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Using Mother Language in Classroom 
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Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:54 pm
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Location: Japan, Nagano Ken
Post 
I would love to be able to speak Japanese in the Classroom!
But I am such a bad student myself :oops: That I can`t.
I sometimes teach classes with over 70 elementary students and I manage in just English. I use hand gestures and if one or two kids seem to understand what I`m talking about I ask them to explain in Japanese. It usually works.
If It dosn`t work I abandon the game or just observe until I understand what theey understood and go with it! Sometimes they improve my activities!

I also think it`s really good for the students to understand that I know what they are going through, I know how hard it is learning and language because I am trying to learn their language. I have kids dropping by the office to teach me new words daily!


Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:05 pm
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Post Genki English
There is great advise given by one of my Senpai English teachers, many of you know of him. The creator of Genki English. I can't remember where it was on his site but I have the Japanese version on my website
http://www.littleking.jp/lesson/language.html

I use Japanese in the classroom and it helps the students understanding a lot. Kids understand better when there is less ambiguity, and I can control dictionary usage in Adult classes by using or not using Japanese

what do you think about Richard from Genki English's advice?

I just had another look at the Genki English site but I couldn't find the English version, please post it here if you find it

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Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:19 pm
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Post Re: Genki English
What Richard is quoted as saying is similar to what some others have posted. He states that using all English could end up wasting precious class time that could be better spent teaching. While exposure to English is important, other resources are available to students and schools to use outside of class instruction to gain that exposure. The final sentence sums it up, "Use Japanese as little as possible, but as much as you need." (That's just a brief summary for those that can't read Japanese.)

RockyV wrote:
what do you think about Richard from Genki English's advice?

I certainly agree. I think the reason some establishments have stuck with the all English rule is two fold. One, it sells an idea that seems to make sense to customers and two, there are some instructors that might not be able to descern the line between enough and too much.

There are certainly a lot of benefits of rarely using L1 or not at all, but accomplishing that teaching method (where it doesn't take an exorbitant amount of time to explain things) is not easily done. On the other hand, not all students are alike, while some will thrive in an all English environment, some will sink no matter how well the instructor teaches. Some students need different approaches to be reached.

So, as with all things in life, balance, moderation, assessment, a little experimenting, reassessment and (hopefully) good judgement are the route I go.

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Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:51 pm
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Post I Never Use L1
I never use the L1 in the classroom.

In a class with mixed L1's, it is obvious to never use it. However, I never use it in a class with all the same mother languages either. This includes kids.

It sets a bad example, and I personally feel it is one of the main reasons most students are good at grammar and vocabulary, but can't speak.

Also, it takes away from the advantage of being an English native speaker. The benefit you bring to the class is that students can interact with someone who speaks English, not someone learning Japanese or Spanish.

I have also seen a lot of teachers who seem to think it is OK to listen to a student in their L1 and speak to them in English. It may help their listening, but they still can't speak.

If it takes a little extra time to explain a vocabulary word, it is worth it in the end because the students actually develop listening and speaking skills

Those are my thoughts

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Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:23 pm
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I have to agree that it is recommended to teach as much as possible in the first language. Students need to let their brains adjust to listening to a new language and its aquisition. Even though I love this idea, for me in Chile, its not very possible.

It is not mandated for students to learn English until 5th grade, but some public schools (and privates especially) are starting English as young as Kindergarten. With my class sizes up to 45 students, I do use the mother tongue quite often. Since the learning atmosphere is different than in the states (or I can imagine in Asia) students are very difficult to manage. I see them once a week, so with the limited time I have been explaining instructions for activities in English, but over time I am transitioning to saying key phrases in English more regularly. I just need to stop translating all the time! I will admit, depending where you are teaching I feel circumstances are different and you must use your judgement on how much of the mother tongue you will use. Depending on how much emphasis is placed on English in the schools and with the families with make a world of difference.

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Sun Apr 25, 2010 8:00 am
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Jrosehansen,

I am not too sure I could agree with you. Although there are a variety of classes that do call for different teaching styles, I am not sure there is any situation that calls for using the L1.

