Native Language VS Target Language
The issue of the balance that teachers should seek between using the target language (TL) and the students’ first language (L1) in the second / foreign language classroom is controversial. For so long, foreign language teaching has been dominated by the principle that teachers should use only the target language (TL) and avoid using the mother tongue (L1) except as a last resort.
The main rational for advocating maximal use of TL also called ‘monolingual principal’ is that for most students, the classroom is the only opportunity they have for exposure to the language. Krashen (1985) claims that languages are learnt most effectively when learners are exposed to lots of comprehensible input within contexts of real communication.
Otherwise, explaining difficult grammar, terminology ( vocabulary ), and disciplining are considered to be the most common reasons for using L1. These three dimensions of pedagogical communication not just establish constructive relationships but also ensure understanding and maintaining a disciplined environment.
In my humble opinion, I believe there are a large number of potentially valuable teaching techniques that exploit the L1 as a basis for learning;
· At the presentation stage : the L1 can be an efficient way of clarifying the meanings of words, structures, or utterances, so that students can progress more quickly.
· At the practice stage : underlying the use of wider interpretation ( for different cultures ) and translation as tools for learning.
· At the production stage : teachers may design activities in which students start from situations of L1 use and these will serve as an input or stimuli for TL use.
To conclude, L1 can be the most important ally a foreign language can have if it is used systematically ( by the use of proper methods and approaches ) and selectively ( when, where, how…etc. to use it ).
If we talk in general, and by taking evidence from what we've experienced with our students, unless they never had any previous encounter with the target language, which is highly unlikely; a great percentage of the people who dive into this adventure have at least had encountered the TL somehow, the constant rally on the L1 will cause dependency and the student will have to go through the process of translating in their heads which takes long, besides, things are said differently from a language to another so the literal translation doesn't always work. Creating an environment to oneself where the student is exposed to the TL for as long as possible; listening teaches right sentence structures and right pronunciation. Gestures, pictures and videos can be used in explanation as well as the most basic TL language a teacher can use in order to explain the new material. we are doing this with kids and we are seeing impressive results. Best luck to all our fellow colleagues.
I do agree with Krashen. L1 should be avoided, and students should be exposed to the target language to learn it. Not just in the classroom, but even when they're away from school. Using a LITTLE L1 is sometimes OK, but the teacher has to be smart when using it.