Use of Other Languages in English Language Teaching at Tertiary Level: A Case Study on Bangladesh

Article excerpt


There has been a continuous debate over a long period over the issue of using the learner's mother tongue in teaching the second language. We have two schools in this regard - monolingual approach and bilingual approach. Those advocating the monolingual approach have claimed that learning is determined by the quantity of exposure to the target language. On the other hand, bilingual approach focuses on the fact that learners are facilitated by the use of their mother tongue. The primary concern of this study is to find out whether Bangla is used in teaching English at tertiary level in Bangladesh and if used, in which situation and to what extent. This study has been done in a private university situated in Dhaka. The researchers have used various techniques to collect the data, the analysis of which reveals that teachers of tertiary level use Bangla in English language teaching classes in some specific situations such as explaining difficult grammatical rules, presenting new vocabulary, giving instructions, etc. and they do so in accordance to the proficiency level of the learners.

Keywords: English, Bengali, Bangladesh, teaching, private university, tertiary level

1. Introduction

There have been many theoretical arguments for and against the use of learners' mother tongue or first language (L1) in teaching the second or foreign language (L2). According to some researchers (e.g. Mahadeo, 2006; Tsao 2001) the use of L1 is a barrier to learning L2. Some other researcher (e.g. Baily, 2005) think that it is difficult to use L1 in a multilingual class while Atkinson (1987), Harbord (1992) and Nation (2003) have found out that it is natural and beneficial to use L1 in a monolingual class.

In this regard, Bangladesh is a monolingual country with 95% of her people using Bangla as their L1 (Bangladesh, 1998). After the country became independent in 1971, the new nationalist government made Bangla the only official language and the sole medium of instruction at all levels of education (Haque, 1989). However, in 1974, English was introduced in the sixth year to be taught up to the twelfth year of education. In 1996, Compulsory English language foundation course was introduced in the state university undergraduate classes. And now English is taught as a compulsory subject from class I to class XII in all governmental and private institutions (Bangla medium).

This paper aims to examine whether the teachers of tertiary level in Bangladesh use Bangla in their English language teaching class which consists only of students speaking Bangla as their L1.

2. The Historical Background of the Issue

The attitude towards the use of learner's L1 has undergone periodical but regular changes. Several hundred years ago 'bilingual teaching' namely, Grammar-Translation method was the 'norm'. This method advocates translation into and from the target language. The medium of instruction is the learners' mother tongue. Reading and writing are the major focuses whereas speaking and listening are paid almost no attention (Richards and Rodgers, 2001).

In the late 19th century, grammar-translation method was seriously challenged by the rise of Direct Method (Harbord, 1992; Harmer, 2001). The method advocates the use of the target language in the class and translation to be avoided at all costs (Thornbury, 2006). This method gives a lot of importance to speaking and listening in L2. Direct method gained popularity because of mass migration, spread of world trade and commerce, and in particular, the emergence of United States as a world power (Harmer, 2001). Besides, political agendas, the growing trend of taking ELT as a casual career by the young people visiting Europe contributed to strengthening the English-only policy (Harbord, 1992).

But the criticism against the Direct Method and taking ELT as a career by many non-native people have brought L1 back into the class. When the non-native teachers try to implement the 'all English class' strategy, they face students' incomprehension and resentment. …


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