English language teachers have to meet great challenges every day. One of their most arduous ventures is to try to make their students use English language in class all the time. Oftentimes, students avoid using the language they are learning unless they are forced to make use of it. For instance, some students may find it very hard to speak in English when they are trying to depict some kind of emotion, thus resorting to their mother tongue to make themselves clear. Should teachers forbid these instances of communication if they are not carried out in English? Some writers support the idea that the use of the mother tongue does not necessarily undermine the leaning process. They believe that when the class involves students who are just beginning to learn it may be necessary for them to use their mother tongue as an unavoidable component of their learning process. It is the purpose of this essay to explore and comment on those instances in which classroom talk does not compulsorily have to take place in English.
The use of the students’ native language in class should not always be considered wrong. Teachers should not disregard the fact that when students’ feelings have been touched in some way, they may feel the yearning to express themselves using their mother tongue. Besides, given the importance of establishing a close rapport with students, teachers need to pay attention to what students need to communicate about themselves, even when this is not making them exercise their oral performance in the target language. Indeed, allowing students to use their native language in class whenever they need to express their excitement, sadness or even disappointment could be considered acceptable.
Written by Prof. Paula Ledesma
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