Teachers of foreign languages typically encourage their students to speak in the target language (TL) often, but due to various factors, this is not always achieved. Some reasons might include insufficient vocabulary, lack of topic knowledge, embarrassment, or simple unwillingness. Much of the existing research observes uses of the TL or native language (L1). The purpose of this study was to examine how often students use the TL in paired interactions and whether that amount has any relationship to the students' oral proficiency at the end of the course. In a SPAN 105 course at Brigham Young University, 27 students participated in this project by recording themselves during six in-class, paired interactions, after which they provided comments via questionnaires. This study was conducted using a mixed-methods approach, with both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data revealed information about the time spent in the TL, as well as the time spent in the L1, and what relationship these variables had with listening comprehension and oral proficiency. The qualitative data exposed emergent findings related to TL/L1 use: helpful tools, effects of task type, pitfalls the students experienced, struggles and benefits of partnering, effects of recording, and student perceptions about the L1. The results of the study indicate a need for teacher strategies to encourage TL use in the classroom.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





clarification, confidence, defensiveness, interview, L1, oral proficiency, paired interactions, partner familiarity, perceptions, prompt, recording device, role-play, scaffolding, struggles, teacher expectations, TL