Friday, November 21, 2014

#Entry 36 IDT1415 "A target-language-only approach may be distressing for lower level students" (Von Worde, 2003:7)

Karina - L2-only and anxiety

Where do you stand on the issue of L1 use in the L2 language learning classroom? Reflect on how your practice may induce or reduce foreign language anxiety.

I can relate to Karina when she says ' I have been indoctrinised into the notions of minimising T.T.T. (Teacher Talk Time) and maximising S.T.T. (in L2)' because as a trainer myself this is part of the doctrine we preach and Barbara's 'judicious use of it'. In terms of use of L1 I believe that there is a place for it  in the classroom and I am also fully aware of the fact this is a thorny field of roses. The advice I usually give to trainees on CELTA, YL Extension to CELTA or DELTA courses is that L1 is not a mortal sin (to keep in line with doctrinal lexis), should be used with discretion and that if a one realises that students are struggling to grasp a concept which is immediately necessary to allow them to move on and keep affective filters down (frustration) then giving them an L1 translation whenever possible is a sign of responsiveness to their needs. They will love you for that and be more willing to keep trying hard next time a similar situation arises. Also, in a study I carried out for my previous MA in TESOL, 37.6% of teacher trainers (101 respondents) listed L1-L2 translation as a way to deal with problematic lexis in receptive skills lessons (Martínez 2012:38).

I cannot but agree with Karina when she says that anxiety can be avoided '... if teachers are aware of what their students can or cannot do linguistically in the L2'. From my own experience, this is often the main problem teachers (both novice and experienced) have as activities are chosen for the 'fun', high engagement factor without fully assessing the activity in terms of the lesson aims and above all without having tried it themselves first to see whether the language used by themselves in the trial stage is language students are in possession of. Fleshing out this problem in feedback sessions is often the cause of ah-hah moments amongst teachers and was indeed for me when I started. I must also agree with Victoria as face value is probably one of the triggering factors that determine risk-taking situations. That 'failure to understand' that Victoria mentions, I concur, is a greater anxiety factor. This is why I was personally upset when reading the articles through the spectacles of a language teacher trainer as there was little to no evidence of tutors' awareness of their students' needs beyond the curriculum! Speaking fast in the classroom, for instance, shows a lack of awareness and understanding of Anderson's Cognitive Processing Model (1995) which explains how we listen, or with the basic scaffolding techniques such as grading one's language and speech rate to the students' level without necessarily sounding unnatural, supporting instructions and classroom language with gesture and body language, etc. In short, von Worde's pedagogical implications, I would argue, point at the fact that those tutors and tutors in general need pedagogical training along the lines of CELTA.


Anderson, J. R., 1995. Cognitive Psychology and its Implications. 2nd Ed. New York, Freeman.

Martinez, R. 2012. Beliefs and Practices in the Initial Teacher Training Community regarding Receptive Skills Development and the Pre-Teaching of Vocabulary. MA in TESOL. Sheffield Hallam University.


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