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The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance? Research Paper


Abstract

The usage of the first language in the English classes is the controversial question in education. The effectiveness of using Arabic in the English classroom with references to the participants’ attitudes to the process is the focus of the research. Thus, the paper aims to present the evidence in relation to students and teachers’ attitudes towards the usage of Arabic in the English classes basing on the data from the survey.

Two types of questionnaires were developed for teachers and students in order to investigate the situation in the English classroom and the participants’ opinions on the use of the first language while teaching and studying English.

According to the results of this research, teachers and students actively use Arabic in the English classroom, and this fact contributes to increasing students’ motivation and comprehension, but many participants state that this approach is rather inappropriate.

Introduction

The problem of using the first language in the classroom environments while teaching English still remains one of the most controversial questions in education and studying linguistics. Researchers have no single idea in relation to the effectiveness of using L1 in the English classroom (Duff & Polio, 1990; Moskovsky & Alrabai, 2009).

Furthermore, teachers and students present different vision of the necessity to use L1 while studying or teaching English. This problem is also relevant for the English classroom environments in Saudi Arabia where teachers and students hesitate in relation to the effectiveness of using Arabic while learning and teaching English.

Researchers cannot agree in relation to using L1 and L2 in the English classroom because different programs are developed to achieve various results.

There is no single program according to which teachers are allowed or prohibited to use Arabic in the English classes in Saudi Arabia. From this perspective, the research is important to focus on the perspectives of using L1 in order to stimulate students’ activities and increase their level in learning English.

The opinions of researchers on the issue of using L1 in the English classroom are divided into two opposite groups.

Thus, the supporters of the idea that L1 contributes to learning English while helping students understand the particular meanings and structures are inclined to stimulate the adequate usage of L1 in the English classroom to create the comfortable atmosphere for students (Macaro, 2005; Turnbul & Dailey-O’Cain, 2009).

The opponents of the idea that L1 can be helpful in learning English state that students become more passive in their learning activities relying on their abilities to understand tasks and questions spoke in their native language (Al-Nofaile, 2010; Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

That is why, to understand the aspects of using Arabic in the English classroom in Saudi Arabia, it is necessary to conduct the study involving students and teachers and to analyze their opinions in relation to the problem.

Literature Review

Having reviewed the previous researches on the problem of using L1 in teaching English in relation to the worldwide practice and concrete situation in Saudi Arabia, it is possible to state that the data provided in the previous studies are not enough to conclude about the positive or negative effects of using L1 while teaching English. The question remains one of the main concerns in the field of education.

To find the answer to the question, researchers focus on the effective practices to use L1 to help students while learning English (Cook, 2001; Turnbull & Daily-O’Cain, 2009). According to Cook, L1 can be discussed as the effective tool to help students create meaningful connections to the concepts learnt in the context of the unknown language (Cook, 2001).

The teacher can become the real motivator for students when he or she speaks in a language which is understandable easily. That is why, L1 becomes the effective tool to regulate students’ activities not only while providing the necessary instructions but also as a result of motivating for achieving the higher results in the learning process.

In their work, Duff and Polio present the general discussion of the effectiveness of using L1 in the classroom, basing on the results of the tests and students’ personal visions of the usefulness of the practice (Duff & Polio, 1990). Following Macaro’s discussion, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that students have to switch codes more often when two different languages are used within the classroom environment (Macaro, 2005).

Nevertheless, L1 is important to contribute to the theory and practice of learning English with references to the approaches used by teachers in order to help students understand the content of the lesson, lecture, practical activities, or seminar (Machaal, 2010).

In his study, Al-Nofaile pays attention to analyzing the attitudes of Saudi teachers and students towards using Arabic while studying English.

The researcher states that many teachers and students discuss the usage of L1 as the positive practice because students receive the opportunity to comprehend the material more properly, and teachers’ expectations in relation to the students’ performance and classroom management are met more often (Al-Nofaile, 2010).

According to Moskovsky and Alrabai, the usage of L1 in the English classes stimulates students’ motivation in learning English because they feel more comfortable and do not hesitate to ask about the unknown words or notions in their native language (Moskovsky & Alrabai, 2009).

According to Richards and Rodgers, students feel experience more difficulties in learning the second language if the teacher allows using the first language during the classroom activities.

