The role of the first language in supporting the development of a new language

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- Teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) to non-English speaking learners in relation to the use of learners’ first language in English classroom has been a debatable topic among researchers and practitioners. Similarly, this is the case in Jordan where English is considered a foreign language as learners are only exposed to English inside the classroom in allocated lessons. This study addresses the role of learners’ first language in the English language classroom from the perspective of Jordanian EFL teachers. In particular, it investigates Jordanian EFL teachers’ attitudes and practices towards the use of learners’ first language in Jordanian English classrooms. As a Jordanian EFL teacher, the policy of teaching English in Jordan and the difficulties the Jordanian learners encounter in learning this language have been an area of interest and concern to me. So, this study is relevant to my experience and my professional career. Such concerns have highlighted the need to investigate the use of LI in English classes from the perspective of EFL teachers in order to attempt to achieve better understanding of this issue. I locate my study in the interpretivist paradigm and the qualitative approach since I need to explore, investigate and understand teachers’ attitudes and practices towards the use of LI in English classrooms. Data was collected from three sources (questionnaires, interviews, and classroom observations). First, the questionnaire survey was conducted using 25 EFL teachers in Jordanian public schools to explore their attitudes and practices towards the investigated issue. Then, interviews were conducted with six teachers from this group to investigate further the raised issues. Finally, I attended some classes of these teachers to investigate whether they do what they claim in the interview section and to examine and identify their practices in action. Data analysis generated some interesting and emergent themes in relation to teachers’ attitudes and actual practices inside the classrooms. A number of conclusions can be drawn. The findings of the study suggest that there is no one way in which teachers use learners’ first language in English classrooms. This probably depends mainly on teachers’ views, beliefs, attitudes and practices towards the use of the first language. The outcomes also show the difference between what teachers claim they do in the questionnaires and the interviews and what they actually do in the classroom. An interesting interpretation of some aspects of the data is the concept of language mediation where the use of learners’ first language (Arabic) appears to mediate English language learning. Another interesting interpretation is that, in some instances, some teachers used learners’ first language alongside English in a cohesive way as if they are one single language. The intended outcome of this study is to achieve an understanding of the EFL teaching situation in Jordan regarding the use of LI in English classes from the perspective of EFL Jordanian teachers. It also makes recommendations that contribute to the still small body of literature about the use of LI in foreign language learning contexts.
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