When and how much L1 use in EFL has been hotly debated problem among scholars over the decades. Since the existince of communicative approaches like direct method and audio-lingual method that prohibits the L1 in EFL classrooms, the discussion on the subject has grown. This paper analyzes the role and effect of the L1 in English EFL classroom setting. Researches and studies had been made by professionals have been used as a resource.. In this artice I am going to show you advantages and disadvantages of using and not using first language, besides how and when first language should be used in a foreign language classrooms. Furthermore, my observations as an EFL teacher has been presented in the study.
First language (L1) use in English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom has been the focus of ongoing discussion by the researchers over the years since the existence of communicative approaches like direct method, audio-lingual method. It is easy to say that researchers has divided into two groups on the discussion; first who support monolingual classes and secondly, researchers that support the idea of using L1. But I can say that they all agree about the use of L1 could be limited, teachers and students don’t rely on L1 too much. Prodromou (2000) mentions to the L1 as a ‘skeleton in the closet’, whereas Gabrielatos (2001) refers it as a ‘bone of contention’.Some of the researchers conclude that L1 could be helpful as it may reduce anxiety that learners have. But the others affirm that the more English usages could be more advantageous as it may help learners to get involved more to English. Researches have shown that switching between languages and translation happens instinctually to all language learners and the L1 is actually crucial resource in foreign language learning (Cook,2001). Hopkins (1988) states that when the L1 of the learners is ignored, the learners may not be motivated and may feel threatened. Most of the studies about the subject suggest that English usage in the classroom should be maximized as EFL learners may expose to the English only in classes for only a few hours per a week. Thus, according to these studies, relying on L1 even for a little bit could hinder learner development process. Krashen (1981) suggests that learners need to acquire foreign language as they acquire L1 so L1 use should be minimized in a classroom. On the other hand; researchers in the field of foreign language acquisition conclude that if teachers of English apply L1 when it is needed, it could be facilitating role in EFL. As it can be seen, there is a certain result that is accepted by all the researchers that relying on L1 heavily is not acceptable.
The place of L1 and how it should be used in EFL classrooms has always been questioned. It has been reported that prohibition of the L1 is almost impossible (Nunan.Lamb, 1996). Most of the professionals agree on that judicious use of L1 is acceptable in EFL classrooms. Atkinson (1987) lists acceptable uses of L1 in foreign language classrooms: eliciting language for all levels, checking comprehension for all levels, giving complex instructions to basic levels, co-operating among learners. Moreover, Auerbach (1993) also lists following appropriate uses of L1: classroom environment, language structure, giving rules, discussing cultural elements, correcting errors and checking comprehension. L1 can be used to give the accurate meaning of unknown word that might take a few minutes to explain. Harmer (2009) supports the idea that using L1 has obvious advantages:to keep the social atmosphere of the class, translation and to make a contact with the students. Khati (2011) says that ‘Every journey starts from home. The linguistic journey into the foreign language also starts from home.’ As it is seen L1 has facilitiating role in foreign language learning. Dawson (2010) agrees that teacher could hinder using L1 in the classroom; however, the teacher cannot hinder students from using L1 in their brains.
The advantages of using L1 in EFL classrooms cannot be disregarded. Atkinson (1987) stated that L1 is the greatest resource that learners could bring into classrooms. Besides, the use of L1 could facilitiate language learning process in some way. Harbord (1992) describes that using learners’ L1 is indeed an effective factor to develop teacher-student rapport. Even asking the students ‘Hello, how are you?’ in their L1 could draw attention of the students to the teacher (Harbord, 1992). As students realize that they can use L1 when they need, it makes them more efficient in EFL classrooms. Tang (2002) says that limited and careful use of the L1 is practical and can help the learning and teaching process. Samadi (2011) pointed out that the teachers used the L1 generally for establishing a comfortable classroom environment, giving structures of the language, explaining meanings of vocabularies, and giving instruction. In the article, Atkinson (1987), states one of the crucial role of the L1 is let students tell what they really want to tell. The point of such exercises is to supply the students with the chance to express themselves more efficiently. Using L1 could help to make tasks meaningful for students as they focus on the task more efficienly. The use of L1 is useful in language learning because it helps completion of the task and creates a social and cognitive space in which students can help each other throughout their work. (Anton & Dicamilla, 1998: cited in Pan & Pan, 2010). L1 saves time while explaining the unknown word to enable learners to grasp the concept of grammar. In addition, L1 can be a motivating and useful factor to make students feel comfortable, to remove learning disabilities or to reduce the anxiety of learners.