixed-language adults. I HAVE to teach in all-English--I don ´t know all of their languages: Spanish, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Somali, Amharic, Ogoni, Krio, Jerai, and Rhade. (I have had in past classes Mandarin and Wu Chinese, Korean, Khmer, Punjabi, and Urdu.) They have a little English, but not much.

I use lots of pictures and repetition. I also try to always be positive with them and tell them it ´s okay to make mistakes. (That ´s the advantage I have: no grade!) I just encourage them to make new mistakes. Do the best you can to make the classroom a safe place to make mistakes; DO NOT let the quicker students make fun of the slower students.

You also probably want to be very expressive in your voice, body, and hands. People, especially children, get a lot of the message from non-verbal cues, so be sure to give them lots to work with.

25 Oct 2010     


I ´m a 3rd grade English teacher in a bicultural school in Mexico and I do a dictionary exercise for new vocabulary that consists in writing the new word in L1 (Spanish) to then find the best way to describe the new word in L2 (English) It works for me...e.g.  I taught my kids the word "endure" and once they knew what it was in their language they produced a very close definition: Having a bad time for a moment but being ok at the end. I thought it was close enough. 
In my opinion,,,when students are not living in a place where it is normal for them to hear English...then it´s difficult for them to make language connections...I was very fortunate to learn English in the US and I hardly ever recured to a Spanish-English dictionary but it is a completely different story when you´re learning a foreing language which you only hear at school. 
Remember that learning sticks when it is meaningful to the student.  And of course visual aids and repetition and everything else helps...but there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the students mother language to help him/her understand...Just don´t abuse it ...aaaaaaaaaand there is always a smart kid who might know what it means in L1 ...so have that student say it in their native language...that way you won´t feel you´ve made it that easy for them. 

25 Oct 2010     


I think there ´s nothing wrong in using L1 if the aim is sts understanding, why do we teachers fear it? It ´s just another tool and it doesn ´t mean a big deal for our sts if you use it, I believe they just take it as what it is, another means to easily get to the point, without beating about the bush! I use L1 every time I need it and that doesn ´t lead to less use of the English language in the class. 

If I were you, I would use your L1 without feeling any "guilty". Our main objective is that sts learn and feel they can understand and follow us teachers in our lessons. 

If you ´re teaching adults in a multilingual class you might not need to resort to any L1 (besides, which one would you use?) But, well, I guess that sounds quite diffrent than teaching a single L1 class of 10-year olders...

Good luck!
I enjoy these debates a good deal!Approve

25 Oct 2010     

United States

   I have sat in many classes where the Thai teachers teach the kids and I may hear 7 English words at the max.  It irritates me because I have to teach the kids basic commands that every nine or ten year old should know.  Do not get me wrong! I am not against the use of  native language being spoken during class.  If it is difficult to express the word or phrase, then I or anyone else can speak in the native language. 
   On the other hand, when I go to my business at nights and on weekends, I constantly get people coming in the door saying that they do not understand me and will not sign up because they want to be spoon fed each word being translated into their language.  At the same time, I have students who use dictionaries at home and in the classroom and are learning at a rapid rate. 
   Because of this fact, I do not believe that students should be taught using their native language.  Also, I do not want to teach adults or children who do not want to spend their own time learning English. 
   We all know people need a lot of repetition to pick up the English language.  I cannot see a teacher explaining each word 7 or more times in the students native language, especially pronouncing English words in a manner that even I cannot recognize.  
   If I want to learn Thai, I will go  to a Thai teacher that speaks only Thai.  I need to listen to the words so I can say them myself.  If I hear the words from a non native speaker, I would probably not ever be able to comprehend a true Thai person or say the word correctly without some sort of accent that most Thais would not understand. 
   Sorry for being so blunt.  Let many happy faces shine on you today.

25 Oct 2010     


I could not agree more with you FOOSE1...English language should be taught in ENGLISH!!! and the mother language should be used as little as possible and if possible not at all!!! Censored


However, I must disagree with you in the fact that ONLY native speakers should teach the language because then the student would benefit from the "natural" pronunciation??? Which pronunciation is that??? Which accent do you mean??? There are many English "accents" spoken by native speakers...I ´m not a native speaker, and I remember one of my teachers was CUBAN (never spoke to me a word in Spanish in class) and I also had a CHINESE teacher (now, she definitely never spoke a word to me in Spanish!) I was perfectly able to understand both of them as much as I understood My other English teachers who were native speakers.  I don ´t think that having an accent limits your ability of teaching a language...We teach with an accent NOT think with an accent.  I strongly feel accent differs a little and in cases a lot from pronunciation.  Now, pronunciation is the standard way a word is meant to sound an accent is a modulation in the tone of voice characteristic of the region you are from.  Plus accents are SEXY!Wink I think, I think. 


There are situations in which learning a language is not easy for the student�Like when they are trying to acquire a second language and be completely fluent in it; when all they hear through the day is their native language and spend merely two hours a day learning and practicing the other�ErmmWacko


My opinion and my opinion alone


         Yes,  L1 should not be used to teach an English class.

         Yes, use as many resources as you possibly can to make students understand.

         And if you absolutely have to use L1 in class DON塬 ABUSE and ALWAYS USE AS THE LAST RESOURCE.

WOW!!! Debates are FUN!!!!!LOL
I hope everyone has an excellent week!!!Hug

25 Oct 2010     

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