Learning of A Second Language
Ever since God punished the people who wanted to build the Tower of Babel with the “confusion of tongues” in the time of old testament, people around the world have faced the problem of communication. When giving out a historical overview of second-language teaching in “Second-Language Acquisition in Childhood,” McLaughlin stated:
As early as the third millennium B.C., in what was probably the world’s first great civilization, the Sumerians had scribed devoted exclusively to education. When the country was conquered by the Akkadians in the last quarter of the third millennium, these scribes complied the oldest known bilingual dictionaries. Long continuous passages were translated from Sumerian into Akkadian, line by line. (McLaughlin 2)
It was since then that people started exploring the arts of language. For years, people have been arguing about the most appropriate methods to teach a second language (L2).
One question that teachers encounter in the classroom is the use of the learners’ native language (L1). While a group of people think that teaching of the target language should involve no L1, another group of people consider L1 as a help to L2 teaching.
Throughout the years, L2 teachers around the world have been analyzing the data they gathered for years along with their personal experiences to find out which approach of L2 teaching works best for teachers themselves. Those who are in favor of the Grammar-Translation method believe that L1 holds great significance in L2 teaching and learning.
They teach grammar rules in the mother tongue of the learners as a basis of instruction.
Methods such as the Natural Approach , the Silent Way , Total Physical Response , Audio-Lingual Method , and the Direct Method emphasize different concepts of language teaching and learning but followers of these methods all avoid L1 in the classroom. As the debate goes on, it is crucial for all the L2 teachers to first ponder on the goal of language teaching and then to decide what role they want L1 to play in their L2 classroom. For a L2 learner who lives in an environment where the target language is not used on a daily basis, such as English taught in Taiwan, exposure to L2 helps accomplish the goal of language learning, which is to communicate.
The use of L1 in L2 classrooms is primarily based on the Grammar-Translation method which emerged in the nineteenth century. It stresses on the ability to read literature in L2, but to learn grammar rules and vocabulary in L1. In the classroom, teachers have authority while students follow instructions to learn what teachers know. Students learn by translating from one language to the other. Grammar is usually learned deductively on the basis of grammar rules and examples. Students memorize the rules, and then apply them to other examples. L1 provides keys to meanings in L2 and it is also used freely in class. Because of the nature of the grammar-translation method,...