Using the mother tongue in the foreign language classroom

37º Congreso Internacional de la Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada (AESLA)
Valladolid, Spain

The use of the mother tongue(s) in the foreign language classroom has been the focus of attention in many English as a Foreign Language (EFL) studies (Celaya and Torras, 2001; Muñoz, 2007). In particular, during the last decades, some investigations have suggested that language teachers should only use the target language, completely excluding the students’ mother tongue(s) or using it minimally as a support for explanations (Lasagabaster, 2013; Littlewood and Yu, 2011). More recent research, however, considers the mother tongue a beneficial tool that might report multiple advantages in language learning and can help students to foster their metalinguistic awareness (Lasagabaster, 2013) .In Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) contexts, more limited research exists and most of the studies that have been conducted so far on the use of the mother tongue(s) (Celaya and Ruiz de Zarobe, 2010; Martínez-Adrián and Gutiérrez Mangado, 2015, among others) have focused on the students’ part. However, little attention has been paid to the teachers’ perspective (Lasagabaster, 2013; McMillan and Turnbull, 2009). Therefore, there is a need of studies analyzing teachers’ use and beliefs with respect to the use of the mother tongue(s) in the English classroom. Additionally, to the knowledge of the author, no studies have been conducted analyzing teachers’ mother tongue use in a bilingual context where the foreign language is being learned as the third language so as to see the functions that the mother tongue(s) play in the language learning process.This paper examines the opinions and beliefs of EFL teachers in the Basque Country. All the participants are Secondary Education teachers from different schools in a bilingual context where English is taught as a third language (L3) after Spanish and Basque. Teachers had to complete an online questionnaire in which they had to answer some questions related to their personal background, some others concerning their opinions and beliefs about their use of the mother tongue(s) in the classroom and an open question in which they were encouraged to provide further information.Results indicate that most of the teachers use at least one of the languages (Basque and/or Spanish) in their respective classes, being Basque the preferred language in most of the cases. Furthermore, teachers seem to use both languages (Basque and Spanish) 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 mother tongue(s) of the students.