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October 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 5

ISSN 1755-9715

L1-Integrated Participatory (LIP) Second Language Classrooms: A Framework for L1 Use in the L2 Classroom

Sajit M Mathews is a research scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India. He is interested in task-based language teaching and assessment, oral proficiency assessment, and second language acquisition. He has taught English language at the University of Hyderabad and Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies, both in India. Email:



L1 as used in this paper refers to the first language or mother tongue of the second language learner. The use of L1 in second language (L2) classrooms is one problem that remains unsolved even after fundamental changes have taken place in L2 pedagogy. Depending on the theoretical perspectives of the time, this question generated different answers at different times in history. While some methods like Direct Method (Larsen-Freeman, 2000) and Natural Approach (Krashen, 1982) strongly advocated monolingual classrooms, some like Bilingual Method (Dodson, 1985) and Task-Based Language Teaching (Ellis, 2009) proposed bilingual classrooms. Some others went for balanced or controlled use of first language in second/foreign language classroom (Littlewood & Yu, 2009; Macaro, 2001). Irrespective of the theoretical positions, the presence of L1 is undeniable in the classroom as Nzwanga (2000) observes. Therefore, dealing with the elephant in the room is ultimately inevitable.

When faced with L1/L2 dilemma, what position should language teachers take in their contexts, whose nuances are known only to them? Particularly in contexts like India where learners bring multiple L1s to the classroom, the teachers’ stance is crucial. Can they use L1 for teaching L2? If yes, to what extent can they use it? Or should they stick to monolingual methodology? Since the occurrence of L1 is natural in second language speech, any control or interference exercised on the use of L1 in L2 classroom must be informed by the natural functions of L1 use and theoretically sound pedagogical insights (Moore, 2013). Moreover, native speaker as the model language user is being replaced by the multilingual speaker who is able to think and feel in the target language (Ibid). Therefore, use of L1 is no longer seen as a scandal.

In an attempt to deal with this problem, this paper contextualises the L1-L2 debate, discusses the status of L1 in L2 classrooms, looks at different theoretical stances, recent literature and developments related to this question, and proposes a general framework to handle L1 use in L2 classrooms. The L1-integrated participatory (LIP) framework involves the learner as an active element of learning, whose awareness of L1 use is as vital as that of the teachers’.

The paper is organised in the following way: Section 1 locates the L1-L2 debate in the theoretical landscape of ELT by looking at commonly held beliefs about L1 use. Section 2 places L1 in the L2 classroom and looks for ways to make treat of L1 as a tool to learn L2. Section 3 looks at three stances towards L1 use followed by sections 4 and 5 which proposes and elaborates a framework for L1 use in L2 classroom. The conclusion emphasizes the importance of involving learners in making decisions about L1 use.


Contextualizing the L1-L2 debate

While teachers make pedagogical choices about using the learners’ L1(s) in the classroom, a number of uncertainties may arise because of many influencing issues. Teacher’s beliefs, practical issues, conflict of SLA research findings and classroom realities, and policy and curriculum requirements are some categories of such issues. Based on these, teachers have to make L1-related decisions in class. Some concrete issues in these categories are the teacher’s ability and proficiency to handle learners’ L1(s) in the classroom, ability to optimise L1 use, ability to strategically use L1 for L2 learning, ability to discern its acceptability in the larger pedagogical community, ability to foresee the influence L1 in classroom and standardised testing, etc. The list is endless. But teachers can be at ease if they can make sure that L1 use has helped learners to acquire L2.

Teachers’ beliefs

This section focuses on teachers’ beliefs that influence the use of L1 in the L2 classroom. Most of the concerns mentioned above arise from commonly held beliefs and misconceptions about L1 use in L2 classrooms. If such concepts are deeply rooted in the pedagogical tradition and training of teachers, a change would be most difficult to attain. Cook (2001) deconstructs and proves wrong three such common pedagogical beliefs as discussed below.

L1 Use Prevents L2 learning

First is the belief that L1 use prevents learners from learning L2. We do not know if L2 learning takes place like or even similar to L1 acquisition. What we do know is that L2 learner is poles apart from L1 learner in terms of maturity of mind, social consciousness, cognitive capacity, age, etc.

