Situational Responses

Critical Situations Give Birth to Unexpected Solutions

We support teachers by providing them with continuing professional development opportunities that give them the knowledge and know-how to become the best teachers they can. We help them fulfil their personal career aspirations and make a positive and proactive contribution to the successful running of their school and on the lives of young people they teach.

   However, teachers who work in a constant socially isolated environment, need other kind of support as they are most of the time faced with critical situations such as stress, depression and anxiety due to workload pressure, excessive changes, low status, poor working conditions, problems of discipline as well as conflicts with colleagues and family problems…

   These critical situations lead to both mental and physical ill health. This is indeed an alarming state that needs immediate intervention as some teachers -if not most of them- prefer keeping that ‘unhealthy’ state as a secret.

   As I have witnessed many critical situations in my professional life, I feel somehow responsible for sharing the responses I gave and will give to those who keep silent, and who dare not ask for support.

   This ‘Situatioonal Responses’ webpage helps teachers feel secure and be eager to overcome his/her critical situations. It should be noted that ‘Situational Responses’ will provide necessary remedial measures through target articles I post each month to help teachers overcome their critical situations.

   With the contribution of other educators, I hope we can identify and eradicate the issues which are likely to become critical professional problems beforehand.

  Please, do contribute ‘Situational Responses’ you have already experienced or share with us your critical situations to support you, and who knows, may be we can provide you with unexpected  solutions!



“Act as if what you do make a difference.It does.”

William James


Together we can overcome critical situations


Being positive means having faith in the future. It means focusing on solutions and not on problems. It means being open to new ideas, new concepts and being able to think outside the box.


   The positive person can see reality such as it is and does not need to say that things are rosy when they are not. Unless a challenge is well appraised and understood, it cannot be solved. However the positive person will tend to see the challenge as a stepping stone and not as a stumbling block.


   Being positive is a constant challenge. It is said that it takes seventeen positive experiences to negate one negative one. Life has its share of challenges so, in order to remain positive, the emotional battery has to be recharged constantly.


   There are many ways of recharging the emotional battery and none will be effective for everyone. Each of us has to find what works best for him or her. A person who tends to be introverted will be better served by reading a positive book or viewing an inspirational video while an extrovert will find the same inspiration by associating with positive people.


   Be it as may be, recharging the battery has to be done on a daily basis if it is to be effective. Zig Ziglar used to say, “Skip a meal but don’t skip your daily inspirational moment.”


   The brain follows the GIGO principle. That is, Good Stuff In, Good Stuff Out… and Garbage In, Garbage Out. It does not fail. If we feed good and positive material to our brain, it will create a positive state of mind. However, if we allow the bad news peddlers to influence us, the state of mind will be affected accordingly, and our dream might disapear for ever.


   The difference in the quality of life that we enjoy depends on what we chose to focus on. If we chose beauty and quality, that’s what we’ll experience but if we dwell on the negative, it will take its toll.


    The state of mind, positive or negative, is also highly influenced by our posture. Walking tall and erect will send positive vibes to the brain whereas the slouching and lazy posture will affect us negatively. It is impossible to stay in a depressing mood for a long time when we stand or walk like a champion and it is also impossible to be enthusiastic for any length of time when slouching like a loser. So, stand up and face reality and say that’s life, I have to fight…


    Being positive means faith and hope. It does not mean shying away from reality. It means that we are convinced that sooner or later we’ll come out on top and that we will prevail. Go ahead and never show weakness when facing any critical situation.


                                                                                   By Dr. Raymond Comeau



Please, feel free to share  your comments.

Together we can overcome critical situations

In ‘The Motivational Techniques to Teach Vocabulary’ workshop, a presenter said, ‘I am about to retire, I come up with the idea that one is ‘Never Too Old to Learn’. Thank you so much for believing in us, for giving us the opportunity to demonstrate our skills at the retirement stage. That’s rewarding!

‘That’s right, I said, ‘retirement is not an end in itself, it could be a stepping stone towards learning something new for improving our existing knowledge and supporting others effectively.’

‘ Happy is the man who finds wisdom in learning

and happier is the teacher who keeps on learning forever.’



