Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate Encouraging English use Encouraging English use

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    • #8599



      Write your own policy about using L1 and L2 in your classroom? Feel free to use any of the ideas from this lesson. Make sure that your answer will make your policy clear to other teachers.

      Post your ideas in a reply below and comment on other teachers’ ideas.


    • #8670

      Rhett Burton

      I don’t have a strict, written-down policy that locks expectations into policy.

      I speak enough of my students’ L1 to understand and interact with them in their L1. I usually choose not to because I feel comfortable using language that the students can understand.

      My top expectation is for students to focus on the task, activity, and the language being used. I know that when I keep my students on task, I can keep them in the target language for extended amounts of time.

      However, there are always opportunities for the students to express their thoughts in their L1. The majority of reasons include building rapport through sharing an experience at the start of class, arguing/explaining a situation that has caused emotional shifts, and seeking specific questions about something they don’t understand.

      I want the students to talk and make friends when they arrive. I can wait a bit before switching to an English-focused mindset when the class “officially” starts. Note: My students all share the same L1. I want students to be able to express their position clearly when they have issues that require explanations. I also want students to be very specific about the questions they ask because I don’t like confusion. Confusion doesn’t help and can lead students to make complaints to their parents (who then call the school looking for something to be settled).

      • #8675

        I like that you aim to maximise the use of graded L2 English that students can understand, but at the same time can understand and use enough of the students’ L1 to communicate with them.

        I also like your flexibility that means students can express themselves freely in their L1, as well as using as a positive tool for building rapport, etc.

        For school/business owners like yourself, it’s crucial to consider our customers. What are the parents’ expectations regarding Korean/English?

        For comparison, many private language schools in Japan market themselves on having native English-speaking teachers and creating an English-only environment. However, during the 5+ years I worked for the company (in a total of 10+ schools also as a branch supervisor/trainer), parents were always relieved and happy to find out that I could understand and communicate in Japanese when needed.

      • #12818

        scott gray

        I agree if you can it is best to use the targeted language.  At younger ages this is a lot easier in many ways. Just wondering do you have a special hat of item that when you use the kids can expect to use their L1? Otherwise I think you can get by without it.


    • #8685

      Barbara Bujtás

      I don’t seem to have a clear, universal policy.
      With some students merely managing the lesson in English is enough to get them to speak English only, they are of course the more proficient ones.
      With some others, I’m quite happy if they understand me (I use English only). They do the tasks in English, but interact in L1. Sometimes I remind them that they could use English.
      There is a game that I can use with certain students: If they really want to say something in L1, they have to stand up and touch a red handprint on the wall.
      With some others, I set an English-only time period (e.g. 15 minutes), if they say something in Hungarian, they have to eat a virtual earthworm, spider, mouse, or other disgusting things.
      With very few students I use L1, they usually need help with their school English. School English teachers don’t always use English, so I can’t count on their being used to it.
      I’ve started in an alternative school recently, surprisingly the students were scared of my only-English policy, I constantly ask them how they feel about that after our classes. They are okay but still uneasy.

      • #8687

        I like how you have different policies to suit the abilities and needs of your learners. I also like how you set ‘English-only time’ or activities.

        For the students in the alternative school that feel uneasy with English-only, do they know why they feel uneasy and/or appreciate that it may just be a matter of time?

    • #8688

      In general, I follow the same policy as Steven to “Use as much English as possible and as little L2 (Japanese) as necessary” thinking about ‘point of need’.

      In some settings, I’ve used an ‘English-first’ policy with varying degrees of success with posters/handouts to set out the policy, including useful phrases:

      1. Always speak English first
      2. Help each other in English first if you have trouble
      3. Only use a little Japanese if needed (after you try 1 & 2)
      4. Return to English as soon as possible

      Quite often, I underplayed how much Japanese I knew or could speak. The main benefit was in terms of how some students would try to talk to me in English compared to a former colleague who they almost always spoke to in Japanese, even if they could have used English. However, the drawback is that they didn’t speak as freely to me and some students may have avoided speaking to me at all unless they really had to!

    • #10695

      Masatoshi Shoji

      I don’t have a strict rule. However, I ask students to use English first. In groups, I try to ask them to use as much as English.
      In general, they are not accustomed to use only English. Thus, I’ll at least try.

