February 16

A Place for L1 – I like a lot to go to the cinema.

The question of whether L1 has a place in the EFL classroom has raged for many years, and will undoubtedly still have teachers debating in the future.  For some, the EFL classroom should be an environment where nothing but English is spoken, to the point where students can be expelled if they consistently speak Spanish.  Others take a more relaxed attitude, arguing that an L1-free classroom can be a difficult situation to maintain, for both students and teachers.
I think that there are some activities in which we can use L1 to our advantage. Having done private classes with students to complement their school studies, I’ve seen how teachers in Spanish schools use translation of key phrases to highlight the structures within them, structures which sometimes cause problems for Spanish speakers.  
In my opinion, there is good reason to translate phrases such as “I like going to the cinema a lot” from Spanish as the direct translation, which students sometimes come out with when speaking, sounds incredibly unnatural : “I like a lot to go to the cinema”.
Although it could be argued that if students use the correct structure enough it will become more natural to them, I would say that there’s no harm in having it written correctly too for students to refer back to.

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Posted February 16, 2010 by Teresa Bestwick in category Grammar Activities

2 thoughts on “A Place for L1 – I like a lot to go to the cinema.

  1. hoprea

    Hi Teresa,

    I do like the idea of translating certain structures as a way to show students they had already understood them, or maybe to make sure they can compare and appreciate the differences. However, I believe this is more effective with adult and young adult learners, whose learning experiences and higher cognitive abilities will allow for better abstract reasoning.

    Another thing that springs to mind is how often we tend to think of L1 as a bad influence in L2 learning. If I'm not mistaken, it was Spada and Lightbown (How languages are learned) who said that L1 does not play that much of a role in language mistakes. Actually, the stages of interlanguage do not vary that much based on the speakers L1.

    I myself like the idea of noticing and consciousness-raising. Before translating something, showing the learner lots of examples to analyse and reach his or her own conclusions. What do you think of this approach?




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