L2 Must Be Taught Exclusively

Second belief is that languages are stored separately in the mind, and L1 will influence L2 learning negatively and therefore, L2 must be taught exclusively, in isolation from L1. We do not know for sure if L1 knowledge and L2 knowledge are stored separately in our minds. But we do know that meanings of L2 words are not stored separate from meanings of L1 words as evidenced in code-switching, which indicates that both languages are simultaneously online during speech production (Macaro, 2001; Nzwanga, 2000). Also, in the widely accepted Levelt’s (1999) blueprint of L1 speaker, the conceptualiser generates pre-verbal message from all the available resources- not just from language specific sources, indicating that at least initial processes of speech production may not be language-specific.

Teachers with this belief strongly hold that the amount of L2 that teachers use affects learners’ overall learning outcome (Turnbull & Arnett, 2002). In a study conducted among pre-service teachers, Turnbull and Arnett found that teacher candidates’ beliefs were changed once they actually taught second language classes. Initially they believed that immersion in L2 is most necessary, which changed after they began teaching. They belived later that L1 is a most necessary tool in second language classroom. The implication of this finding is that beliefs are flexible if one discovers the existing beliefs are ineffective. This sheds light on the importance of giving teachers practical experiences in the advantages of using L1 earlier in their careers so that they can mould their beliefs for the advantage of the learner.

Avoiding L1 provides maximum L2 exposure

Third belief is that by avoiding L1 in classrooms, learners get maximum exposure to L2. Some teachers believe that extensive L1 use has negative effect on learners’ acquisition and performance of L2, and that they stop thinking in L2 (Shabir, 2017). While such beliefs may be true in their experience, a total prohibition of the natural use of L1 may not be beneficial for learning the target language. We do not know if exposure always leads to L2 development, especially if exposure is artificially created in the classroom. The failure or weaning popularity of monolingual teaching methods is itself proof for this. Cook (2001) therefore proposes to treat L1 as a resource to draw from to convey meaning, explain grammar, organize class, interact in, and for students to be comfortable to communicate. This is especially true in today’s language classrooms where most learners are at least bilinguals if not multilinguals.

L1 is useful for classroom management

Many teachers believe that L1 is useful for managing classroom, disciplining, reducing students’ anxiety and making them comfortable in the L2 classroom (Shabir, 2017). Some of these beliefs are consistent with the socio-cultural understanding of the classroom where learners need to be in a cognitively and affectively comfortable predicament in order to learn. Such a predicament is easier to build when L1 is available as a resource to be used. This is in line with the observation Swain & Lapkin (2000) make about L1 use: that it serves as a tool to understand and make sense of tasks requirements and content, to focus attention on language form, vocabulary use and overall organisation, and to establish tone and nature of their collaboration (p. 268).

What we learn from these teacher-beliefs about L1 use is that random solutions will not solve the problem. L1 is a reality that will continue to stay in L2 classrooms. What we need is a good understanding of why learners tend to use L1, and techniques to utilize it to teach L2. As Cook (2001) mentions, we must look for principled ways to make use of L1 as a tool for L2 learning. This paper puts forth an approach that integrates L1 into L2 classrooms with the combined participation of learners and teachers (L1-integrated participatory approach). In this approach, learners are as responsible as teachers in discerning the use of L1 for pedagogical purposes in the classroom. This learner-teacher collaboration promotes a healthy trust-based classroom environment with shared responsibilities and purposes.

Status of L1 in L2 classrooms

Language is not just a tool for communication. L1 is more than a metalinguistic tool especially while learning L2. It helps the learner to create a space that is socially and cognitively conducive for learners to acquire a second language (Anton & Dicamilla, 1999). It has many functions connecting the various layers of human identities- cultural, social, emotional, personal and professional. Most of these human levels are connected to their L1 since it is the primary experience-encoding-device. It is a tool in the processing of linguistic and cultural experiences. As Crawford (2004) points out, language learning is not just a cognitive process; it is a complex developmental process through which we make sense of the world around us. In second language learning process, L1 is part of the learners’ existing resources. This is the reason why second language learners naturally tend to use their mother toungue for interacting, focussing attention and taking tasks forward in their L2 classrooms (Swain, 2001).

