Use of L1 in an L2 or ESL Classroom

The blog posts are too long. I will do my best to cut them down a bit. Let’s all try to edit what we want to say, especially if you send it to me for publication as a post vs. a comment, to make the text as short as possible. Also please indicate your permission for me to edit if you feel like giving me a bit of room to knock stuff out. Of course, I would never change a text or add anything new, but it would save me a lot of “permission to edit” email requests. Maybe we should limit everything we say to a certain number of words. Any support for that idea and if so how many words? I am by far the worst offender. Now, this discussion about ESL, being too long, is all the same of huge importance, in my opinion, for what we do in our classrooms re: the use of L1. So I am going to draw from a comment I made this morning to make it into a post so I can get it under the ESL category – I consider it that important. Here it is edited – I made it as short as I could, and thank you John for your excellent points to drive the discussion forward:
It takes many years of practice to get to where you can make it through a lesson without any pointing and pausing at new structures. Nobody really does it perfectly but the ideal of no new terms should be there. Otherwise, we will fall well below the 95% use of L2 in the classroom. The number of people who fall below 50% is probably very high. There are some who go below 5%. Neither of them is even remotely doing CI, which requires that we be above 95% percent. Almost, and I said almost, rather do a grammar lesson for all the good it does when we are not somewhere well over 80% in the target language. We need at some point to have the discussion about whether this can even be done in school classrooms where motivation and discipline are issues. That is why the first 100 words are so key, and the branching out into stories that contain no new vocabulary after that. If we slip and add a word in, which I agree can’t be done in many ESL classrooms, we just go on. If the kids demand it, again, we can give them that vocabulary and then go on in our classes where it is not so easy in ESL classrooms. Still, as Diana Noonan once told me, language is language is language. Comprehensible input is the method du jour because it blows away all other approaches. It has such a bad reputation in large part on this one point of use of English by untrained teachers who nevertheless claim to use CI in their classes. How can the kids learn anything when the flowing unconscious focus on the meaning of the message and not the words used to deliver it isn’t there? Our lessons should have in them one of the three target structures – in every sentence. That, at least, is the idea of it. All we can do is to keep trying to get to the ideal of no new translation after we establish meaning in Step One.



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