Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Using our mother tongue in class

On 15th Feb 2010, David Alistair posted the following tip (#150) at DevelopingTeachers.com:

"If you are teaching monolingual groups it is clearly very useful to know the mother tongue of your students as you can pre-empt some problems they might have. But actually using the mother tongue as a teaching tool has been a different story as teacher training courses used to banish it to ELT oblivion & we used to ignore the poor student who was desperate to translate,
encouraging them to 'think' in English. Nowadays it is recognised as a useful & natural tool in the process of language learning.

"There is still a case for not using it on the initial training course as some teaching skills might not be developed if translation were relied on. Here are a few translation activities:

"1. Same day articles - for news stories that have international appeal, get hold of copies of the English story & the students' language story - newspapers, internet, radio. - predict the
content of the story.
- read the English version & picking up on any useful language.
- students translate the story.
- they then compare their versions with the mother tongue version.
- they could also then compare the mother tongue version & the English versions, looking at style & content.
The shorter the article the better!

"2. False friends - picking up on them as they crop up or in warmers/coolers. (Spanish/English false friends here)

"3. New language consolidation - after the presentation & before the practice, elicit & have a quick comparison with the mother tongue version of the target language to highlight the similarities or differences. This can be a very comforting stage for the students.

"4. To provide variety to your array of techniques, use the Community Language Learning (CLL) procedure now & then. Very basically, this involves seating the students in a circle with a tape recorder in the middle. They have a conversation, preferably about a subject of their choice but you could lead into it from the current theme, & all of their contributions are taped. When they have a problem, they call on you & you whisper to the student the English version of what they want to say. They then say this in the conversation. This technique can be used at all
levels, & is especially useful at very low levels. Before the next lesson, transcribe interesting parts of their conversation & use it for analysis & consolidation.

"5. Word-for-word versions - good for the translation obsessed student. Give out a literal translation of a short article or conversation & the students translate it into their language &
discuss how it could be more naturally expressed in English.

"The important thing about using translation in class is that it is used in a principled way - you know why you are using it, the students know, there are times when it is OK & when it is not. The alternative is a lazy use of translation where both the students & the teacher become reliant on it."

How do YOU feel about using students' mother tongue in class? Do you regularly try any of the activities suggested in this tip?
Post a comment and learns who shares your feelings!


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