Moore’s (2013) study of EFL learners found that 28% of all talk was in L1. It is a strong medium through which individuals solve problems in experience and cognition because these experiences are primarily encoded through L1. Therefore, the use of L1 in classroom should be used to aid interactive and activity-based learning through expression, interpretation and negotiation of meaning. In view of such advantages, taking it away from L2 classrooms is like disabling the learners from using one of the strongest tools they have. (Anton & Dicamilla, 1999; Klapper, 1998; Storch & Aldosari, 2010; Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003). Also, as Klapper (1998) says, the learner would use L1 at least mentally despite the control devised by teachers.

What then is the position of L1 in L2 pedagogy? It is known by now from the global pedagogical experience that omission of L1 does not lead to acquisition of L2 or that L1 use is not always an impediment to L2 acquisition (Cook, 2001). Moreover, imposition of L2 and strict adherence to monolingual mode may result in frustration, resentment and disappointment, resulting in the development of strong affective filter which may prevent any meaningful learning from happening (Crawford, 2004). If natural L1 use is forcefully replaced with L2, cognitive burden on the learners increases (Moore, 2013). That is why Klapper (1998) suggests that L2 use must not be dogmatically insisted upon and that the denial of access to learners’ L1 is not only not helpful, but also harmful. In Klapper’s (1998) and Nzwanga’s (2000) opinions, the learner will anyway use L1 to make sense of the language learned, therefore it must be made part of the learning process in the classroom. This is where an L1-integrated approach with the participation of the learners and teachers become relevant. Integration of L1 takes away the repressed frustration and resentment, and builds learning-friendly atmosphere in the classroom.

Where Do We Usually Use L1 Pedagogically?

The use of L1 in this paper doesn’t mean word-by-word translation of L2. It is theoretically proven that L1 can be meaningfully used as a support device to learn L2. The following section looks at the efficient use of L1 in the L1 classroom for various purposes.

Task management

One of the major purposes of learners’ L1 use is task-related discourse. Swain & Lapkin’s (2000) study revealed that L1 is used primarily to move the task along, to focus attention on specific learning activity, and to interact interpersonally. They found learners using L1 positively to understand the task at hand and enter the L2 learning process. L1 use provides cognitive support for the learner to understand and perform the task at a level higher than when restricted to the use of L2 alone (Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003). Learners can use L1 as a tool to effectively address the roadblocks that prevent them from entering the task and performing them with more involvement.

Classroom management

Duff and Polio (1990) conducted a study about the variace of L2 use in university classrooms and found that there is a ten to hundred percent variance. But when looked at the same data four years later (Polio & Duff, 1994), they discovered that more than the variability, the problem was in where the L2 was used. They found, like in Levine (2003), that when meaningful interaction was demanded, learners and teachers switched to L1 instead of using L2. Moore (2013) found that a major part of L1 use was on procedural and off-task talk. Littlewood & Yu (2009) and Macaro (2001) also report similar results where L1 was used wherever meaningful communication was required. Macaro (2001) also found that like most other studies, most of the little L1 used was for bringing discipline, procedural instructions and planning activities. What the SLA researcher finds here is an opportunity to use classroom management discourse for teaching and learning L2 as discussed in section 6 of this paper.

Proficiency levels, task complexity and L1 use

Task management, vocabulary deliberations, private speech, self confirmation, idea generation, discussing grammar, and discussing punctuation, spelling and grammar were the major functions of L1 use identified by Storch and Aldosari (2010). When pairs brought equal contribution to the task, L1 was used to negotiate task performance and task-related roles. They found that when pairs of learners had an imbalance in L2 knowledge, one of them became dominant L2 user. Istead of using L1 to negotiate meaning, L2 was used to carry the task forward at the cost of the other learner’s expense. This is an interesting insight for the teacher to make use of while pairing students. The same study also found that when low proficiency learners were paired, they tend to use more L1 especially during complex tasks. Learners used more L1 also when they grew comfortable with each other and with the task.

So, L1 is learners’ natural choice when cognitive and linguistic load is high and when attentional resources are not available for L2 production and interaction. Therefore, task difficulty and profiiency level are certainly connected with L1 use. Further research is required to throw more light on this aspect.

