My goal to learn something new every day
Language teachers are often divided over the use of the students’ L1 in the classroom. Where I work, we have a strict no L1 policy throughout the teaching centre. All students and staff are expected to speak in English the entire time. Not just in the classrooms, but everywhere: at the reception desk, in the hallways, communal lounge areas, etc. It’s something that for the most part, I agree with. It gives students the opportunity to get extra speaking practice outside the confines of the classroom walls. It also encourages authentic communication, much more authentic than any communication activity in the classroom can ever be.
But while I think that encouraging learners to speak in the L2 as much as possible is a positive thing, there are times when use of the L1 is effective and even necessary. Obviously not being able to speak Korean very well myself, I don’t tend to use it too much in class, but when I do it is often for vocabulary translations. If a student doesn’t know the meaning of an English word, and I do know the Korean, I’ll often give the Korean equivalent if it helps to move the class along. Sometimes, when trying to ask students to do something, or elicit a response, I’ll throw in a Korean word to make sure students understand what I am asking. However, especially with lower level students it can be difficult to make it clear what I am asking them to do. Over the couple of weeks these are some of the words that I wish I had known in Korean while in class. As always, I’ve restricted it to words that I didn’t already know:
A letter, character – 글자 (geul-ja) – This is one that a lot of Korean students get confused with. Rather than ‘letter’ or ‘character’ students often want to use the word ‘alphabet’ to mean a single character, rather than the set of characters.
A sentence – 문장 (mun-jang) – I’ve had a couple of very low learners quite recently, and while the language that we were focus on in class is quite basic, a lot of students like to offer up one-word answers, when I’m after something a bit longer.
Meaning – 의미 (ui-mi) – This will be a useful word when trying to explain something more complex. I often use this word in English to try to explain to students whether the meaning of two words is similar or different, and it might be useful to make sure students understand the meaning of meaning.
The following three are probably the most basic examples of metalanguage that teachers might need in class.
Verb – 동사 (dong-sa)
Noun – 명사 (myeong-sa)
Adjective – 형용사 (hyeong-yong-sa)
Admittedly I already know the terms for ‘verb’ and ‘noun’ but often got them mixed up. The word for ‘adjective’ I could never remember. Thewords are always very useful for beginner and even some pre-intermediate students during elicitation and even in explaining new words.
I think the minimal use of students’ L1 in class has the positive effect of helping the class to go more smoothly. It also helps students see that teachers are humans/language learners too, and we can probably both have a little laugh at my poor pronunciation of the words.
What other words do you think are essential for language teachers to use/know in the learners’ L1?
Note: The definitions for the words come from from the book 2000 Essential Korean Words for Beginners.