The dangers of overuse

30 Oct

In a nutshell:

We do not equate the use of the first language in the second or foreign language classroom with passing out a license to overuse of the first language, that is, to become so dependent on the first language that teachers and learners cannot function in a second or foreign language classroom without it. Whatever benefits first language use may bring, it is clear that the ultimate goal of a second or foregin language classroom remains the learning of the target language; practices that undermine this ultimate goal must be avoided. (Turnbull, M. & Dailey-O’Cain, J. 2009 p.2)

Atkinson (ELTJ 41/4, 1987 p.246) lists the following dangers of overuse:

1. The teacher and / or the students begin to feel that they have not ‘really’ understood any item of language until it has been translated. 2. The teacher and / or the students fail to obersve distinctions between equivalence of form, semantic equivalence, and pragmatic features, and thus oversimplify to the point of using crude and inaccruate translation. 3. Students speak to the teacher in the mother tongue as a matter of course, even when they are quite capable of expressing what they mean. 4. Students fail to realise that during many activities in the classroom it is crucial that they use only English.

It would not be too hard to add to this list!

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