    • #10705

      So, the task here is to make your policy clear for ourselves and for others. If you don’t have one yet, then it’s a good opportunity to think about it and create one in order to encourage more English use.

    • #12765

      Jessica Sohn

      As a fluent L1 speaker, I totally agree and see why it is important to not use L1 too much.
      I do have a rule with using L1(Korean) and even have a sign(one side:English only/other side:Korean) on my whiteboard. But feel I need to be more specific and thorough with my points. I currently use 80% English and 20% Korean.

      I tend to use more L1 with younger kids. (1~2 graders or kids on their first 2 years of English)
      I normally go with using L1 when giving instructions with games (mostly 5-7 minutes at the end of class)
      but, I feel it will be much successful giving them in English.
      I chose to use L1 because it’s so much faster and easier going in L1. (time-saving + energy-saving)

      With higher level, more fluent students I use English only. And only use L1 if needed.
      I see there needs to be different rules for the two groups. I see some YLs stressed if they have no L1 around.

      • #12801

        Language policy signs can provide a helpful visual reminder for students. In addition, especially with beginning levels, it can be helpful to provide useful expressions or communication strategies.

        One of my classes made a poster and chose to put it up next to the board to refer to when they got stuck. Some textbooks include these, too, but the students liked having it visible, then after a couple of months, they no longer needed it.

        Pardon (me)? Could you say that again, please?
        Could you speak up, please?
        Could you slow down, please?
        How do you spell _______?
        What does ______ mean?
        What’s ________ in English/Japanese?
        Can you give me an example?

        With medium to large classes in Japanese HS and university, however, it usually wasn’t enough just to present or get students to brainstorm and discuss these. Actually dedicating time to practice using these in class a few times proved necessary to (a) get them comfortable with interjecting/asking for help, and (b) develop a habit. However, it’s a good investment of time as it helped students to then remain in English for longer and thus make the language policy more achievable.

        To get students using them, I invented some interjection games whereby I would deliberately read a passage or speak very fast, then very quietly or use the odd difficult (or made-up) word that they definitely wouldn’t know. They/Their team would then get points for using an effective communication strategy.

    • #12780

      Rhett Burton

      I mostly work with young learners. Many of my young learners are coming to me after a full day of emergent L1 school experience. These days my students aren’t at school, but they are in an L1 only environment. My students, being an a1 level, have not acquired the skills to use English Only. Some of my students cannot focus on the task enough to maintain Target Language.
      For this reason, I try to provide a variety of exercises, activities, and tasks that present various stimulants. I know that every activity won’t hook every student, but a variety will hook different students through different means. The reward of doing one activity is usually enough for students to comply to do something they are not totally keen on. As for a policy, I try to model it every time we do a new activity.
      I motivation English usage is always on my mind.

      • #12802

        Good points that are especially relevant to young EFL beginning learners, especially with regards to motivation, providing variety, and seeking engagement.

        Likewise, with kindy-aged kids, I don’t state an official language policy but just ask “What’s that in English/Japanese?” just as they ask the same question naturally in their L1 to me and each other. First, I try to communicate in English and with other non-verbal clues, just to get them guessing and be playful with making mistakes. In addition, by doing it this way, I rarely have to give a translation myself as they usually come up with one themselves.

        Just checking, but what do you mean by ’emergent L1 school experience?’

      • #12906

        Rhett Burton

        emergent L1 school experience = How children interact with others in their L1 while at school.


    • #12814

      scott gray

      I generally in one of my first lessons go over the point of view we had as we want them to use English as much as possible but at times when the teacher says L1 is acceptable. I teach some basic forms like, How do you say ~ in …. and tell them they can use this to ask about things they do not know. Depending upon level will say they may use Japanese in the ~ space but if possible try to give them blanket terms they can use to cover their lack of  knowledge, especially teaching this and that combined with actions. I directly say at times we will use L1 when talking about language when understanding is prime but they should try to use as much English as they can.  We also try to teach gestures, like raising a hand with 3 fingers up to stand for I want to go to the bathroom. That way we can remove some unnecessary L1 and not disturb class for others. Considering many of our students have LDs or school refusals keeping them coming to class sometimes takes precedence over being language police.


