Using the target language in beginner-level classrooms: The influence of learners' affective state on teachers' practice

University of Sydney
Publication Type:
Journal Article
University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 2011, 6 (6), pp. 1 - 19
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Although focused on learning a specific target language, learners also bring knowledge of their first languages (L1) to the classroom context. When their teachers are also proficient users of the learners' L1, then both the target and first languages can be used in classroom interactions, particularly in beginner-level courses. This study investigates the language choices made by teachers at an Australian university when communicating with their beginner-level students from six different language programs. The experiences of 27 teachers were canvassed through questionnaires and interviews. Data revealed that the learners' unease about extensive classroom target language use influenced the teachers' decisions to use the L1 or the target language at specific stages of a lesson. Various consequences for teachers' practices are discussed, including the strategy of explicitly discussing the value of using the target language with students. This article demonstrates a valuable and strategic use of the learners' first language which may ultimately lead to more extensive use of the target language, as learners come to understand the pedagogical value of exposure to and interaction in the target language
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