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Running Head: Reaction Paper

The Use of the First Language in Second Language Learning.


Donna DiPreta
EDU 653: Second Language Acquisition
Dr. Mary Mills

Part 1: Synopsis

Running Head: Reaction Paper

Is first language beneficial when learning a second language? There are many theories
that are focused around this question. The language that a person has grown up speaking from
early childhood also known as a persons mother tongue plays a pivotal role when transferring
new language. The article The Use of the First Language in the Second Language Classroom: A
Support for Second Language Acquisition shows a study that compares two lesson plans that
were designed to meet the needs of Second Language Learners.
The article consisted of a research project that looked in to the role of mother tongue used
in the classroom. At a school located in Bogota which is an international school. Students are
given the opportunity to learn English and to become immersed in it throughout the whole school
day. The study consists of kindergarteners ages 4-6. The two lessons were designed around
English as the language of instruction and the second lesson plan was designed around using
both languages when instructing: Spanish and English. The results of the study indicated that
students do benefit from using the first language when learning. It is easier for students to
transfer concepts when learning them through their mother tongue.
Professor J. Cummins theory states that both languages operate through the same
learning system. This research project supports his theory that the development of the first
language during the first year of immersion school benefits the second language acquisition
process (Cummins, 2011). Throughout the study, it was apparent that students had no major
differences between the lesson plans. Although, the students that were more established with
their first language conveyed their skills to the new language making the second language
process easier. Throughout the study it was apparent that the mother tongue is a strong
reinforcement when teaching and or learning a second language.
Part 2: Analysis

Running Head: Reaction Paper

The ideas presented in the article, The Use of the First Language in the Second Language
Classroom: A Support for Second Language Acquisition gave a better understanding of how
much the first language should be used when teaching the second language in the classroom.
When teaching a second language there are several strategies that can be used within the
classroom. Some of the strategies are used within the research project and are shown through
kindergarten curriculum. Some of the strategies consist of listening strategies and socio cultural
theory that facilitates in the new language learning. When conducting a think aloud or read aloud
in the L1 it contributes to the L2 (Bozorgian, 2013). In the immersion school research project
activity A (English), demonstrated that students participated 13 times during the read aloud but
interrupted 11 times, In activity B(Spanish), students participated 20 times but interrupted only 5
(Salmona, 2014). It is evident that students were more engaged through activity B. Activity B
included the students first language, this showed that students do benefit from using the mother
tongue. Through more interruptions with the English activity students did not grasp as much as
they should have.
Literacy levels in an L1 have an impact on learning vocabulary in their L2. If we try to
teach preliterate children to read in a language they dont know, we risk creating nonreaders, who
understand neither the mechanics of decoding nor the concept of reading for meaning (Course
Crafters, 2011, page 10). If students are not familiar with words in their L1 it is harder for them
to process new words in a whole new language. Students need to learn three thousand to four
thousand new words every year (Syrja, 2011, page 159). Students who read about 20 minutes
every day will learn new words every day. If the student does not know how to read and is
exposed to new course vocabulary will cause them to check out. Starting with decoding

Running Head: Reaction Paper

strategies and sight words will help build fluency so that students can build vocabulary by
reading independently and building up stamina of new words. According to Krashens theory of
the stages of second language acquisition, during the Pre-production stage language learners are
not yet speaking and only have up to 500 words in their vocabulary (Salmona, 2014). With this
being said Kindergarteners are still in the pre-production stage of language, using English
throughout the whole lesson will not be beneficial to their learning process. Students at that age
level still need to be exposed to their first language.
It was a shock to see that students in both activities actually gained the same amount of
understanding through their drawings. Students drew characters and favorite parts of the story.
The amount of interruptions that occurred in activity a did not have an effect on understanding of
the text. When looking at students learning throughout the school year teachers agreed on giving
students exposure to the first language through the first year of learning. Teachers can convery
and check the meaning of the 2nd language to the learner either for words, sentences or certain
language functions (Halasa, 2012, page 6). For example, if a student is not showing that she or
he is certain of the word used in the first language it is okay to check the meaning and facilitate
the learning process. Students with a better understanding of their mother tongue have more of
an opportunity to do so.
With this read aloud a word map strategy should be used to begin the read aloud in the
English. Word Maps is a strategy that uses an organizer to to teach new vocabulary. A word map
can be used in different content areas. English learners benefit from this strategy because of the
rich vocabulary development that takes place as they complete the organizer (Syrja, 2011, page
163). Before introducing the text, introduce three to five vocabulary words, students should write
the definition but for beginning learners they should draw a picture. They are required to share

