Lesson 4: Challenges of the Holistic Approach

Use of the L1

While our beginning teachers found the approach to reading presented in this module to be appealing, they were not completely convinced that such an approach could be easily implemented in their classroom. In general, beginning teachers are likely to express concerns that a holistic approach might trigger the use of the L1, require too much time, and be too difficult to assess. In particular, they are likely to worry about the use of the L1 option with various pre-reading activities and as an aide to critical thinking. These teachers feel that the use of the L1 may end up "infiltrating" and "taking over" a classroom.

Before watching the clip, jot down the common objections to the use of the L1 in foreign language classrooms. Next, watch the clip and determine whether any of the objections that you noted are mentioned.


Questioning the use of the L1.

Duration: 01:02

Minjung acknowledges that the L1 may have an important cognitive role to play in helping learners "process" a difficult text. Nevertheless, she points to an apparent contradiction between the goals of a communicative classroom that privilege communication in the target language and any use of the L1. This apparent conflict may be resolved by analyzing the purposes of the L1 in the foreign language classroom and identifying boundaries for its use.

Do you have a strong opinion about the proper use of the L1 in the foreign language classroom? Where did your opinion come from? From personal experience as a learner or teacher? From your reading about theory or research related to L1 use? From interaction with other teachers? Do you believe that the L1 should never be allowed or that there is a time and place for the L1?


The L1 as an aide to foreign language learning.

Duration: 03:01

In the video, Vince asserts that the L1 is a "cognitive tool" that performs an important role in language learning. Vince's assertion gains support but only if the use of the L1 is "selective." In general, the research on this issue indicates that the use of the L1 can help learners process various kinds of information about the foreign language, because it allows them to focus on and verify the comprehension task at hand. In addition, it appears that occasional use of the L1 may lower anxiety and actually increase retention of concepts. Overall, the instructor has to consult with students and establish expectations about FL production.