Your kids may be young, and the class sizes are large, but I believe you should still use only English. They may not get much done, or they may never understand you, but they will start to see the important lesson: Some people speak English and some people speak Spanish. You can't speak Spanish with everyone you meet. I find many students, most notably Spanish speakers, seem to have this idea that the whole world speaks their language. By using Spanish in the class, this idea is being perpetuated.

I have taught the exact same class you are speaking of (too many young, Spanish speakers) and I never used the L1. Once you start speaking Spanish you take away what is unique about you as an ESL teacher: You provide them with a chance to communicate purely in English.

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Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:00 am
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There are benefits to the sink or swim idea and learners who have a strong desire, aptitude for language and positive attitude toward the L2 culture will thrive. However, research actually shows that an all L2 immersion program (even in the L2 environment) is not necessarily good. Also, explicit language instruction has been shown to be better acquired and faster compared to implicit. I'm certainly not a proponent of spewing grammar from the podium, and I do think there is a lot more to the process. However, the data is not in my favor.

For natural acquisition, a key component has to do with the saliency of the language (Krashens's i+1 theory) but there is also a key factor resting with the learner which is noticing. The Noticing Hypothesis has to do with the students both ability and willingness to slightly notice or pay attention to the fact that something new has been introduced. Beyond that they have to process the function or essentially break it down for reuse. When the language not salient to the learner or the learner isn't actively trying to organize the information, there might not be any acquisition.

In a rich L2 environment where the learners have a lot of exposure to the target language, things are slightly different. Learners have a lot more chance for output in the L2 (which so far has been shown to be a very powerful acquisition tool.) There is an externally motivating factor in those situations as well. However, in an EFL environment students don't have regular exposure to rich L2 input or much chance for output. Some only receive 1~3 hours of instruction per week.

Now, I'm not saying we have to or anyone needs to speak L1 in the classroom. I almost never do, until I get into higher level grammar instruction and maybe just to check understanding. I also use L1 when I'm explaining concepts of culture behind the language, for example why English has so many ways to say "nice to meet you".

If you are able to create an all L2 classroom environment with language and form that is salient to the learner, all L2 is fine. However, it hasn't been shown to be better simply to have all English.

There is also the question of what the purpose of the classroom is. Are you teaching students for academic purposes, cultural integration, strictly communicative competence or something else? Each has different requirements for the learner and thus the classroom.

I don't want to throw gasoline on the fire here. (Although, that's clearly what I'm doing :P ) I actually believe that each mixture of environment, level, age, and person creates a different classroom regardless of similar location or group make-up. Each class will have different requirements and needs. What may have been good for one group at a certain point may not best benefit them later. A blanket rule doesn't allow the teacher flexibility to make a decision about what the class needs.

(If someone needs references or studies on this let me know and I'll see what I can dig up. I know I have a few articles at least. - I'm somewhat decent at remembering what I've been told or read, but remembering where I read it isn't my forte.)

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Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:04 am
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Post Re: I Never Use L1
dave_b wrote:
It sets a bad example, and I personally feel it is one of the main reasons most students are good at grammar and vocabulary, but can't speak.

There's some really interesting information on this if you are interested. It has to do with the interaction, attention and output component in language use.

Basically it says output, attention and interaction are a key element in acquisition. Grammar and vocabulary acquisition don't necessarily yield production. It's not impossible without interaction and output, but it takes an aptitude for language to make the leap from the page to the spoken word.

Search for articles on "interaction studies", "output and processing" or "noticing and attention". Although many of the studies and research are short term and I always question methods and findings, it's pretty interesting stuff.

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Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:18 am
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Dave_b-

As much as I truly appreciate your opinion, it looks like we might stand on two sides of the issue. I work in one school considered "excellent" while the other is just getting the kids by. In the first school, I speak a little more English, but I do not have just one goal of students knowing other people speak English. We have talked about it a little and we will discuss it more. If I speak English the whole time, they will sit passively and start becoming disruptive. They will start thinking of other things are not trying to process. This class is mandatory, so I agree with Mark, it depends on what is driving them. I try to make it interesting so they become more intrigued, but it is a process. In my other school, I could NEVER just speak English. I trying to keep kids from punching each other, and still trying to know who has what learning disability or is getting additional help. For me, I believe it really does depend on the environment and culture in which you teach.

