The use of previously known languages in the English classroom

42nd AEDEAN Conference
Córdoba, Spain

The use of previously known languages in the foreign language classroom has always been a controversial topic. For many years there has been a widespread belief that language teachers should only use the target language (Littlewood and Yu, 2011), completely excluding the students’ previously known languages. During the last few decades, however, current theoretical perspectives consider the mother tongue (L1) a cognitive and mediating tool that might report multiple advantages in language learning (see Lo and Lin 2015).In CLIL contexts, most of the studies that have been conducted so far on the use of previously known languages (Martínez-Adrián and Gutiérrez Mangado 2015 among others) have mainly focused on the role of the students and have analyzed to what extent these participants use their corresponding previously known languages and for what purposes. However, little attention has been paid to the teachers’ actual use and beliefs with respect to the use of previously known languages in the English classroom (Lasagabaster 2013; McMillan and Turnbull 2009). In addition, studies that have investigated the role of the teacher in this respect, have been conducted in contexts where the foreign language was acquired as the second language (L2), and so, leaving aside contexts in which the foreign language was learned as the third language (L3).The present study will try to fill this gap by examining the opinions and beliefs of Secondary Education teachers in the three provinces of the Basque Country. All the participants are teachers of English as a Foreing Language from different schools in a bilingual context where English is taught as an L3 after Spanish and Basque. Teachers completed an online questionnaire in which they had to answer a total of 10 different questions. Among these questions, there were some items related to their personal information, some others concerning their opinions and beliefs about their use of previously known languages in the classroom and an open question to provide further information.Results show that the majority of the teachers use at least one of the languages (Basque and/or Spanish) in their respective classes, being the Basque language the preferred one generally. Furthermore, both languages seem to be used for the same purposes in the classroom, the most common use of these languages being to establish differences and similarities among the different languages. In addition, explaining something that has not been understood in the target language, dealing with disciplinary issues, and offering individual help to the students are also aspects that are usually dealt with in the L1/L2 of the students.