Teachers’ and learners’ L1 use

Levine (2003) conducted a study on L1 and L2 use among 600 university level foreign language students and 163 teachers. 60% of the students reported that teachers used L2 80-100% of the time. This means, teachers attempt to create monolingual classrooms most of the time. On the contrary, only 17% of students used 80-100% L2 while speaking with teachers, and 36.7% of students switched to L1 soon after task completion 80-100% of the time. That is, students’ preferred language, which is defined as the language in which a bilingual is comfortable to interact (Dodson, 1985), is their L1 even in so called monolingual classrooms. Insisting on monolingual policy in classroms may result in building strong affective filters (Krashen, 1982) preventing learners from learning L2. If learners prefer to use L1, the teacher must be willing to use strategies to use L1 for L2 use as discussed later in the paper.

From what we have seen so far, we gather that L1 is preferred over L2 for meaningful and purposive communication of messages. What could be the reason for doing so? Everyone has a dominant language which most of times would be the L1. This language would be acquired naturally during early childhood through thousands of hours of exposure and practice. The langauge user would have more vocabulary, ease of use, practice, idiomatic expressions and expertise in this langauge than in any other language. Therefore, this would be the option to fall back to whenever there is a shortcoming in L2 proficiency or when complex and nuanced communication is required. Moreover when the interloutor’s and speaker’s L1 are the same, any block to L2 communication would call for foolproof means of communication which is L1. For this reason, L1 would be the preferred language for all lanaguage users when communication encounters problems.

Nzwanga (2000) reports in his thesis on code-switching phenomenon that almost always, the use of L1 cannot be avoided by teachers and learners. His study recommended the use of teaching methods that incorporate the use of L1 in L2 teaching. Most other research studies reported in this paper support the use of L1 in a principled manner for learning L2. This brings us to the question ‘how can we have meaningful use of L1 in the L2 classroom?’ We need to derive a few principles to depend on to aid the teacher. We should keep in mind that our goal is to enable learners to use L2 for all meaningful language transactions.

Three stances

Three basic stances with regard to the use of L1 in second/foreign language classroom are worth examining. They are monolingual, bi/multilingual and balanced classrooms. We shall briefly look at each of these perspectives.

Monolingual classrooms

Monolingual classrooms strictly use only the target language. Monolingual methods believe that the use of L1 will result in negative language transfer and will badly affect L2 learning (Swain & Lapkin, 2000). Such reluctance towards the use of L1 in the 20th century can be ascribed to the influence of some versions of Communicative Language Teaching which attempted to maximise the use of L2 by limiting L1 use (Moore, 2013; Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003). In certain English speaking countries like the USA, monolingual classrooms were insisted upon post World War I for reasons including immigration and politics of homogenisation (Auerbach, 1993). An excellent example of monolingual pedagogical model is the Direct method (Larsen-Freeman, 2000) where the target language is taught directly using that language and no other language. This approach urges teachers to restrain from the use of L1 in classroom in order to promote maximum exposure to the target language. Krashen and Terrel’s Natural Approach (Krashen, 1982) also restrains from the use of native language on the grounds that it limits the amount of comprehensible input the learner can get. Proponents of monolingual classroom approach see the use of L1 as removal of learner’s opportunities to interact or immerse in the target language.

Bi/Multilingual classrooms

In bi/multilingual classrooms, students are encouraged to use all the linguistic resources learners have. The Bilingual method developed by CJ Dodson in the 1960s and 70s is an example (Dodson, 1985). In the context of bilingual language education, he says that second language learning can take place only if natural processes of communication occur in both the first and second languages, allowing the learner to use the language system to communicate meanings and to deal with multiple linguistic systems in communication and that the use of both languages is necessary for natural acquisition of second language (Ibid. pp. 344-45). Task-based language classrooms are also examples where learners are encouraged to use whatever resources they have, including their mother tongue for task completion (Ellis, 2009). In these classrooms, task completion and meaningful interaction are the goals irrespective of the resources used.

Balanced classrooms

Balanced classroom is a middle path between strictly monolingual and liberal multilingual classrooms. They subscribe to a philosophy that requires teachers to allow/invite the use of languages other than target language when required, in a principled manner. Macaro (2001) presents three positions with regard to the use of L1 in an L2 classroom, optimal, virtual and maximal positions. Optimal position sees pedagogical value in the use of L1 in the L2 classroom, and believes that some aspects of learning may be enhanced by L1 use. This position encourages constant search for pedagogical justifications of L1 use. Macaro’s optimal position is an example where the use of L1 is considered to have some pedagogical value. This position requires constant exploration of pedagogical principles about the meaningful use of L1. Littlewood and Yu (2009) favour the idea of balanced use of L2 and L1 in classrooms. They advocate strategic use of L1 to compensate what L2 cannot do- to provide affective interpersonal support and classroom management tools.

