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In an insightful study on the use of first language in classroom, Cook (2001) revealed that most participants supported the application of the first language (Arabic) as a critical tool for mediation.
However, the application of L1 in L2 settings has generated controversies, especially in regards to its effectiveness in the environment where not all learners share the same L1.
This has called for the need to develop further insights into how the best application of language can form the bedrock of effective teaching and learning.
The need to examine the use of L2 in English classroom setting has also attracted a significant number of researchers.
However, research on the application of L2 in English classrooms in Saudi Arabia is inconclusive. This research seeks to examine whether the use of L2 in English classes in Saudi Arabia is an effective tool or a hindrance to learning.
A review of existing literature sources reveals that the development of effective teaching and learning practices has been an issue of concern to researchers the field of education.
This is because of the need to transform teaching and learning practices through adoption of better methods of content delivery.
It is against this background that the application of first language (L1) in mastering the second language (L2) has attracted considerable interest from researchers (Turnbull & Daily-O’Cain, 2009; Cook, 2001).
The proponents of this system argue that the first language forms the basis for creating meaningful connections to concepts in the second language (Cook, 2001).
Machaal (2010) theorized that development of language skills is important to overall development of learning capabilities in students. Macaro (2005) presented an insightful analysis of the code switching to L2 classroom through a review of past teaching and learning strategies. In his analysis, the author claimed that “theory and practice have started shifting towards acceptance of judicious and theoretically principled use of L1 in L2 classes and vice-versa” (p. 69).
On the other hand, in a survey involving 30 students, and 10 EFL teachers, Machaal (2010) sought to examine whether the application of Arabic language in English classes presented meaningful benefits to the learners.
After reviewing past literature sources and analyzing data collected from the sample participants, the author revealed that Arabic served as an important tool in theoretical and practical learning.
Based on scarcity of literatures on the amount of L2 language used in foreign classrooms, Duff and Polio (1990) sought bridge the gap in literature by examining “how much foreign language is there in the foreign language classroom” (p. 1).
In a study involving a survey of 21 sampled students conducted in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the researchers found and presented findings similar to past researchers (Macaro, 2005; Machaal, 2010).
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Whereas there were a number of limitations to the study, the researchers revealed that the amount of foreign language in a foreign language classroom differs based on factors related to the demands of the learner.
In an analysis of “the socio-cultural context of English language teaching in the Gulf” by Syed (2003), it was revealed that local problems require homegrown solutions. This implies that the application of L2 in English classroom in the Gulf does not lead to any meaningful benefits.
In his concluding remarks, the author pointed out that application of L1 in L2 classroom settings was appropriate for the achievement of a more holistic learning. This is because learning is a process that begins with the unknown.
The need to carry out research in this particular area revolves around the changing nature of learning and teaching and the need to develop effective responsive methods.
Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57(11): 402–423.
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, New York: Sage.
Duff, P. & Polio, C. (1990). How much foreign language is there in the foreign language classroom? Modern Language Journal, 74(3):154–166.
Macaro, E. (2005). Codeswitching in the L2 classroom: A communication and learning strategy. New York: Springer.
Machaal, B. (2010). The Use of Arabic in English Classes: A teaching Support or a Learning Hindrance? A Quarterly International Peer Reviewed Journal, 5(3): 194-232.
Syed, Z. (2003). The sociocultural context of English language teaching in the Gulf. TESOL Quarterly. 37(2): 337–41.
Turnbul, M. and Dailey-O’Cain, J. (2009). Introduction in First Language Use in Second and Foreign Language Learning. Bristol, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.