From this point, the frequent code switching makes students feel uncomfortable, and they cannot understand definite ideas discussed by teachers and words spoken in the second language because of focusing on the code switching activities (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

Those researchers who do not support the idea of using L1 in the English classroom build their arguments referring to the problems experienced by students while switching codes or adapting to the new language environment (Saito & Ebsworth, 2004).

Thus, the use of L1 can prevent students from adapting to the new language realities because of the strong connections with the native languages and hopes that the difficult material can be presented with references to the native language.

Many teachers use L1 in order to help their students complete the tests and assignments effectively without contributing to their understanding the English language’s aspects (Saito & Ebsworth, 2004). This problem is correlated with the issue of the L1 overuse in the English classes.

Many researchers agree that the use of L1 is appropriate in relation to such activities as the work with dictionaries, but it can be avoided when the teacher tries to maintain the discipline or present the new material basing on the previously learnt material and information.

However, the researches state that it is possible to expect students’ positive attitudes toward using L1 in the English classroom environments (Saito & Ebsworth, 2004).

The idea is supported with the fact that students often experience a lot of difficulties when they start learning English. These difficulties can be not overcome even during the further study, and students are used to receive the instructions and explanations in their native language (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

The issue is complicated by the fact that not all the students working in the English classes can discuss Arabic as their native language. As a result, the problem of using L1 while teaching and learning English should be examined within the larger context (Moskovsky & Alrabai, 2009). Nevertheless, following the purpose of the study, it is important to focus on the usage of Arabic as the first language in teaching English in Saudi Arabia.

Research Questions

The paper aims to reduce the lack of the background information on the research topic. That is why, this research aims to respond to the following questions:

  1. What are the attitudes and beliefs among students towards the use of L1 in English classrooms in Saudi Arabia?
  2. What are the attitudes and beliefs among teachers towards the use of L1 in English classrooms in Saudi Arabia?

Purpose and Significance of the Study

The previous research on the effectiveness of using L1 language in English classroom settings is not enough to answer the question of the appropriateness to use Arabic while teaching English. This research is developed to state whether it is necessary for teachers and students to use Arabic in English classrooms.

The discussion of using L1 as the necessary support or possible hindrance can become useful for developing the effective program on improvement of the process of learning English among the students in Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, referring to the study’s results, it is possible to conclude about the real attitudes of students to the use of L1 in the English classes and the real rates of using L1 by teachers. It is important to note that today many teachers reject their use of L1 while teaching English because this practice is not supported by many researchers and educators.

Methodology

Participants

The participants of the study are 20 students and 10 teachers studying and working at Najran Technical College. The participants are chosen randomly and contacted with the help of e-mail.

Method and Procedure

The study is based on the information gained with references to the primary and secondary data. The techniques of the qualitative research were used. Students and teachers participated in the survey conducted with the help of e-mail. Two types of questionnaires were developed for students and teachers separately.

The questions for surveys were developed to help the participants express their opinion on the effectiveness and necessity of using L1 (Arabic) in the English classes. Students and teachers answered open and close-ended questions. 2 students and 1 teacher rejected the participation in the survey.

Thus, the results in relation to 18 students and 9 teachers were finally analyzed to conclude about the research questions. The survey results are recorded and stored.

The secondary data received with the help of literature review were important to analyze the answers provided by the participants as the primary data. From this point, the examination of the secondary data provides the necessary theoretical frameworks for the current research (Creswell, 2009). The received information was effectively combined with references to various secondary sources.

This approach provides the chance to make effective inquiries and a consistent investigation on the related topic (Merriam, 2009). The names or identifying pieces of information were not included in the transcripts of the surveys.

Furthermore, legal aspects of this research such as informed consent, access to participants, and voluntary participation were taken into account following the college’s code of conduct. Participants were informed that the provided information would be used for the research.

Results

The analysis of the survey allowed the identification of the attitudes and beliefs among students and teachers towards the use of L1 in English classrooms in Saudi Arabia. This study depends on the large amount of data acquired from the survey and secondary resources. The data analysis was conducted after the data collection.

The facts gained through the survey were transcribed in tables and analyzed with the help of the qualitative content analysis. The answers of 18 students and 9 teachers reflected in survey tables were analysed to find the similarities and differences in responses and conclude about teachers and students’ attitudes towards the usage of L1 (Arabic) in the English classes.

