Code switching: Should the L1 be used in a L2 classroom?
Yee Chin YEOH 8th October 2011
The exclusive use of the first language (L1) in a second language (L2) classroom is not
new, and this issue is complex, it is a long-standing tenet of second language (L2) teaching.
From experience as a learner and as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, Krashen’s
input hypothesis which states that we acquire language through comprehensive input, and we are
focus on the message, not the form, sounds very convincing to me. In addition, the researchers
argued that learner’s choice of what input becomes intake is highly affected by social and
situational contexts. In this sense, social setting such as classroom is crucial because it influences
L2 development. However, I could not agree more with that these beliefs and theories are not
always reflected in my practice. Apparently, the use of L1 by both teacher and students in L2
classroom is inevitable. Only circumstances where the teacher does not speak the students’ L1 or
the students have different L1s could this be achieved. Moreover, Cook raised an interesting
point in her article:
“If it has proved successful for over 100 years, perhaps it should be left alone; if it works, don’t
fix it. The use of the L1 can be dismissed as yesterday’s questions; let us get on with the burning
issues of today.”
However, this topic is worth investigate or review in order to clear some of my doubts and helps
me to become a better language teacher in the future.
There are two questions which must first be answered before the problem of evaluating
the use of L1 in L2 classroom can be approached. The first of these questions is: What are the
motivations or reasons underlying the use of L1 or code switch? The second question is: Will L2
learning be facilitated by using L1 in the classroom? Answering these questions is essential in
order to make sure that there is convincing evidence for us to evaluate the use of...