Miss Education says:
As an undergrad studying to become an ESL teacher, I was constantly told that there was no room for French in English class (except if there was a severe problem that needed to be addressed). Five years after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I have had the opportunity to work with other ESL teachers and discuss about this issue. Some teachers did not use French at all, while others found it difficult not to speak it during their teaching. Clearly, ESL specialist go about this in different ways. What we largely have in common, though, is that we believe there should be very minimal to no use of the students’ L1 in the L2 classroom. This suggests that ESL teachers believe that the best way to learn an L2 is to be fully soaking in a tub of the second language in question.
Some teachers that did use French in the classroom used it for specific reasons. Some of these reasons they shared with me are: translating words, making sure they understood the activity presented, giving them important messages, or to helping with following directions. I didn’t think these were good enough reasons, but I am in no place to judge one’s choices on how they conduct their classes. I took note of these experiences and reflected on my own teaching.
Others who refused to speak French in the ESL classroom believed it to be challenging at times for the students but they claimed it pushed the students to get out of their comfort zone faster and use their English expressions more often. But when I asked about the students who had a lot of difficulty getting out of their “bubble”, the answers I go where in the lines of “Don’t worry, they will. They all do at some point.”
So in light of my third -and final!- blogpost, I decided to briefly share with you some points I have found interesting as I researched this issue. I will be focusing on one article by Cook (2001) because he challenges the belief that L1 should not be used in the L2 classroom and suggests many ways in which L1 can contribute to L2 learning. (For teachers in this field, particularly those like me who are struggling with this issue, I think it’s a must read).
Cook (2001) explains that depending on how we use L1, teachers can make L2 learning much easier. He writes about different ways to incorporate L1 successfully which include the New Concurrent Method (using L1 when concepts are important but when its time to review concepts already explained, the teacher does the review in L2, and to redirect students; often, L1 is used to praise/reprimand students); It also suggests that student code-switch to help them before real L2 users and stresses the need to teach cognates to students.
Next, Cook (2001) touched on CLL (Community Language Learning). You can read about this in my second blog post entitled How can I help my students break down the barriers of their anxiety to enable them to learn their second language?
Thirdly, Dodson’s Bilingual Method is elaborated on. This consists of the teacher saying something in L2 and has the students infer the meaning and explain what they think it means in L1. This method focused a lot on meaning rather on other skills.
Lastly, the article includes a section on how the use of L1 can be beneficial in the ESL classroom. Here are a few reasons: 1) efficiency (can something be done quicker or better if L1 is used), 2) learning: will L1 help learning L2, 3) naturalness: this is when the learners feel more comfortable discussing some topics in their L1 rather than L2 (I believe this to be geared more to adult learners, not primary ESL), and finally, 4) external relevance: will the students use this L2 outside the classroom.
When reading about efficiency, I was trying to list a few scenarios where French should be used. I had a hard time, really, aside from a fire alarm or major problems, I couldn’t think of any time it would be more efficient. I believe that we cannot look at efficiency as a shortcut to learning as learning happens at its own pace.
Furthermore, I am a firm believer of comparing one language to another to know the similarities and differences is beneficial when learning an L2. Using a French sentence on the board for example and translating SVC so that students see the similarities in writing in English is a great way to learn grammatical notions.
Lastly, I do not think that naturalness comes into play in the primary or secondary ESL classrooms as we teach more “theme-based” but I do believe that external relevance is important and we need to stress its importance to our students. Likewise, internal relevance is important and I believe it needs to be shared with classmates.
I can go on and on as this is a subject seems to be close to home, but I will end my post here and look forward to what you have to say!
What are your thoughts about the use of French in the ESL classroom? What are your experiences? I cannot wrap my head around one specific answer. Anyone else feel that way?
Cook, V. (March 01, 2001). Using the First Language in the Classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review/ La Revue Canadienne Des Langues Vivantes, 57, 3, 402-423.