In all the three stances described above, the learner is at the periphery and the decisions and instructions come from the teacher. This paper argues that apart from the teacher’s knowledge of L1 use, the L2 learner must also be responsible for making the informed decisions about when, how and how much L1 is to be used in the L2 classroom. Learners’ L1 use with awareness makes it purposive and goal-directed, instead of it being incidental and negatively perceived. The classroom is a space where the learners are free to experiment with the language resources they have in order to achieve maximum learning output. Vygotskian perspective, where the learner is in the centre of interaction, supports this participatory approach.

From a Vygotskyan socio-cognitive perspective, L1 use is a psychological tool that mediates human mental activity to create a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003). In interpersonal communication L1 serves critical functions like developing and maintaining collaboration and intersubjectivity externalising inner speech for establishing and confirming learning, regulating one’s mental activity, providing scaffolding, etc. (Anton & Dicamilla, 1999; Moore, 2013). Intersubjectivity is the shared understanding developed by participants sharing same task-goal in collaboration which is essential for maintenance of the Zone of Proximal Development. In collaborative dialogue, learners co-construct L2 and build L2 knowledge in scaffolded environment (Swain & Lapkin, 2000). Scaffolding is the support offered by the teachers to the learners so that the learning is taken to higher levels which would not have been possible without the teachers’ assistance. Therefore, L1 is a useful and indispensable tool in L2 classrooms from the socio-cognitive perspective. Vygotskyan sociocultural approach and bilingual discourse challenge the position ‘English only’ classrooms (Moore, 2013) by fostering and advocating judicious and controlled L1 use. In fact, principled and judicious L1 use might provide cognitive support for the learner especially when the task requires performance of complex processes (Storch & Aldosari, 2010; Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003).

The theoretical positions explained above have their individual pedagogical values in their own theoretical frameworks and practical contexts. But for a second language teacher’s use, some practical guidelines would be very useful. There has to be some guiding principles to use when it comes to L1-L2 choice in L2 classrooms. It is better to base these guidelines on empirical data and theoretical insights, than leaving the teacher in the dark.

The rest of this article discusses the kind of classroom where both the L1 and L2 of the learner are used in a balanced fashion to maximise learning. The question learners and teachers must ask themselves before making language choices in their classrooms must be: “Will the use of this language be helpful in maximising target language learning?” If the answer is yes, they must go ahead with the judicious use of that language in their classrooms.

Towards a framework for L1 use in L2 classrooms

Macaro (2001) and Anton & Dicamilla (1999) invite our attention to the need of a framework that identifies where the use of L1 would be a useful communicative tool than simply an easy option. Macaro’s study of six student teachers’ decision making related to L1/L2 use revealed that they followed no principles, but depended on general information, personal beliefs or national policy to rationalise their classroom decisions. He insists that classroom is a multilingual enviroment and the teacher-researcher has to support making this multilingual space learning-friendly by adopting facilitating strategies.

In Levine’s study, students used L2 more for topic/theme based communication than for important functional purposes like talking about tests, quizzes, assignments and grammar (Levine, 2003). The insight we get from this finding is that L1 is preferred mostly for pedagogical tasks, not the general non-pedagogical functions that take place in the class. Since this is how most L2 classrooms operate, we shall attempt to make use of these non-pedagogical tasks by designing and devising meaningful pedagogical tasks that involve talking about tests, quizzes, assignments and grammar, or electing a leader, selecting a discussion topic, fixing a picnic date, etc. That is, we will attempt to design L2 learning tasks using common classroom situations where L1 is normally used.

