L1 use in English classes

I don’t know why but English teachers in state schools feel like they need to use Turkish in their classes instead of lecturing in English. However, English classes are their only chance to exposure to use of English, if they are not interested in movies, games, books, etc.in English. By lecturing in Turkish, they take their only chance of getting meaningful input in the target language. It’s language, not a math class, so you can’t teach it in the same way you teach formulas. It needs to be heard, spoken, written and read by the students.

AsPW-english-speaking-zone I am observing in a state middle school, the case is the same. The teacher is using Grammar Translation Method all the time. There is almost no usage of English except tasks, especially reading passages, on their course books. Teacher is speaking Turkish all the time. Sometimes she greets the class in English or translates and paraphrase students’ utterances. I can say that the percentage of using L1 in the class is 97%. Even classroom routines are in Turkish. She asks students that ” justla already arasındaki fark neydi çocuklar? açın kitaplarınızı, hangi alıştırmayı yapıyorduk?”, etc are some of the examples.

Since they are going to have an exam on Friday, the teacher tried to do some exercise related to exam. The topic was the usage of present perfect tense, but almost none of the students were able to form a meaningful and grammatical sentence. They have difficulty in finding the appropriate word for appropriate pronoun. They also confused about the word order in a sentence. If their teacher used English in the classroom, they would be familiar with the structure. They could get used to hearing those utterances, which would help them construct meaningful and grammatically correct sentences without thinking so much.

I think she supposes that if she spoke English the class wouldn’t understand her, so the students could be lost during lecture. There is a saying “you’ll never know, if you never even try”. How is she so sure that they don’t understand? When I was doing my practice last semester in a state high school, the teacher was also using GTM all the time. Even in exams she was asking for sentence translation. Since we were obliged to speak English during our lectures, we were worried that the class wouldn’t understand a word what we were saying. However, we tried. The result was amazing. Let alone understanding English, they even formed such complicated advanced sentenced that we were shocked. They watch American TV dramas and listen to English and American singers. They all use social media and most of them have been to abroad at least once. They were exposed to a lot of input. They were just waiting for to be explored. They just need a sparkle to turn it on and the rest will come by itself. In my case I think when I use English in the lectures they will enjoy it. They could be younger, but they are Gen Y. Come on! It’s the Milennials. They play video games, listen to American singers. They use technology and social media more efficient than any of us. Since the virtual world is full of English stuff, they can’t be so empty. I believe that they have the potential waiting for to be triggered. All you need to do is to start.

If I were the teacher of that class I would definitely be nicer towards the students. Sometimes she has been very harsh to them. Anyway, it’s not the question. When it comes to using L1, I would follow a different route. From the very moment that I met them, I would start speaking in English. As I am an English teacher, I should speak English to make the students feel like that they also need to speak English in order to communicate with me. I remember my Russian course. The teacher spoke Russian all the time that we thought she is Russian, too. Even though we don’t know a single word of Russian, she used it in class, which helped us learn some basic instructions unconsciously. I would follow the same strategy. Maybe I can offer them L1 hour, but even in that case I would speak in English.

After all, my stand is “doesn’t matter whenever, L2 forever.”

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