Having examined the applications in the language learning, it is possible to state that the research has showed positive effects in terms of the students’ attitudes towards using Arabic while teaching and learning English. It was found with references to the survey that 16 students prefer when teachers use Arabic explaining the new material or notions.

Moreover, the majority of students like to receive the instructions regarding the classroom management in their native language. Students stated that it is rather difficult to understand the specific aspects of the English language without receiving the necessary explanation in L1.

Furthermore, many instructions provided in English without the translation are not followed by students appropriately because they hesitate about the correctness of understanding the instruction. Nevertheless, 13 students state that the use of L1 should be restricted if not prohibited in the English classes.

17 students agree that they regularly use Arabic in their English classes because it is difficult for them to express their ideas in English without transferring to their native language. Moreover, 6 students state that they experience difficulties when the teacher does not use L1 because they feel uncomfortable in the environments where the unknown language is used.

This idea is correlated with the opinion provided by 6 teachers. The teachers participating in the survey claim that Arabic should not be used in the English classes in order to stimulate students’ success in learning and understanding English in the appropriate context.

However, the attitudes of teachers in relation to the use of L1 can be discussed as positive because 7 teachers state that they regularly use Arabic in order to explain the notions, grammar rules, or provide the cross-cultural references.

5 teachers pay attention to the fact that using the authentic literature, they try to avoid referring to L1, but they notice that students do not understand them. From this point, the usage of L1 can be discussed as the effective tool to stimulate the students’ comprehension activities and to create the comfortable environment

Discussion

The study’s results presented the data to support the idea that students and teachers actively use Arabic in the English classes because it is an effective tool to stimulate the comprehension and reaction. However, students and teachers discuss the idea of the constant usage of L1 while learning English as inappropriate because the general motivation decreases, and students can fail to understand English frequently.

A number of themes emerge from the analysis of the teachers’ responses during the survey. It is observed from the findings that teachers experience a number of problems while using only English in their classrooms.

That is why, they are inclined to agree that the usage of L1 can be discussed as effective to stimulate students’ learning activities. The effective use of authentic literature and materials can be discussed as an emerging sub-theme of the study because teachers stated that the teaching resources could serve the purpose of studying only if they are used appropriately, and students can also use them efficiently.

This problem was discussed in the context of students and teachers’ personal efficacies in relation to the use of only English in the classroom environments (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

The diverse information presented in survey were analysed with references to the secondary resources. The experiences of students and teachers were examined regarding the possible similarities and differences in their attitudes toward using L1 in the classroom environments during the English teaching-learning activities.

The teachers state that the use of Arabic in the English classes encourage students to participate actively in the activities because the situation becomes familiar for them. The problem is in the fact that many students learning English suffer from the lack of motivation.

Nevertheless, the effects of using L1 in the English classroom on the students’ motivation can be different. Teachers are inclined to promote the idea that the use of L1 decreases the learning motivation when students state that it can contribute significantly to their desire to learn English.

In general, teachers agree that there is a strong relation between the use of L1 and students’ success in learning English. This opinion is associated with the idea that the more promising future of a nation depends on the capacity to offer the quality training to the younger generations. The use of L1 is observed in these findings as a key element in the development of effective learning environments.

The advantage of using L1 is in the fact that it offers a valid platform through which instructional processes associated with the experience or actual application of learned concepts can be organized effectively in classroom settings.

It is observed from the above discussion that the integration of L1 into learning environments forms a viable path through which the teaching and learning processes can be appropriately enhanced.

Based on the analysis of the views and suggestions of the teachers, this research demonstrates that teachers are mostly likely to adopt L1 for their instructional methods because the instructions perceived by students should be convenient and relevant. Secondly, it is observed that the use of traditional Arabic is still widespread in Saudi Arabian educational systems in teaching all the foreign languages.

It is suggested that the further research should be conducted in the area of L1 application in universities in order to examine the other aspects of this multi-dimensional topic. The continued support and considerations of key potential factors influencing the attitudes of teachers form the underlying foundation upon which sustained positive attitudes of teachers towards the use of L1 may be anchored.