As long as the target language is not used for meaningful activities outside learning tasks, we cannot say that our goal is achieved, and that the learner is comfortable in using L2. Integration of pedagogical and non-pedagogical classroom activities would be a good beginning. Approaches like TBLT tries to bridge this gap by bringing meaningful real-world activities into classrroms, so that learners negotiate, interpret and create meaning in the target language. The use of L1 has multiple purposes as identified in many studies. Cook (2001) suggests that L1 can be used to make learning efficient, easier, natural and relevant to the external world. Anton & DiCamilla (1999) proposes that L1 use has metalinguistic function, is a tool to evaluate and understand meaning, serves social functions and is used for private speech. Littlewood & Yu (2009) found that L1 is used for strategic, complementary, affective, interpersonal and classroom management purposes. Moore (2013) provides a few more functions of L1 use- making meaning of L2 texts, retrieving language from memory, exploring and expanding content, guiding interaction, vocalizing private speech, maintaining task control, and maintaining dialogue. There could be many such purposes for L1 use in L2 classrooms.

Moore (2013) found that when learners’ focus was on content creation, the use of L1 was naturally less. That is, L1 use is much less in content creation compared to procedural functions. Such findings must be capitalised to make the most of the L1 use in the classroom, by facilitating L1 use in the task-initial stages, and promoting focus on content during the core-task phases. With this understanding, it seems necessary to go one step ahead and integrate classroom activities that are normally considered outside pedagogical tasks into the pedagogical fold. For this, as many scholars like Macaro (2001) have identified, a framework is much needed, and that is what we proceed to look at.

The L1-Integrated Participatory Framework

The L1-integrated participatory framework proposed here is very simple consisting of a few priniciples to integrate L1 into L2 classrooms. Teachers and learners could use it in the classroom to decide when to use L1, how much L1 to use, what strategy to use, how to convert L1 use into L2 learning opportunities, and how to deal with language assessmet in the classroom. The overarching principle followed is the removal of guilt or social stigma associated with the use of L1 inside and outside the L2 classroom for learners and teachers. As Cook (2001) puts it, it involves licensing the use of L2 in classrooms and acknowledging the fact that L1 is a resource that’s always available to fall back on.

Set the rules first

It is important to set the ground for second language classroom in the beginning of the school year or semester. Teachers and learners should know when to use L1 in the classroom if learning has to be purposive and progressive. They should also know that using L1 to the extent that they ignore L2 does not help learning. A healthy balance of L1 and L2, that promotes the use and learning of L2 is desirable. An appropriate and context-specific set of guidelines like the following must therefore be developed by learners and teachers.

Teachers must use L1 when it

  1. aids learners’ comprehension,
  2. complements L2 use,
  3. generates contexts conducive for learning (ZPD),
  4. lowers affective filter,
  5. promotes interaction and exchange of meaningful language,
  6. and removes blocks in learning.

This list is not comprehensive, and must be edited depending on the requirements of particular teaching/learning contexts.

Teachers must make a list of functions they intend to do with the L1 in the classroom like the following.

Teachers can use L1 in the classroom to

  1. provide meaning,
  2. explain grammar,
  3. maintain discipline,
  4. instruct how to perform tasks, functions, etc.,
  5. provide personal feedback,
  6. connect experiences with L2,
  7. and test learning.

This list also must be edited depending on the requirements of the classroom.

Teachers must also make sure that students know

  1. why they use L1,
  2. when they use L1
  3. and how they can learn L2 through L1 use.

This last set of suggestions will help the learners to be better language users in the multilingual real world where most people share many languages, and alternate between them as a normal activity. Therefore, knowing when, where and how to use L1 provides much better language control.

Learners also must know the advantages and limitations of L1 use for L2 learning. They must know that they use L1 in L2 classroom for a purpose. Learners therefore must be involved in developing a set of guidelines for the use of L1. Together with the teachers, learners therefore must take responsibility of their learning, by deciding for what purposes they can use L1 in the L2 classroom.

Learners can use L1 (only) when they

  1. know that they don’t have the resources (vocabulary, syntax, background knowledge) to perform the language function in L2,
  2. are preparing to perform a complex task that requires a lot of information and logical organization,
  3. are explaining meanings/grammar to peers,
  4. are bonding with classmates/teacher on the affetive plain,
  5. have doubts ‘about’ language-use (meta-linguistic talk),
  6. and help peers overcome a learning block.

