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 Target Language Use in the Second Language Classroom

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Jirapa006
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PostSubject: Target Language Use in the Second Language Classroom   28th November 2015, 5:47 pm

Target Language Use in the Second Language Classroom

Dr. B. Says
There is no doubt that learners cannot learn the four skills in a new language without hearing it and having opportunities to speak it. In a classroom context the main provider of the Target Language (TL) is the teacher. The teacher must consciously be aware of when he or she is using the TL and when not AND why. If we look at Jin for example, we see that he has noticed his mentor teacher's use of the target language. In his pedagogy courses Jin has learned about the benefits of using the target language but like many beginning SL teachers, he may have some anxieties about using it himself. Jin may be wondering how easy it is to use the target language in the classroom and what obstacles he may face in using it consistently. In this section we will examine these questions and more in order to better understand the benefits and challenges of using the TL in the classroom.



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Jin's case study

Marguerite's case study

Some questions
Why is it important to use the Target Language (TL) in the language classroom?

Many language teachers, especially those who are just beginning their career, express anxieties about using the target language in the classroom. Often, teachers find it difficult to strike a balance between using local language (or language used at home) and the TL in the classroom. Although using the TL can cause some stress, it is very important to do so for the process of language learning.

Firstly, the use of the TL in the classroom greatly increases the students' exposure to the target language. This is very important, especially in foreign language classrooms where the TL is not heard outside of the classroom context. The goal is to make the context as close to a second language context (where the TL would be heard outside of the classroom) as possible in order to give students maximum exposure to the language.

Secondly, by using the TL in the classroom, students are receiving more comprehensible input (Krashen) thus leading to more complex language structures. By using the TL, students are not only learning ‘about’ the language but also learning ‘through’ the language. Certain classroom commands or common expressions can be acquired through routine use.

Lastly, using the TL in the classroom can provide a source of modeling for the students both in regards to the production of the language and the attitude toward the language. If the teacher is able to show proper use of the language daily, students can use that teacher as an example or model for production. In addition, if the teacher treats the language as more than just a subject for study but shows the value of the language by using it, students will be more likely to gain a better appreciation for the language.

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What does the research say?

There has been little dispute in the research about the importance of using the TL in the language classroom. In his article Using the target language: A view from the classroom Peter Dickson states that using the "target language promotes natural acquisition and that use of the mother tongue (L1) undermines this process by diverting attention from the object of pupils’ learning” (Dickson, p.1). This relates directly to the work of Stephen Krashen who proposes the importance of both acquisition and comprehensible input in language learning.

To take a closer look at Dickson's research, click here.

What do teachers say?

Target Language use will vary depending on the stage of the teacher's evolution. Every teacher will use a different amount of the target language for different reasons. What is important however, is recognizing WHY one is or is not using the target language and deciding if that reason is appropriate given where you are at in your own evolution, and in terms of the students needs.
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