Research reports on the interaction between L1 and L2 in teaching

Since both L1 (English) and L2 (foreign languages) are taught in our schools, it is important to know how they might support one another. Here is a very small and incomplete collection of relevant research items.

L1 supporting L2

  • Cook, Vivian. 2001. “Using the First Language in the Classroom.Canadian Modern Language Review-Revue Canadienne Des Langues Vivantes 57: 402–23
    • L1 can be a useful tool in teaching L2.
  • Hall, Graham, and Guy Cook. 2012. “Own-Language Use in Language Teaching and Learning.” Language Teaching 45 (03): 271–308. doi:10.1017/S0261444812000067.
    • L2 teaching was dominated through the 20th century by the principle of using only L2 in the classroom, but recent research shows that L2 learning benefits from the ‘judicious’ use of L1, and from explicit comparisons with L1.
  • McManus, Kevin, and Emma Marsden. “L1 Explicit Instruction Can Improve L2 Online and Offline Performance. An Exploratory Study.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 2016.
    • This study investigated the effectiveness of providing L1 explicit information with practice for making more accurate and faster interpretations of L2 French Imparfait. Two treatments were investigated: (i) ‘L2-only’, providing explicit information (EI) about the L2 with L2 interpretation practice and (ii) ‘L2+L1’, providing the exact same L2-only treatment and including EI about the L1 (English) with practice interpreting L1 features that are equivalent
      to the Imparfait. 50 L2 French learners were randomly assigned to either L2-only, L2+L1, or a Control group. Online (self-paced reading) and offline (context-sentence matching) measures from Pretest, Posttest and Delayed Posttests showed that providing additional L1 EI and practice improved not only offline L2 accuracy, but also the speed of online L2 processing. To our knowledge, this makes an original and significant contribution about the nature of EI with practice, the role of L1 (Tolentino & Tokowicz, 2014), and extends a recent line of research examining EI effects in online sentence processing (Andringa & Curcic, 2015).

L2 supporting L1

  • Murphy, Victoria, Ernesto Macaro, Sonia Alba, and Claudia Cipolla. 2015. The Influence of Learning a Second Language in Primary School on Developing first Language Literacy Skills. Applied Psycholinguistics 36: 1133–53. doi:doi:10.1017 / S0142716414000095.
    • Teaching Year 3 children French or Italian for 15 weeks had a measurable positive effect on their phonological processing and reading accuracy in English; the effect was especially strong with Italian because of its regular spelling.
  • Cook, V. (Ed.). (2003a). Effects of the second language on the first. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
    • Most chapters show either neutral or negative influences of L2 on L1, but one (by Murphy and Price) shows that young learners can become more aware of rules in L1 through learning L2.

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