The role of the language of the teaching resources provided was also discussed as an important factor to influence the fact of teachers’ usage of Arabic in English classes. However, teachers did not support the idea that it could be possible to use Arabic in all the situations (Duff & Polio, 1990). The problem is initiating a program of learning English which can support or prohibit the usage of L1 in the English classes.

The teachers were reluctant to take part in a program that had little chances for success. Thus, the program with the focus on usage of only L2 was discussed as the example of the ineffective program because of decreasing the student’s motivation and abilities to understand the instructions.

To guarantee students’ high levels in understanding English, speaking, reading, and writing it as the foreign language, it is necessary to develop the program which is based on the balance in using L1 and L2 in classes because, referring to the study’s results, it is necessary to note that students and teachers use L1 in practice.

The usage of L1 is frequent and necessary in spite of the fact that participants of the study reject the necessity to allow teachers and students to use Arabic while participating in the classroom activities.

Much attention should be paid to the students’ needs in receiving the appropriate explanations in their native language because their comprehension abilities can be not developed enough in order to react to the teachers’ instructions and requirements appropriately.

From this point, teachers should be allowed to use Arabic in definite teaching activities, while explaining rules, notions, translating words, and providing the complicated instructions.

Conclusion

The results of the current study support and emphasize the idea that students and teachers’ attitudes towards using Arabic in the English classes in Saudi Arabia are positive.

From this point, students and teachers agree that the usage of L1 in the classroom environments can support the learning process, can enhance the students’ performance, and can present a lot of benefits for teachers striving to improve the learning process and achieve the higher results. The findings of the present study demonstrate that teachers are willing to use L1 in their English classrooms.

However, there is the overwhelming support for the fact that their hesitations in relation to the appropriateness of such a method should be taken into consideration in the development of an effective policy to the implementation of L1 instructions in colleges. The factors included were not limited to training and capacity building for teachers as well as students on the use of L1.

However, the further approach should be conducted to examine the educators’ visions of the effective curriculum and appropriate plans. The teachers presented a number of reservations, and they also supported the idea that the associated issues could be resolved basing in the implementation of the rules of using L1 in the classroom.

It is possible to assume referring to the study’s results that students with the developed abilities in learning foreign languages can gain more benefits from the situation when L1 is not used in the classroom environments because this situation motivates students to perform better.

On the contrary, those students who demonstrate weak abilities in learning English need instructions and explanations in their native language in order to guarantee that all the tasks will be completed appropriately. From this point, it is rather difficult to conclude about the advantages or disadvantages of using Arabic in the English classroom without the further detailed investigation of the problem.

Referring to the study’s findings, it is necessary to note that the majority of students prefer those teachers who provide instructions in the native language because this situation helps students to adapt to the new language environments.

References

Al-Nofaile, H. (2010). The attitude of teachers and students towards using Arabic in EFL classrooms in Saudi Public Schools. Novitas-Royal Research, 4(1), 64-95.

Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57(11), 402–423.

Creswell, J. (2009). Qualitative inquiry and research design. Thousand Oaks, CA: 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.

Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation, Boston: John Wiley & Sons.

Moskovsky, C., & Alrabai, F. (2009). Intrinsic motivation in Saudi learners of English as a foreign language. The Open applied Linguistics Journal, 2(1), 1-10.

Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T.S, (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Saito, H., & Ebsworth, M. (2004). Seeing English language teaching and learning through the eyes of Japanese EFL and ESL students. Foreign Language Annals, 37(1) 111-122.

Turnbul, M., & Dailey-O’Cain, J. (2009). Introduction in first language use in second and foreign language learning. Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

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IvyPanda. (2019, June 9). The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance? Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-use-of-l1-in-english-classes-in-saudi-arabia-teachers-support-or-a-learning-hindrance/

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"The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance?" IvyPanda, 9 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-use-of-l1-in-english-classes-in-saudi-arabia-teachers-support-or-a-learning-hindrance/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance?" June 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-use-of-l1-in-english-classes-in-saudi-arabia-teachers-support-or-a-learning-hindrance/.


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IvyPanda. "The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance?" June 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-use-of-l1-in-english-classes-in-saudi-arabia-teachers-support-or-a-learning-hindrance/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance?" June 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-use-of-l1-in-english-classes-in-saudi-arabia-teachers-support-or-a-learning-hindrance/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Use of L1 in English Classes in Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ Support or a Learning Hindrance'. 9 June.

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