      • #12822

        Thanks for sharing those perspectives and experiences, Scott.

        I’m also glad you mentioned ‘language police’ since this is an issue that many teachers are either ‘trained’ or ‘encouraged’ to become from the outset, often due to teacher training programmes and/or institutional policies with ‘English only’.

        Having done a CELTA at a time when English-only was encouraged at the norm, then worked at a private language school with a strict English-only policy, it was several years of doing ‘linguistic gymnastics’ before I began to challenge the value of the hurdle we’d created for our learners as well as teachers.

        And although the debate often rages on between teachers around the world, the research – as well as our language learning and teaching experiences – quite clearly indicates that L1 has an unavoidable role in learning another language and should be used wisely like any other tool.

    • #16733

      Rhett Burton



      In level 1, my students get good at mimicking what I have modeled/produced. They bring in pockets of language through songs, topical words list, or something they picked up from a movie or game. For these students, I generally try to keep them focused on very specific pushed patterns during each stage of interactions. They almost always speak Korean to each other unless they’ve internalized the process, which takes a lot of time. I allow the L1 because we haven’t learned how to handle more complex interactions between students. And, even if we have, they are limited to a specific context (like playing UNO). I try to provide them with a variety of content in context to help them sense how practical language usage can be. I am constantly repeating, and I rarely say, ” Speak English.”

      In level 2, I try to stack patterns together based on the practiced processes for each activity. If students can focus on their process, they can focus on the language while performing each task. I add more reading and writing activities to extend the activities, linking all skills together. Example – Level 1 students learn to perform and talk about cup stacking through 10 stages (1 stage per month). Then, in level 2, they are requested to read and write about the process of doing cup stacking. I hold them to talking about the process in English. However, I allow them to use L1 when talking about the challenges (emotionally or physically ) they had and how they compensated for it in their L1. I hope they learn to build better relationships together via their L1. I am looking to make materials to link to my high support methods to help them bridge these gaps between doing the task and talking about it. Again, this type of scaffolding requires a lot of modeling and attention.

      In Level 3, I try to utilize a system of systems for using language for all known tasks. I know that most students have done the task enough times to have had opportunities to form metacognitive thoughts, which allow them to talk/think about how and why they do what they do as they do it. Many students struggled with staying in L2 when working in groups because, as they get older, they are more aware of social dynamics. Also, they aren’t so keen about talking about how the task is performed. Students achieve higher levels of language production with a teacher to scaffold their expression. A Maslow first approach is difficult because children have limited experience with the power of their words with others. I hope that the students learn to trust each other from working together, but I need to remember that group dynamics are constantly evolving.

      And so, I have a flexible and adaptable approach to a blended L1 and L2 experience at every level I teach. I also use my knowledge of students to leverage more personalized experiences based on their needs.

      • #16856

        Thank you for sharing your language policy and how it evolves with your class levels. It’s interesting, too, to see that translanguaging and multilingualism have become hot topics with increasing acceptability as well as necessity and value in the language learning classroom.

        What is translanguaging?

    • #16955

      Naoko Amano

      I’m not very good at telling other teachers in my school about my L1/L2 policy. I think that’s something I need to do.

      I think teachers tend to TEACH English, but I realize that STUDENTS want to communicate. I see teachers communicating using Japanese but they are missing a chance to show communication.

      When teachers use Japanese to have small pieces of communication, like “Sensei, I forgot my textbook (Japanese)” the teacher responds, “OK, don’t worry. Share with your partner (Japanese)”.

      Maybe I have to better communicate how little time Japanese students have to use real English communication.

      First of all, I use English to greet the students. They know what will happen because it is our “Circle Time” where we practice regulars Q & A. Students are used to this pattern. I use Japanese when I introduce new phrases or grammar. I try to show the situation by using YouTube or Stories, and if they don’t understand, I will explain in Japanese. Sometimes They offer what they understand like a confirmation, then I reply in English. Sometimes I react suddenly in Japanese, but I try to use English as much as possible.

      Basically, I need to discuss this topic with my teachers and make a better school policy.

      • #16958

        It’s good for you to notice and be aware of your use of L1/L2 and how you would like teachers to use them in your school. It can be helpful to have teachers share their answers to this question, too, before discussing them further.

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