Benefits of using First Language (L1) to support learning
“The use of the first language does much to maintain confidence and self-esteem because it is a signal that the classroom includes the child. It says: ‘We accept your language and – by implication – your family, your ethnicity and your culture.’”
(Learning to Learn in a Second Language: Pauline Gibbons)
Learning through and maintaining first language can help learning in other languages. Some of the numerous benefits of recognising and using first language to support those who are learning in an additional language include:
- Seeing and being able to use their first language in the school/class environment can help learners to feel included and accepted as part of the school community.
- Language is intrinsically linked to learners’ identity and emotional well-being and so the use of the language of the home will help leaners to feel more confident and secure.
- Learners will be more focused and motivated if learning builds on prior knowledge of language experiences.
- Learners are likely to already have concepts developed/embedded in first language and if the language content of the curriculum is closely linked to the language in which knowledge is embedded the use of L1 to support EAL learners is an invaluable tool.
Creating an ethos in your school/classroom to promote L1
- Use dual language books and dictionaries
- Ask parents and bilingual adults in school to read stories in L1 and support with (oral) translations
- Use confident learners as interpreters for those in the earlier stage of English language development
- Translate subject specific vocabulary and create opportunities for learners to use the vocabulary in discussions.
- Translate instructions/imperative verbs to support comprehension of tasks
- Translate learning intentions and success criteria
- Encourage partner and trio talk in first language during whole class teaching to extend and consolidate learning and comprehension
- Use ICT resources – film clips, audio and websites e.g:
“No child should be expected to cast off the language and culture of home as s/he crosses the school threshold.”
(Bullock Report – A Language for Life – 1975)