Instructor L1 Use and Its Impact on L2 Classroom Learning

Farah Ali


Despite a general tendency to avoid L1 use in the L2 classroom, pedagogical research has recently begun to challenge the predominantly monolingual approach to L2 teaching, and reassign the role of the L1 as a useful tool for both instructors and learners (Cook, 2001; Levine, 2011; Turball & Dailey O’Cain, 2009). However, while it is evident from previous research that the L1 serves several functions in the L2 classroom - and perhaps has an unavoidable presence that should be acknowledged - few studies look at how L1 use can positively impact L2 learners' classroom experiences and learning outcomes. The present study looks at instructor L1 use as it relates to learners’ perceptions of their learning, as well as actual outcomes in terms of grammatical competence. Using data collected from a pilot study as well as an expanded follow-up study, this article aims to investigate the use of the L1 (English) in the L2 (Spanish) classroom in terms of instructor use and its relation to learners’ perceived competence in L2 grammar. Results from both studies conform to previous findings in terms of the contexts in which the L1 is used by instructors. Furthermore, these results suggest that the L1 plays an important role in facilitating communication and establishing a rapport between instructors and learners, and through this may also positively impact learners' confidence and perceived competence in L2 grammar.

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