Cafe CLIL Discussion 07: Use of L1 in the Classroom

Discussion 07: Use of L1 in the Classroom
(Reporting back on conferences and meetings; discussion on using the mother tongue in the classroom)
16.09.09 (17.00-18.00 Central EU time)

You can hear a full recording of the discussion at this YouTube link.

Visitors to Café CLIL:
Keith Kelly (Host)
Bernd Morlock
Lauretta D'Angelo
John Clegg

Summary of discussion points:
News and conferences
- Keith reports back briefly on Kassel's 4th Bilingual Science Teachers conference where 140 bilingual Science teachers came together for a conference with very varied themes. Use of L1 essentially ignored as an issue as teachers simply switch into English, but teach as they would in L1.
- Bernd reports back on a conference on intercultural learning, draws parallels between CLIL and intercultural learning where the focus essentially is on an area other than language.
- Lauretta reports back on a training course for CLIL teachers in Sardinia using a blended approach of ICT and face-to-face meetings. Also gives outline of research she is carrying out on CLIL teacher profiles.
- John reports back on a project in Qatar on a project where Maths and Science are taught through English, and the project has come to the end of its first year.
- Keith mentions the Swiss English teachers' conference in Basel where one of the themes of the SIG day was CLIL and his talk on embedding language in tasks.

The agenda
Each speaker to give their standpoint on this issue and then end with collection of principles.

Key issues
John suggests that teachers and learners may need to use L1 and suggests that there is an issue with pair and group work where some 'private' time may be necessary in L1 for dealing with complex concepts, for clarifying understanding.
Lauretta's research shows that 'the use of L1 decreases with the L2 competence of the teacher and that the more competent the teacher is in L2, the more they expect L2 from the students'.
Bernd describes L1 as a possible 'communicative lubricant' for the classroom.
Keith suggests that it is a question of strategy and that teachers can plan to support L2 language in the same way that they plan to teach their curriculum.
Lauretta quotation - 'The decision to use more or less of the first language should not depend on the competence of the teacher but on the vision he or she has of the lesson to be carried out'.
John reminds us how complex the issue is and suggests that we have to be clear about what we mean by first language use, quick translation, long explanation, using the L1 for oral work, using L2 for reading and writing. We need to break it down. It's very contextual.

Keith describes CLIL lesson plans (attached below) where teachers can ask relevant questions about predicted language use and needs in the classroom.
John suggests that it is a question of what the teacher wants to achieve. If the focus is on concepts L1 may be needed.
The aims of the lesson should lead the language use (L1 and L2).

Principles identified
- Some L1 preparation in pair and group work may be necessary for follow-up L2 work in plenary. L1 can make it easier to use L2 later on;
- The teacher's purpose is paramount for deciding on which language to use;
- Teachers who are not confident in L2 may have to code switch. Language ability is an important variable;
- Complexity and emotion may give good reason / priority for using L1. CLIL lessons have affective components as much as any other form of education;
- It is important what Ts do with Ss outside the main content of the lesson. All teachers need to have personal interaction with learners and working in L2 can remove some of the social gelling that is important. This may give need for L1;
- Signposting and routine is important. L1 use has to be clear and random code-switching should be avoided. Use of L1 has to be principled and planned;
- There has to be some explicit ground rules early on, 'This is how we will use the L1, this is how we will use the L2';
- The CLIL approach offers both the encouragement and the support, offers the content tasks and the language embedded with the task, the language is there. You have to provide the language that learners may need to function within the L2.

Here is all the information and links provided before the discussion:The time and date have been set for Cafe CLIL 07. It will be Wed 16th between 5 and 6pm central EU time. Our theme will be 'L1 use in the classroom'. If any of you have ideas on this topic, please do post them here, to me or to any of the group. If you can join us for a later discussion let me know and we'll see what we can do to include you. I'm about to go off to Germany and returning via Switzerland on projects so won't be around much before we meet for this discussion. Just to whet your appetites here are some ideas pre-discussion and I'll post this and any other links and ideas you have to our Cafe CLIL page at factworld:

If you have a copy of 'Immersion Education: International Perspectives' editors Robert Keith Johnson and Merrill Swain, Cambridge Applied Linguistics, 1997, you'll find a lot of reference to use of L1, not only from the editors who also wrote the introductory chapter 'Immersion education: A category within bilingual education' on the Canadian context, but also reference throughout the book from case studies where code-switching is presented as a huge problem to immersion education in general (particularly Hong Kong).
You can preview some of this book in Google books:

Using L.1 in the classroom
secondary and adult
In Defense of L1 in the Classroom
Lindsay Clanfield and Duncan Foord

There is also a MA dissertation online with the title:

Personally speaking, in short I think there is a clear role for L1 in the L2 classroom. It's one which both supports L1 acquisition and encourages dual language development. I saw Jim Cummins talk this year in Brazil, the role of L1 in the classroom was one of his fundamental pillars for the L2 classroom. It plays an important part in young people developing their own identity through learning and so should be part of an educational approach which places it at the centre of learning (or words to that effect). At the same conference Ofelia Garcia from CUNY attacked US naming of bilingual learners as English Language Learners giving the very reason that the term ELLs removes some of the focus from the home language of the learners and places it solely on the L2 when what is needed is a considered approach which involves both languages. I think what the two were also getting at is that 'we' are out-of-date if we are only thinking about bilingual language development from a monolingual perspective, i.e. from the perspective of the English language. They were promoting the development of methodologies which respect all the languages of the classroom. 

Attached files