Teachers are extremely important elements in the education of students everywhere. Teachers of all ages devise learning activities and positively impact students in classrooms all over the world, every school day. Student learning styles and teaching methods change over time, that’s a proven fact, however, the need to educate students is always present. I personally don’t believe that a teacher’s age is as important as their willingness to change and adapt with the current times and to accept and adopt new technology as it is introduced to the world of education.


We all know of those teachers who can’t seem to drift away from what are now considered old-fashioned, sit and get teaching methods: lecturing, teaching straight from the textbook, worksheets, tests that only involve repeated facts, tenses, and transformations etc. Most of the time, the teachers who partake in these types of teaching methods have been in the educational system for more than fifteen or twenty years. They are teaching the way they were taught in high school and college and the way they believed they learned. After using the same methods for so many years, it is very difficult for them to understand why a change is necessary. They generally feel that they have given many students the tools of knowledge necessary to positively impact their future and have more than likely been touched by success stories of students past. All of this reinforces the idea that what they are doing must be right and doesn’t need to change. They even claim that they have nothing to learn as they grow old! I would just say, “we do not stop learning when we grow old; we grow old when we stop learning.” 

However, as the world changes, we must change our teaching methods; it doesn’t matter if the teacher is young, old, or middle-age; teachers have to accept the responsibility to adapt to changing times and generations of students who differ from their predecessors from past generations. Fortunately, many experienced teachers cope with reforms, with learners’ attitudes and learning styles. They are like a rushing stream of water, constantly renewing, remaining fresh and never stagnating.  

Change involves a great deal of hard work and challenge. So, while anyone is capable of learning new ways of teaching, a teacher must actually be interested in learning new teaching methods and motivate themselves to utilize them in their classrooms. There are many older teachers who do this very effectively and stay on top of the newest innovations. These life-long learners deserve appreciation, gratitude and respect.

Olivia Kay ( Adapted)

Please, read the next story oabout Rose.

The first day of school, our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know.  I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.  I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.   She said, “Hi handsome.  My name is Rose.  I’m eighty-seven years old.  Can I give you a hug?”  I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!”  and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.   She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…»    “No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.  “I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!”  she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.  We became instant friends. Every day for the next  three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop.  I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.   Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet.  I’ll never forget what she taught us.  She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.  As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.”

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.  There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.  If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older.  That doesn’t take any talent or ability.  The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change.  Have no regrets.  The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do.  The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.”  She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.  Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.

                                                                                      Unknown author

لسلام عليكم يا سيديI

أنا زوجتي أستاذة التعليم المتوسط لغة حية فاقدة للثقة في نفسها نتيجة ظروف خاصة أرجو منك سيدي مساعدتي في اعادة ثقتها بنفسها خاصة وأنك تملك رصيد معرفي نتيجة خبرتك في التدريس والتفتيش

لذا أرجو سيدي أن لاتبخل علينا بنصائحك القيمة مع تقديم شرح مفصل لطرق تدريس اللغة الحية

سيدي أكون شاكرا لك مساعدتك وجزاءك على الله


      This is an unexpected message I received! 



Mr. M. Ahmed, a teacher I don’t know, wrote to me a message in Arabic asking for help and support for his wife who is a teacher of English. 

I was overwhelmed by this unexpected message coming from a teacher of Arabic. Thank you Mr. M. Ahmed for being so supportive and comprehensive to your wife who lost her self- confidence.


There are many instances in life where your confidence is hit hard. Sometimes you overcome life’s hardness, sometimes you get overwhelmed. Sometimes your courage and confidence sees you through, but sometimes your self-confidence gets a beating. However, the point here to remember is that “Nobody can hurt you without your consent.” The problem is not as important as the impact it had on you, rather the impact that YOU let the problem create on you. “In life pain is inevitable but suffering is optional,” as the saying goes. It’s purely your choice, and whether you choose to bounce back or suffer is entirely your prerogative.

   There can be many reasons that your self-confidence is hurt. You may have had a critical situation and now are heading for depression. There’s definitely a lot of pain involved in any situation. But you don’t necessarily have to suffer. You must arise and resolve to get back your confidence.