Running Head: Reaction Paper

their word map with a partner. This will help with the participation rate and facilitating the new
learning by introducing new topics that make the students feel uneasy with being exposed to for
the first time. By introducing the vocabulary at the start of a lesson students are able to use their
new words when they are talking to their peers or answering questions throughout the lesson.
Pre-teaching of key concepts and essential vocabulary will be of benefit to native speakers of
English as well as to ELLs (Course Crafters, 2011). After the vocabulary is introduced, show
pictures to help students retain the meaning of the word. Then place the word on the word wall in
the back of the classroom. This gives students full access to all new vocabulary across different
contents whenever they need it.
Providing visuals, video, and graphic organizers builds comprehensibility of instruction
for ELLs, which increases the likelihood that instruction will be meaningful to students with
different learning styles (Colombo, 2012, page 40). By using videos, pictures, or graphic
organizers for new vocabulary you are using differentiation on a daily basis. By coming across
different learning styles teachers are accessing all learners in the classroom. Another method is
called the word splash that could have been used in the study. A word splash is a type of graphic
organizer that allows the student to place the new word in the middle and provide a picture,
definition, and sentence around the outer circle of the word. When using this organizer, students
are using the language when they are speaking to their peers and answering questions during
class. Any of these strategies could help students in international school setting. With the read
aloud in the study the teacher could show different ways to make students more successful by
just using strictly English in the classroom and using the mother tongue, Spanish, to reinforce
meaning.
Part 3: Conclusion

Running Head: Reaction Paper

The main ideas seen throughout the article, The Use of the First Language in the Second
Language Classroom: A Support for Second Language Acquisition, is the effect that a students
first language has when learning a second language in the classroom. The study in Bogota was a
Kindergarten classroom that conducted the importance of the mother tongue through language
transfer. During the first stages of language acquisition it is important to constantly refer to the
mother tongue in order to make connections (Cummins, 2001).
Two read aloud lessons were given, one with just English, and one with English and
Spanish. It was said that using the mother tongue makes the learning process easier for students.
Current day ELL learning should follow this pattern. The importance of the L1 helps to make the
learning process easier and help the student feel comfortable inside the classroom. Using
strategies such as read aloud, pictures, graphic organizers and reinforcing vocabulary all have a
high importance inside the classroom. The environment should set students up for success.
In the study more factors and strategies should have been used or thought about when
conducting the results of the study. Were certain strategies used to introduce a skill? Was it
strictly just on participation? There are many strategies that could have set up the English read
aloud for success. Since the study was used in a short period of time it would be interesting to
see the long-term effect on the kindergarten students. Overall, the article demonstrated the
importance of the mother tongue. It is a great support for second language acquisition. It allows
the process of learning to become easier and gives students an opportunity to succeed in the
classroom. The use of the first language in the second language classroom is the number one
strategy for supporting ELL students with success.
References

Running Head: Reaction Paper

Bozorgian, H. & Pillay, H. (2013). Enhancing Foreign Language Learning through Listening
Strategies Delivered in L1: An Experimental Study. International Journal of Instruction,
(1).

Colombo, M. (2012). Teaching English Language Learners : 43 Strategies for Successful K-8
Classrooms. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc

Course Crafters, I. (2011). Teaching English Language Learners : Practical Articles by Educators
From The ELL Outlook. [Haverhill, MA]: Course Crafters.

Cummins, J. (2000) Language power and pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire

Halasa, N.H., & Manaseer, M. A. (2012). The use of the first language in the second language
learning reconsidered. College Student Journal, (1), 71.

Salmona, M. (2014). The Use of First Language in the Second Language Classroom: A Support
for Second Language Acquisition. Gist Education and Learning Research Journal (9)
page 50-66.

Syrja, R. C. (2011). How to reach & teach English language learners. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass.