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Using Mother Language in Classroom 
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Post Using Mother Language in Classroom
I teach children ages 4-12 and try never to use Japanese in the classroom. I let the little ones know the first day that I do speak Japanese and that if they have to go the bathroom or are going to be sick they call tell me in Japanese. After that I have an only English policy....they quickly learn to ask to go to the bathroom in English. Often the kids will chat to each other in Japanese or translate for another child who doesn't understand, but all their language with me is in English and they try very hard to express themselves. To me this makes sense as they only get English once a week, for an hour, so they should speak as much as they are capable of. There is another teacher at the school who disagrees with me.

So, here are my questions: Do you speak your students mother language in class at all? If so, why? Does your school have a langague policy? If yes, what is the policy?

Thanks,

Juli


Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:00 am
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First off let me say hello to all of you on the forums. I recently stated teaching in the public school system in Japan( Aichi-ken Yatomi-shi) and must say that had I not found this site I don't think I would be able to continue my job. Huge thanks to you Mark.

To your question jahkamakura~

Let me stat by saying that I work for Interac and as of this post have had no problems whatsoever. According to them, they would like it if you didn't use Japanese in the classroom as best as possible, but are not blind to the fact that it will, in one way or another, sometimes creep in without you knowing it.

For me, I often use Japanese in the classroom to explain the games I use for the day or how to do a particular worksheet. In my situation, I teach at 4 different schools with an average class size of 35 kids across 1-6 grade totaling over 1000 kids. I find that classes where I use my Japanese ability, the class runs smoother and essentially streamlines the move from vocab drilling to game to worksheet to cool down etc.

The times that I have gone for an all English class usually end up with me acting like a clown to get everyone to understand what is going on, which eats up a significant amount of time and hinders everyone's learning experience.

Secondly, I am a firm believer that it boarders on insanity to expect a person to walk into a classroom full of Japanese students and try and hold class all in English, especially when they only have class once a week at best, and in the worst cases, 1 a month/ 1 every two months, and expect a great result. I know for myself that I didn't start learning Japanese until I was 20 (will be 25 in 7 days) and can communicate with anyone in this country with no problem on an array of subjects. But I didn't get this way by only studying Japanese in Japanese. I started with basic grammar and basic words to get a foundation that would eventually allow me to drop the English and learn totally in Japanese.

Now, this is just me. If we, those of us suffering through MEXT policies, could teach one class more than once a week, then it starts to make sense to drop the Japanese. However, Once a week for a total of 45 minutes is not going to bring any kind of real results when you have to deal with kids who don't want to pay attention/ be in school and are a drain on the rest of the class.

I have always wondered though what it is like to do private lessons/run your own English school. Perhaps Mark can chime in and let us know.

Sorry for the long response, these are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak of my thoughts on the matter. I would be happy to continue the discussion.

★Chris★

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Fri Jul 03, 2009 10:05 pm
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ChrisZ wrote:
First off let me say hello to all of you on the forums. I recently stated teaching in the public school system in Japan( Aichi-ken Yatomi-shi) and must say that had I not found this site I don't think I would be able to continue my job. Huge thanks to you Mark.

Chris - I'm glad the site has been helpful and welcome to the forums!

On the no L1 front, I feel that using L1 to teach is not a problem as long as you have a class that's composed of all L1 speakers. If you are in an ESL environment and have learners with different L1s, then you'll be excluding some of the group if you explain in say just Spanish.

I use Japanese in my classes sparingly. Much like Chris said, if the information to relay is of little importance but saves you 15 minutes of class time, it's better to use your time wisely than to try to adhere to a no-L1 rule, in my opinion.

I almost never use Japanese with kids classes, but I keep a constant format. That helps students to know what to do and what I might mean. Additionally, I only have 4-6 students in my groups. However, once I enter into grammar explanation (much much later), I tend to verify understanding by eliciting the meaning in L1. If there's a problem, I will explain in English again. (I also discipline in L1. - - Once Mark starts speaking Japanese, he's not playing around any more :smt011)

With large classes, at university, junior high school and elementary schools I teach (taught) at, I use Japanese a little. There are just too many students (30-45) to expect that they are all understand and are not just nodding along. Again, I use it sparingly. I might use it to verify meaning of a certain vocabulary (after I've explained it in English.) I usually just have the students tell me the meaning of the word in L1 and then confirm that they are correct. I might use it to regain control of a class that's got a little out of control. I often explain some parts of a dialog or reading in Japanese to my nursing college students. The readings can be quite difficult and it's important that they understand. Most students in Japan won't ask questions even if they have no idea what's going on.

