Contribution of Bilingualism in Language Teaching

By Sipra, Muhammad Aslam | English Language Teaching, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Contribution of Bilingualism in Language Teaching


Sipra, Muhammad Aslam, English Language Teaching


Abstract

This study is an investigation into the contribution of the use of bilingualism as an aid in learning/teaching English as a foreign language and bilingualism in EFL classroom does not reduce students' communicative abilities but in effect can assist in teaching and learning process. The study employed a qualitative, interpretive research design involving questionnaires, classroom observations and semi-structured interviews. The data part analyzed the students and the teachers' expressed responses and beliefs about the role of bilingualism in EFL classes. The findings of the study in general are that bilingualism as a resource in teaching facilitates in learning L2 and helps make more people acknowledge the contribution of bilingualism in EFL classes.

Keywords: bilingualism, second language learning, mother tongue, L1, L2, language teaching

1. Introduction

In the fall of 2004, almost seven years hence, as I started teaching English language at intermediate level in Saudi Arabia, I was confronted by a problem of not being able to make my students understand quite a number of expressions in the target language sometimes; thus, finding the class difficult to manage. This problem owed to my almost zero ability in Arabic that is/was the L1 of my students. However, as the time went by I picked up a bit of Arabic vocabulary and quite a few of expressions and this newly acquired ability in Arabic enabled me to use bilingualism effectively in classes. I started using students' L1, as and when required, and I felt a tremendous change in students' results and their linguistic behaviour. This inspired me to conduct a research on the use of bilingualism in EFL classes. In the light of my experience in the classroom I wanted to fathom the usefulness of bilingualism as a teaching aid at intermediate level. And whether it really helps the students learning the target language with an ease?

There has been much debate and controversy over the use of bilingualism as a teaching aid and a resource in teaching EFL. In this study the researcher has attempted to investigate into the scope of the contribution of use of bilingualism in foreign language learning/teaching class. The study of bilingualism covers a field which is both wide and interdisciplinary. The article is mainly concerned with 'bilinguality' rather than 'bilingualism' because it is a study of EFL teachers' second language use in the classroom how they may impact on learning a second language. However, in as much as bilinguality develops and is manifested in situated social ways, there will be mention of societal aspects of bilingualism at points when it is necessary in interpreting the findings.

Bilingualism in the classroom is not considered as the medium of teaching as happens in grammar-translation method, but as a teaching technique or if I am allowed to say, as a teaching aid. Once let loose the bilingualism pervades the whole of classroom teaching; instead, it is used only of well-defined steps of teaching and in clearly defined manner. In using the mother tongue, the teacher in the grammar translation method has all the freedom of expressing himself in it and bilingualism in EFL classes strikes the middle and permits judicious freedom in the use of the first language.

2. Literature Review

This part of study seeks to give an overview of the existing literature available on the various aspects of bilingualism. Although not an extensive research has been conducted on this issue, yet the subject invites many different areas of TEFL, which have been sought by the scholars. Bilingualism can be discussed as an individual phenomenon or a societal phenomenon (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981). Hamers and Blanc (2000) use the term "bilinguality" to denote an individual's use of two languages, and reserve "bilingualism" for the study of how two or more languages function in a given society. However, they do not suggest that it is possible to see each in isolation from the other, pointing out their interdependency. …

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