Teacher and Student First Language and Target Language Use in the Foreign Language Classroom: A Qualitative and Quantitative Study of Language Choice

by Thompson, Gregory Lynn.

Abstract (Summary)
The importance of using the target language (TL) in the FL classroom is ingrained in the minds of most language teachers (Cook, 2001). Since the late 1800’s, different teaching methods and approaches have espoused the importance of TL use in the foreign classroom e.g., the Direct Method, Audiolingualism, Sociocultural Theory, and the Communicative Method. However, few studies have examined how TL and first language (L1) are being used in the FL classroom (Duff & Polio, 1990, 1994; Macaro, 2001; Levine, 2003). Even less research has been done regarding the purpose(s) for which the L1 and TL are being used in the classroom and the types of discourse for which the L1 and TL are being employed by teachers and students. There is, however, a growing number of researchers who have begun to question the exclusion of the L1 from the classroom and there are calls for further study to discover if, when, and where the L1 should be used (Guthrie, 1984; Dickson, 1992; Hagen, 1992; Cook, 2001; Macaro, 2001; Turnbull, 2001). This study was carried out in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Arizona, a large university in the southwestern part of the United States. Sixteen first- and second-year classes were studied over the course of three observations. Additionally, over 500 students participated in a pre- and post-listening test as well as a survey regarding perceptions of L1 and TL use in the classroom and beliefs about language use. The current study explores not only teacher and student TL and L1 use in the FL classroom through video and audio recordings of multiple classes but also investigates in what types of discourse the TL and L1 are being employed and some of 18 the motivations behind this usage. Other questions that are addressed include: How do native and non-native instructors of the TL differ in their language use? Does a relationship exist between student and teacher perceptions and beliefs regarding L1 and TL use and actual use? and What are the factors (e.g., teaching experience, educational background, class level) that may influence L1 and TL use in the classroom? The results showed that while there was a strong positive correlation between the instructors’ use of the L1 and the students’ use of the L1, this did not adversely affect the listening gains in the classroom. Also, it was found that both the students and the instructors were able with a high degree of accuracy to predict the L1 and TL of the instructors in the classroom. Finally, there were no significant differences between the classes with native speaking instructors of the TL and those who were non-native speaking instructors of the TL. This study contributes to a better understanding of actual classroom language usage, the motivations behind L1 and TL use, and the students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the role of the L1 and TL in the classroom. Additionally, the study provides empirical data to use in teacher training regarding actual TL and L1 use and offers further information on possible role(s) of the L1 in the classroom. Through an analysis of the situations in which the L1 and TL are used, teachers can be made aware of actual language use. This consciousness-raising may assist instructors to adapt their language usage to the pedagogical goals that they have set for their and students. 19
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Arizona

School Location:USA - Arizona

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:

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