This way as learners take responsibility of their learning by regulating L1 usage, L2 acquisition becomes self-motivated and therefore an acclelarated process. As mentioned earlier, these guidelines are developed with the premise that L1 use is regulated for the purpose of L2 learning. In participation with the teachers, learners therefore can take steps to integrate L1 into the classroom discourse.



- Task Design or selection

Since the teachers already know to what extent they are going to use L1, whenever possible they should also design or select tasks accordingly. The selected reading materials, text books, visuals and multimedia materials should permit the learners to use L1 wherever they feel the need. Texts that involve/integrate L1 use are welcome in class if the teacher sees learning opportunities in them. In most L2 contexts, such resources are availble in plenty in newspapers, on YouTube and other internet resources where more than one language is used for communication. Such resources could be used in class following the principles outlined above in order to improve learners’ L2 use.


Moore (2013) provides further insights about task usage. The way learners see the task determines how they would perform the task (p. 250). Learners’ task performance differs in terms of L1 use when the task is framed as an opportunity for learning/interaction from when it framed as a graded assignment. Therefore, framing the task well is important. More research is requird in this area.

Task implementation

At the implementaion stage, learners must know from the instructions that the use of L1 is permitted during task performance. Generally in tasks, L1 use increases naturaly once the learners build familiarity with the interlocutor and the task (Moore, 2013). Though Moore’s observation is about tasks that take place over long periods, classroom tasks promote increased L1 use in the beginning and towards the end of tasks as saw earlier in the paper. If teacher wants controlled L1 use, a reminder can be given during the task to be aware of how much and for what purposes L1 is to be used. As stated earlier, Moore also observed that pair tasks generated less L1 over time as learners’ focus shifted from procedural issues to content generation for the task. The insight that involving pairs of learners in meaningful tasks promotes use of L2 as task proceeds is very useful for the classroom teacher. This is what task-based language teaching aims at: engagement in meaningful activities promotes L2 learning and acquisition.

Handling beliefs

Teachers’ and learners’ beliefs play a major role in how the classroom experience and learning shapes up. There are a number of beliefs teachers and learners hold about the use of L1 in L2 classrooms. Many of them are detrimental to the development of L2 by seeing L1 use as undesirable. Cook’s (2001) suggestions to integrate L1 into teaching includes licensing the teachers’ use of L1 in classroom. Along with that we need to remove the sanction on learners’ L1 use too.

Making use of teacher beliefs

Teachers’ beliefs about L1 use are varied. The belief that L1 is useful for classroom management can be utilised for L2 learning. L1 may be used to create socially and affectively conducive learning situations. Instructions, feedback and clarifications may involve L1 to achieve this. As we saw in Turnbull & Arnett (2002), teacher trainees who believed in the benefits of exclusive L2 use have changed their beliefs after they had real teaching experience in bilingual contexts. This points to the importance of acquiring early stage teaching experience so that teachers can form or reform their beliefs based on experience. Teachers must reconsider their views on L1 use in the light of research findings and pedagogical insights. Like many studies cited here emphasize, L1 use is not to be overly encouraged, but its prohibition it is not a healthy pedagogical option either (Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003).

Learner beliefs

Storch & Wigglesworth (2003) found that learners who were initially reluctant to use L1 in classroom context began using L1 for task completion after explicit instruction that L1 could be used wherever they felt the need for it. They perceived L1 to be more useful in classroom whether or not they used it. But they believed that L1 would slow down task completion by adding another stage of mental translation (p. 766). Traditionally L1 use is looked down upon in L2 classrooms, and students believe that in class they are expected to speak only L2 (Ibid. p. 767). This belief is held and practiced despite their knowledge that L1 use would help them cocmplete the task efficiently, especially if the task is complex (Ibid.). This illustrates the need to license learners’ L1 use in clear terms in the classroom. To overcome the block of traditionally held beliefs against the use of L1, teachers have to explicitly instruct learners to use L1 for specific purposes as outlined in the earlier section.

Dealing with tests

The literature survey did not bring up any specific investigations related to the use of L1 in L2 assessment. This is a rather unexplored area. Any decision taken with regard to L1 use in L2 assessment must be taken in line with the principle that testing must try to elicit the best performance out of the test-taker (Ellis, 2003). If classroom learning has used L1, not using it in assessment affects the validity of the test. Moreover, in particular contexts like India, where L1 use and code-switching are not taboos, not using L1 in assessment affects the authenticity of the test. However, more research about the feasibility, modes, acceptability and theoretical issues related to use of L1 in assessment is most necessary before any implementation can be thought of.