Using L1 isn't bad, but it's how you use it. It can create a bad habbit for the learners if you always translate. They may become passive and stop listening to the English explanation. If you mix it up and only use it occassionally, I think it's helpful.

When I was studying Japanese, I had a really good English grammar guide. Without it, I would have been really lost. Just because we are native speakers doesn't mean we have to pretend we can't speak the student's L1, imo.

Imagine asking a Japanese English teacher never to speak Japanese. They'd tell you that's silly. Of course they need to explain certain things in Japanese to low level learners.

If it's good for one then that should obviously apply to the other. No?

Actually, they don't really need to use English, but because of time constraints they can't afford to spend the time it takes to go all English. There are certainly problems with that philosophy as well, but that's a different question :)

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Last edited by mesmark on Sun Aug 30, 2009 7:35 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:39 am
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I teach at a Korean elementary school and I don't really speak Korean. I co teach at one school and the co teacher obviously uses Korean during the class to explain things. She uses it a little more than I would like occassionally, but it is not too bad. At the other school I don't co teach and I feel that it would be useful to actually be able to use Korean occassionally. I don't have too much problem with explaining activities and games (although I do have to be creative and sometimes it takes a longer time) but I actually think it would be useful to be able to explain some key expressions in Korean or even just ask the students what they are in Korean to check their understanding. Sometimes I make the students who do understand explain it to the others in Korean which is fine except I can't be sure that they have got it right! I have some none English speaking co teachers who occassionally explain stuff in L1 but I
often realise that they have explained it incorrectly.

I do speak a few words of Korean but they are words that (almost) all my students understand in English because we use them all the time (like ready, go and hurry up). I have heard some English teachers using these common words with their students (probably to show that they can speak the language a bit) and I personally don't think that this is a good idea. If it is a word that you use all the time then really it should be in English not L1.

That is just my view but I do also notice that with the co teacher I tend to be a bit lazy about explaining the games and activities in English as I know that she is probably going to translate it into Korean anyway!
I don't know if that would also be the case if I could also explain in Korean after the English explanation.


Sat Jul 04, 2009 10:40 am
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Thank you all for responding. It was interesting to read your thoughts on using L1 in the classroom. I guess I agree with you all.

If I had 35 kids I can definitely see the benefit of explaining a game or homework assignment in L1. Things would move much faster and it would allow for more teaching time and practice time for the kids. That said, my biggest class is 6. I do sometimes speak Japanese to discipline or explain directions. Just like Mark, my students know I'm upset when I speak Japanese!

I also don't see why a teacher would use commands or common phrases(sit down, thank you, get out your book) in L1 when they learn those phrases so quickly.

The teacher whom I disagree with was telling the children to sit down in Japanese. These kids also are semi-native in English.

Anyway,

Thanks again for your thoughts,

Juli


Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:16 pm
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Post French policy
Hi,

I used to use mother language during english lessons, but a second language teaching specialist told me it was not necessary.

So I tried the only english policy and, altough it was a bit tough to make my pupils understand THEY sould not speak french either, it worked very well and the kids really enjoyed it.

I've got a trick to make them respect the policy: I make them "travel by plane". They chose their destination, and once we get there, no french is allowed as we are in an english speaking country. If you make them play the take off...it even works better.


Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:14 pm
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I suppose it depends on the level and age you are teaching. And to some extent the frquency of the lessons

If you teach them once a week etc they will learn and get used to the English much quicker than in my case where I have them only once a month!

Also I do a lot of young kids. So I have to do a constant judgment on how much mother language (L1) to use

I do try to use English as much as I can but only getting 1 lesson a month its hard for them. I end up doing a lot of explaining etc in L1

My higher levels/ older kids I do speak more English


Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:35 pm
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Post Re: French policy
flora wrote:
Hi,

I used to use mother language during english lessons, but a second language teaching specialist told me it was not necessary.

