First Language Use in English Language Institutes: Are Teachers Free to Alternate between L1 and L2 as Means of Instruction?

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, TESOL University of Mazandaran

2 M.A., TEFL University of Mazandaran


Once severely rejected, first language (L1) use is no more considered to be inherently detrimental in foreign language pedagogy. Recent research within sociocultural framework has come up with numerous facilitative roles for L1 use (Anton and DiCamilla, 1999; Swain and Lapkin, 2000; Storch and Wigglesworth, 2003). Also, studies from humanistic perspectives that deal with the teachers’ and learners’ attitudes about L1 use report generally positive attitudes from both groups (Duff and Polio, 1990; Macaro, 2001). However, contrary to this bulk of theoretical and empirical support, there seems to have been an evident animosity towards L1 use in the Iranian private English language institutes. The present research was therefore designed to delve deeper into the apparent discrepancy between theory and practice in this regard by identifying some contextual constraints on the teachers’ language choice. After preliminary exploratory interviews and a small-scale pilot study to make sure of the reliability and validity of the instruments, two separate sets of questionnaires for young learners’ parents (243 participants) and teachers (31 participants) were designed and administered. The results of the analyses showed that both parents and teachers held significantly negative attitudes towards L1 use. The findings also indicated that parents reflect their negative attitudes to the institutes so as to hamper L1 use by talking directly to the teachers, threatening to change institutes in the case of dissatisfaction, and influencing the institute principals’ policies about L1 use.


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