Task repetition and L1 use: Evidence from young Spanish EFL learners

2016

Abstract  A growing body of research illustrates the benefits of a balanced use of the first language (L1) in the foreign language (FL) classroom. Although different studies have shown that L1 use is limited and serves functions that facilitate task completion and, eventually, language learning (Storch & Aldosari, 2010), some teachers are concerned about learners resorting to their shared language at some point when engaged in communicative tasks. Despite the existing literature, there is scarce evidence of L1 use by second language learners in FL settings. Another aspect that has not been considered among this population is the impact of task repetition on their production. Task repetition has been shown to be beneficial for language learning in studies with adult learners (Kim & Tracey-Ventura, 2013) as they improved their overall production upon repetition. The present study tries to address this double research gap by analyzing the impact of task repetition on the L1 use of a group of young English as a foreign language (EFL) learners. Forty 11-year-old EFL learners repeated a picture placement task carried out in pairs three times over a three-week period. L1 use significantly decreased with task repetition. When the L1 was used five functions were identified, namely, discourse markers, vocabulary search, borrowings, foreignisings and task management, whose use significantly decreased the third time the task was repeated. The findings point to the facilitative role of the L1 the first time the learners faced the picture placement task. However, L1 use decreased as learners became familiar with the task. The results of the study will be commented upon as regards the importance of including task repetition in classroom practice in FL settings.


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