Cook’s (2001) perspective on L1 use in L2 classrooms is very optimistic. He considers the classroom as a space where both L1 and L2 can co-exist. This perspective allows teaching community to look for ways in which L1 can be meaningfully used for learning, and convert situations otherwise viewed as detrimental for L2 acquisition into positive learning opportunities. L1 use in maintaining discipline, giving instructions, explaining grammar and meaning, organising class and tasks, administering tests, and giving directions and feedback can become learning opportunities if purposefully and judiciously performed. As we saw in the recent literature in the field, L1 is increasingly being welcomed in L2 classrooms. Efforts are made by practitioners and researchers alike to integrate L1 into L2 pedagogy. Involving learners in this process is important making it a participatory enterprise. Ultimately, what matters is the learning outcome, and if the teaching community can stay focused on the outcome, L2 learning and teaching will benefit from the use of L1.



Anton, M., & Dicamilla, F. J. (1999). Socio-cognitive functions of L1 collaborative interactions in the L2 classroom, The Modern Language Journal, 233-247.

Auerbach, E. R. (1993). Reexamining English Only in the ESL Classroom, TESOL Quarterly, 9-32.

Cook, V. (2001). Using the First Language in the Classroom, The Canadian Modern Language Review.

Crawford, J. (2004). Language Choices in the Foreign Language Classroom: Target Language or the Learners' First Language? RELC Journal, 5-20. doi:10.1177/003368820403500103

Dodson, C. J. (1985). Second language acquisition and bilingual development: A theoretical framework, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 6(5), 325-346. doi:10.1080/01434632.1985.9994210

Duff, P. A., & Polio, C. G. (1990). How Much Foreign Language Is There in the Foreign Language Classroom? The Modern Language Journal, 154-166.

Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based Language Learning and Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (2009). Task-based language teaching: sorting out the misunderstandings, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19(3), 221-246.

Klapper, J. (1998). Language learning at school and university: the great grammar debate continues (II), The Language Learning Journal, 18, 22-28.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practices in Second Language Acquisition, Pergamon Press: Oxford.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Levelt, W. (1999). Producing Spoken Language: A Blueprint of the Speaker, In C. Brown, & P. Hagoort (Eds.), The Neurocognition of Language (pp. 83-122). Oxford: Oxford Press.

Levine, G. S. (2003). Student and Instructor Beliefs and Attitudes about Target Language Use, First Language Use, and Anxiety: Report of a Questionnaire Study, The Modern Language Journal, 343–364.

Littlewood, W., & Yu, B. (2009). First language and target language in the foreign language classroom, Language Teaching, 64-77.

Macaro, E. (2001). Analyzing student teachers’ codeswitching in foreign language classrooms: Theories and decision making, The Modern Language Journal, 531-548.

Moore, P. J. (2013). An Emergent Perspective on the Use of the First Language in the Englishas‐a‐Foreign‐Language Classroom, The Modern Language Journal, 239-253.

Nzwanga, M. (2000). A study of French-English codeswitching in a foreign language college teaching environment. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation), Retrieved March 30, 2018, from

Polio, C. G., & Duff, P. A. (1994). Teachers’ Language Use in University Foreign Language Classrooms: A Qualitative Analysis of English and Target Language Alternation, The Modern Language Journal, 313-326.

Shabir, M. (2017). Student-Teachers’ Beliefs on the Use of L1 in EFL Classroom: A Global Perspective, English Language Teaching, 45-52.

Storch, N., & Aldosari, A. (2010). Learners’ use of first language (Arabic) in pair work in an EFL class, Language Teaching Research, 355-375.

Storch, N., & Wigglesworth, G. (2003). Is There a Role for the Use of the L1 in an L2 Setting? TESOL Quarterly, 760-770.

Swain, M. (2001). Examining dialogue: another approach to content specification and to validating inferences drawn from test scores, Language Testing, 275-302.

Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2000). Task-based second language learning: the uses of the first language, Language Teaching Research, 251–274.

Turnbull, M., & Arnett, K. (2002). Teachers' use of the target and first languages in second and foreign language classrooms, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 204-218.


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