So I tried the only english policy and, altough it was a bit tough to make my pupils understand THEY sould not speak french either, it worked very well and the kids really enjoyed it.

I've got a trick to make them respect the policy: I make them "travel by plane". They chose their destination, and once we get there, no french is allowed as we are in an english speaking country. If you make them play the take off...it even works better.


Oh, I like the plane idea. You could even make their notebook, or stamp card look like a passport to "English" Thanks for the great idea.

Juli


Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:31 am
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No problem,

And your passport/post cards...idea is great to. I will try it.


Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:49 pm
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Post Re: Using Mother Language in Classroom
jahkamakura wrote:
So, here are my questions: Do you speak your students mother language in class at all? If so, why? Does your school have a langague policy? If yes, what is the policy?

Juli


No, I don't. My children come from many different language backgrounds (we have over 20 different nationalities in our school) and they come to me to learn English, not chat in their own languages. I speak very little of any of their home languages and, often, with a small withdrawal group, the only common language the children have is English anyway.

This morning I taught a group of six children who spoke Cantonese, Punjabi, Tongan, Samoan, Dari and Turkish. English it has to be.


Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:00 pm
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Although you were talking about this a while ago, I just want to express my opinion. I teach in a school where there is a policy that English should be the only spoken language. Even when the principal enters the classroom speaks only English. In exceptional moments when I have to use L1, I use it but I am patient with the children, and I keep on trying. After they get the idea what I am saying, they say it in L1, but after that they repeat in English.

And as a result the children whisper when they have to say something in L1. It is well accepted, and as a result they really try to express themselves in English. One of the most interesting thing for me is how they get used to trying to explain what they need when they don’t know the word. For an example: someone needs a scissors, and doesn’t know the word and explains it: I need the thing to cut this paper. This is achieved because I teach them to keep trying to express themselves, with the English they know. At the beginning they need more help, but after a while they get used to it.

About classroom language, for the lower levels, I make posters, sometime with the help of my students, and we place them on the wall, and they read them whenever they want to ask me something. There are a few of them:

Speak English!
Can I borrow your _________, please?
Can I clean the board?
Can I go to the toilet?
Can you check this?
Can you repeat that please?
How do you say __________ in English?
Can you speak more slowly please?
I don’t understand.
What does __________ mean?
Can you say that again, please?
How do you pronounce this word?
Can you spell __________ please?

By speaking only English, my students sometimes struggle to understand, but after a while they start to understand. I mime actions in class, I draw on the board, I use flashcards and I make them repeat everything new a few times.

The "plane" idea is great!

Hope you find this useful.


Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:43 pm
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Thanks Snowflake,

next week I'll start teaching basic school children and I am to use only English as far as possible.
You encouraged me to confront them with as much English as possible and that they somehow, by miming or flashcards, will understand.

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Sun Aug 30, 2009 6:56 am
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I think all these ideas are just great, I also agree it is very important to use as much English as possible in the class. But at some points is helpful to use the mother tongue to clarify and go on using English.
I will try the passport idea. Thanks!


Tue Nov 10, 2009 6:23 pm
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I try to avoid using L1 in the classroom at all costs. I certainly don't like the idea of getting into the habit of chatting in L1 to the students at any point during class hours. Every once and a while if the L2 is difficult to explain appropriately in a way using pictures/actions/simplerL2 I will let a tiny bit of L1 come in to the teaching process. I try to do it almost subliminally, emphasizing the target L2 at least twice slowly and clearly, and then dropping the L1 equivalent in briefly under my breath before returning right to the L2.
L1 is especially necessary sometimes when explaining complex forms of speech like verb tenses.

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Wed Nov 25, 2009 3:20 pm
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[quote="chtheatrix"]I try to avoid using L1 in the classroom at all costs. I certainly don't like the idea of getting into the habit of chatting in L1 to the students at any point during class hours.[/quote]

I agree with you .but when I teach grammar I use l1 to explain difficult rules such as tag questions .."if" (type 1and2) ..the difference between the past simple tense and the present perfect..because my pps find them difficult.. I try to facilate them by giving examples in l1
I'm not sure if it's a good method but I use it in my classes ..and it works ..because there are no flashcards or gestures or any material can explain these grammar rules..

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Wed Nov 25, 2009 10:07 pm
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