Home ESL Teacher When is it OK to make use of college students’ L1 within the English classroom?

When is it OK to make use of college students’ L1 within the English classroom?

When is it OK to make use of college students’ L1 within the English classroom?


The theme of Worldwide Mom Language Day 2023 is multilingual training, and its energy to rework training. As each English trainer is aware of, it may be tough for college kids to not use their L1 within the English classroom in the event that they’re not used to being taught in a multilingual atmosphere. Therefore, the theme of the day is a crucial one for each college students’ attainment, and in addition for serving to lecturers to develop their expertise and understanding of scholars’ wants and preferences.

For those who’ve taught English for a whilst you’ve most likely been requested by non-teachers whether or not you want to have the ability to communicate your college students’ mom tongue to show English. There have been many debates about first language (L1) use within the English classroom through the years, and there will likely be for a lot of extra. As with many advanced subjects, the reply about whether or not to make use of college students’ L1 will depend on how nicely the trainer is aware of the scholars and the way they study. 

This may rely on loads of components, together with the kind of faculty you educate at, your college students’ ranges and whether or not the category shares a single first language or if there are a number of languages within the class. Some lecturers don’t even communicate college students’ L1, whereas others communicate it fluently.

Ought to English lecturers use L1 when instructing?

Many lecturers keep away from college students’ L1 within the classroom. They discover college students study quickest in an immersive classroom. ‘English solely’ indicators or different supplies beautify partitions to make the classroom really feel extra ‘English’. If college students discover this beneficial, it might be helpful to restrict or cease L1 use in this sort of classroom. 

Nevertheless, others imagine that college students’ L1 may also help them to grasp new concepts and language extra simply. The L1 can present consolation and familiarity, boosting college students’ confidence. An English-only classroom might be intimidating. For college students who can not sustain with the lesson, motivation could drop in the event that they imagine there’s no method to catch up.

As helpful as L1 could also be within the classroom nevertheless, it’s essential to make use of English as a lot as attainable to assist college students develop confidence. Academics could subsequently discover that a mixture of the L1 and English may also help college students.

For a extra in-depth have a look at this concern, try our weblog on utilizing college students’ L1 within the classroom.

How does L1 assist in studying L2?

One argument towards L1 use in school is that college students will focus extra on translating reasonably than pondering immediately in English. At decrease ranges, nevertheless, it might be important for college kids to make use of translation as their ‘coaching wheels’. L1 may also help them get used to talking English and mastering pronunciation, to construct confidence and educate them important phrases. Then they’ll go on to study extra superior language.

College students may also use their L1 to develop their very own studying expertise, by reflecting on their processes and creating particular methods. This can be tough for college kids at decrease ranges to do in English. As they develop into more adept, you’ll be able to then educate them the English they should know to replicate on their very own studying, and you may regularly decrease the quantity of L1 they use within the classroom.

The best way to successfully use learners’ mom tongue when instructing English

For a lot of lecturers, college students’ L1 is a helpful useful resource which can be utilized to develop each language and cultural consciousness.

Pair up college students with completely different native languages

In a category the place college students communicate a number of L1s, pair up college students with completely different native languages. Have them analysis a grammar level in English after which supply a comparative presentation to one another on the similarities and variations between the English grammar level and their very own languages. For instance, chances are you’ll pair a Mandarin Chinese language speaker with a German speaker and set them the problem of researching the English guidelines of articles. 

The Mandarin speaker might want to clarify how Sinitic languages don’t use articles in the identical approach, however as an alternative have classifiers to explain completely different nouns. 

The German speaker must briefly clarify the German gender and case techniques which helps them determine which article to decide on. College students haven’t simply gained an understanding of English, but additionally discovered one thing about their classmates’ languages and cultures.

In courses the place college students share an L1, assign pairs to analysis language factors of their L1. Then distinction them with English and put together a brief presentation to the category on what the variations are.


A typical method which makes use of college students’ L1 is ‘sandwiching’. That means you combine languages by substituting tough English phrases with L1 equivalents. You may even use it with phrases or idioms, and slowly cut back L1 use as college students progress. Discover out extra about sandwiching right here.

Multilingual writing challenges

Evaluating English proficiency with pure L1 use is a good way to assist pupil understanding. To do that, set college students easy and enjoyable questions. Examples could be:

  • Why do some songs hold enjoying in your head?
  • What’s the perfect factor in regards to the place you reside?
  • For those who had been the president of the world for sooner or later, what’s one factor you’d change and why?

Ask college students to put in writing a couple of paragraphs answering the query of their L1, then have them write it in English. They may quickly see the distinction between their mom tongue and their English. They can even uncover the issues of their language that may’t be immediately translated into English. Therefore, needing to be rephrased to make sense, equivalent to idiomatic and casual language.

The perfect L1 strategy for college kids will depend on their degree, wants, confidence, motivation, and trainer’s experience. There isn’t a right reply for the correct quantity of L1 use. Think about classroom components at play, and whether or not you need to use college students’ languages to assist them study English. 

You probably have concepts or expertise on utilizing college students’ L1s within the classroom, depart a remark and share your ideas. For additional studying, try our publish on utilizing translation to develop college students’ grammar.