Mark-
I enjoyed your input. I want to look into the theories and research you mentioned. I definitely agree desire and aptitude play a huge factor, it does it all learning. I look forward to talking more English in my classes, but for my kiddos, I decided to do it as more of a transition.
It was interesting what you said about explicate instruction, this would make sense, but in other ways, no. I would think some implicit instruction would "sink in" after repetition and use, but I do see where the downfalls could be.
I agree in many situations (depending on classes) using mostly L2 will bring about more output. But I like how you mentioned time is a consideration. Depending on hours per week, this will depend on how much students will gain. My students are not recommended to practice pronunciation at home with mom and dad, so with 7 days in between classes, they forget a lot. Language needs practice.

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Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:22 am
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I'll have a look through what I have over the next week and email you what I can. If you don't hear from me, poke me to remind me. :D

jrosehansen wrote:
It was interesting what you said about explicate instruction, this would make sense, but in other ways, no. I would think some implicit instruction would "sink in" after repetition and use, but I do see where the downfalls could be.


Yeah, I have questions about the "evidence" (let's not call them facts.) Basically, nobody knows what's best. Everybody has ideas and there is information that points to different things but none of it is concrete.

On the explicit vs. implicit front, researchers tested students in both environments immediately after lessons and then a few weeks later. The explicitly taught groups did better in both.

Now, problems with that is that the testing measure may have been a test of explicit knowledge or biased in that it tested what was "taught". The implicit group, as you hinted to, may have learned a myriad of other things via the implicit method that weren't measured by the final testing procedure. So, it doesn't mean they learned less it just gives evidence to the idea that explicit instruction yields acquisition of that aspect that was taught.

Another problem is that implicit methods of teaching most likely yield long term (on a several month/year scale) rather than short term (2 week) effects. But those effects are hard to measure. What was gained or acquired might not even be what you meant for them to acquire.

Anyway, take it all with a grain of salt. Like I said, as far as I know, nobody knows what's best. We're all just trying to do our best :D

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Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:19 am
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I have always struggled with this issue. I learned French in a no English policy classroom and responded well to it. That was as an adult though. I feel it is important that as a teacher to elementary students I am sensitive to each students' needs and situation.


Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:35 am
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Hi everyone.
I hope it's not too late to take part in this discussion.
I want to say something which is very important to me as a teacher, as a person.
I try to have contact with my students, I think it's crucial to notice whether they are sad or scared or happy. It's almost impossible for young kids to speak in English about their feelings. I can't give them the message: no, I don't want to listen to you if you can't say it in English.
In my lessons I try to speak only English and respond only to English. However, my students know that there are times when they can speak Polish (they have to ask for permission in English: Ms, can I speak Polish?) And when the student who asks for it is really good at English I encourage him/her to speak English anyway. At first I thought they would be using this possibility too much, but no. It happens only when they really want to say something important to them, something that may not be (and usually isn't) connected with learning English :) but I appreciate the moments when they want to share their lives with me.
As an example I want to tell you what happened on Monday. One of my extremely shy and quiet students, a 7-year-old girl asked me in the middle of the lesson: ms can speak Polish? It was the first time she'd asked me this questions so I agreed at once :) She said: Can I do a handstand?!!! (She said it in Polish of course) I was so surprised that before I could say anything she ran to the door and there she stood on her hands!!! I couldn't believe it. Everybody gave her applause and she was so happy - I have never seen her so happy and proud of herself.
And that's it, for me it was fantastic - I could see her in a new way.

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Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:06 pm
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hello everyone

thanks a lot for those great explanations.
I have native french speakers aged 4 to 9 and i tend to speak far too much french to them. I'll try the plane idea next week and willl let you know how they react. I also teach a large classroom of 29 6years old twice a month and there are a lot of great ideas of this site. many thanks


Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:45 am
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