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Systematic use of mother tongue as learning/teaching resources in target language instruction

Abstract

This paper reports the results of a study which explored systematic use of L1 for the benefit of L2 development. Students of a comparative linguistic course in a teacher education program were asked to design a series of tasks for Chinese learners of English in local schools. Three different ways of using L1 were discerned from their design and rationale: 1) taking advantage of similarities between Chinese and English language systems; 2) taking advantage of differences between the two language systems proactively or reactively; and 3) taking advantage of learners' conceptual understanding in L1 for L2 learning. Such attempts to use L1 systematically and judiciously in L2 classrooms are in line with the recent calls for a paradigm shift in bilingual/FL education (e.g., [Butzkamm and Caldwell, 2009]) and a guilt-free life in using MT in TL classrooms ([Swain, Kirkpatrick and Cummins, 2011]). Viewing L1 as potentially valuable teaching/learning resources instead of a mere source of interference opens up greater pedagogical space and hence may bear constructive implications for L2 instruction, especially in homogenous contexts where both teachers and learners share the same MT and TL.