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Theoretical Aspects of Teaching English Grammar

Theoretical Aspects of Teaching English Grammar


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Published by iwona_lang1968

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Published by: iwona_lang1968 on Mar 20, 2010
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Although it is often stressed, that learners should be immersed in the target
language from the very beginning of its study, I found that idea to be quite hard to
accomplish during my lessons. Even on purely vocabulary-oriented lessons with
beginners it is quite hard not to speak in L1, especially when giving instructions. It is
not impossible, of course, but it can consume a significant amount of time which could
be spent more efficiently, since the profits of purely L2-centered environment might not
be significant enough. On the other hand, we cannot keep the learners in L1
environment for the whole time. My idea was to create a smooth transition from L1 to
L2, progressing according to the expansion of the students’ vocabulary and the
execution of that idea was quite differentiated among the six groups that I taught.
The biggest problems with this transition occurred in group #1, consisting of
young learners. First of all, for a long period of time they had problems with
understanding even the written instructions in the coursebook, so trying to provide them
with oral instructions only in English did not seem reasonable at all to me. Therefore,
when their knowledge of vocabulary was high enough, I decided to start providing them
with instructions and explanations in L2 and immediately translating them into L1.
They took twice as much time that way, but since this was supposed to be only a
transitional phase, I decided that it is proper to devote some time to it. However, when
after several lessons I decided to start giving instructions only in L2 (while still using
both languages for explanations), the learners were confused and still required
translation of what I said into L1. Therefore I employed a different strategy – I gave the
instructions in L2 and translated them with the learners. This strategy had several
drawbacks – first of all, it consumed a quite significant amount of lesson time and very
often the learners were guessing more than trying to understand the instruction.
Nevertheless I planned to continue doing that as long as they are not able to understand
the instructions in L2 on their own. I saw some progress during the following lessons,
but since my classes with this group finished soon afterwards, I could not finish my

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The situation with the adult beginner from group #2 was, fortunately, a lot more
simple. I used the same strategy that I used initially with group #1, starting with using
only L1, then moving to using L1 and L2 and ending up with all the instructions and
most if not all of the explanations provided in L2. This time the transition was rather
smooth and at the point of introducing Present Continuous to the learner, I provided
most of the instructions and some of the explanations in L2, only occasionally having to
clarify some misunderstanding.
Similarly, with the adult learner on the elementary level from group #3 the
transition was also executed with no significant problems, with the main difference
being that I started from using both L1 and L2, without the stage of using only L1, as
the learner already had some knowledge of vocabulary.
On the other hand, the transition that occurred in group #4 was quite
spontaneous. During the first lessons with that group that were a part of this observation
study, I used only L1 for instructions and explanations, even though the students’
knowledge of vocabulary was good enough to introduce L2 in that context. I think this
was mostly due to the very relaxed atmosphere of those classes and many off-topic
conversations started by learners (and sometimes even by me), which were conducted in
L1. Nevertheless, during one of the lessons I decided to try providing the instructions in
L2 and students understood them perfectly. What is more, even if they were slightly
surprised by this change, they did not show it. On the next lessons I started to provide
explanations mostly in L2 as well and again I encountered no negative feedback, so
from that point on I kept using L2 and only occasionally referring to L1.
As for the two pre-intermediate groups, with group #6 I had been using L2 for a
longer period of time and, obviously, it did not change during the classes that were a
part of this study. However, with the adolescent learner from group #5 I was still using
L1 together with L2 during some of the classes, since he was not accustomed to the
situation of only L2 being used during the lesson and while he had little problem with
understanding the written instructions and most written explanations in L2, the oral ones
were often difficult to understand for him. Fortunately, his understanding of spoken
instructions and explanations in L2 was constantly improving during the course of the

It must be noted, however, that even when I began using mostly L2 during the
lessons, I switched to L1 in situations when the explanations were either too difficult in
terms of lexis or when they could be more or less understood by the learners, but I

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valued the clarity of the explanation and lesson time more than adhering strictly to the
L2 environment.

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