Researchers have explored how different balances of first language (L1) and target language (TL) use in a foreign language classroom impact students' fluency and proficiency in TL acquisition. Research has shown that the use of the L1 in a foreign language classroom is done in order to determine the most effective way to raise the proficiency of second language learners to the level that is expected within their classrooms (Lee & Muncie, 2006). The use of the L1 is not something that is uncommon, even in the highest levels of foreign language instruction, although some believe it could inhibit learner growth in target language (TL) acquisition (Tanveer, 2007). Some scholars contend that there is a place for the L1 to be used in a second language classroom, rather than relying on complete usage of the TL (Biggs, 1999). Results have been mixed when it comes to whether or not the L1 should be used as much as the TL, and studies have seldom investigated what students and teachers believe regarding that matter. To this end, the present study examines the impact of the use of the L1 vs the use of the TL on 50 students at different levels in the French language classroom. Subjects were all enrolled in French classes ranging from the 101-level to the 201-level, and the 8 student instructors teaching these levels also participated in this study. Both a student survey and a teacher survey were administered at the end of the semester in order to look at the use of the TL vs the use of the L1 among students and teachers in their classrooms. Results show that the utilization of the L1 in foreign language classrooms is preferred by the students but that it is not fully justified. Numerous proponents of L1 use (Atkinson, 1987; Cook 2001; Swain & Lapkin, 2000; Wells, 1999) have cautioned against excessive use, instead recommending that it be used judiciously, and according to learner need. Future researchers might consider surveying students who are learning in an environment where L1 use is similar to student demand on this survey (very high, especially for things like giving instructions), as well as surveying students who are exclusively using TL in their learning environment.



College and Department

Humanities; Center for Language Studies



Date Submitted


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first language (L1), proficiency, target language (TL), French language classroom, ACTFL, code switching, learning tasks