    Try to look at the brighter side;

    If you have been laid off, it would be okay to feel bad about it for a day or two but not more. Experiencing a particular situation at home or in classroom could be a awful thing, but it does not mean the end of the world. Who knows it might be a blessing in disguise. Maybe you have got some time to review your life, get aware of where you are going Have a look around you, get aware of those who love you and who don’t want to see you in this situation. Have a look at your likes and hobbies which you could not develop because of pressures of your job. Maybe this is an opportunity to start afresh and live your life a new way with your abilities and aptitude.

    Stop comparing yourself with other people. Stop looking at those who seem too happy and comfortable to you from a distance. Stop comparing their comfort with your suffering. This will only frustrate you further. Focus on yourself and your family and make every effort to feel strong whenever you are feeling down.. Self-pity is very addictive and capable of destroying lives.

     If you want to raise your self confidence or self esteem then the first thing you need to consider is the one who stands by you, who is sharing your anxieties and worries, who cares and who is doing his best to help you gain your lost self-confidence.

     Finally, I would advise you to take a little time each day to tell yourself that you love yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and look yourself in the eye and tell yourself that you love yourself. Doing this will bring all of your negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs about yourself to the surface; you will certainly smile and feel happy. This approach takes some time, but if you are consistent you will begin to feel your self confidence growing…


                                                                  Thomas Bekkar (Adapted)

Low self confidence can be a big problem in your life. It can hold you back in so many areas so that you never reach your full potential and so the low self confidence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


  • Do you find yourself getting overly upset when someone criticizes you?

  • Do you avoid trying out new things?

  • Do you keep your opinions and views to yourself, especially to avoid confrontation?

  • Do you often think that you lack the ability to do something?


       If you have answered yes’ to any of these questions, it is likely you are suffering from low self confidence. Low self confidence can cause depression, poor relationships and the inability to change.

     Low self confidence is often blamed on early childhood events. Lack of parental support or encouragement and constant criticism are often cited as key causes of low self confidence.

     However, your low self confidence cannot be blamed solely on your environment. You must take responsibility for your part and take steps to overcome your low self confidence. Act confident.

       Often the fastest way to improve your confidence level is by simply acting confident. Groom yourself carefully, dress appropriately and carry yourself with excellent posture. These simple things will actually make you feel more confident over time.

  1.  Pat yourself on the back – If you achieve a success, don’t let it go on noticed. Celebrate your success, no matter how small they seem. Give yourself a pat on the back and reward your success.

  2.  Surround yourself with positive people – One of the worse things a person with low confidence can do is surround themselves with negative people. Negative people typically have low confidence themselves, and even if they don’t, listening to negative comments will do nothing but bring you down. Find positive people to put your life in perspective.

  3.  Realize you are the best friend you will every have – Don’t treat yourself harshly or poorly. Learn to treat yourself with the respect you deserve. You are person of worth and value, a person that is deserving of love. Compliment yourself often. It will change the way you look at yourself and improve your self confidence.

  4.  Be prepared – Any time you are required to do something that you are not confident about, make sure you do it. Get yourself ready, equipped with the knowledge you will need in order to complete the task well. Make sure you have all the needed tools at your disposal and you should feel much more confident about tackling the task.

  5. 5. Overcome this fear of embarrassment and failure; ask yourself what really is the worse thing that can happen to you if you fail in your task. Rarely will it be something from which you can recover. Once you can see that failing at a task is not going to cause you serious problems, you should be able to tackle the task more confidently.

    Low self confidence is a problem that many people have to deal with. It is also a problem that can be overcome.

    Becoming a person with high self confidence is not an easy thing, but it is possible. It will take some time and all lot of effort on your part, but it will be time well spent as you become a confident person who is ready to face the challenges of life.

Peter Murphy (Adapted


I think it’s reasonable to say that when teachers are making a real effort to engage their students, the responsibility for trying to learn should lie with the students. But we have been brainwashed. We have been taught to blame ourselves when students refuse to try or do not succeed in their work. It sounds so noble for a teacher to say, “If any of my students fail, then I have failed,” but I’m convinced that this is actually harmful.

    I attended a workshop in which the presenter, a teacher of English, told the story of a student with whom he had worked. That student had refused to do a required assignment. The presenter said he tried everything he could to encourage her, but she wouldn’t do it. Finally, he asked her why she wouldn’t just give it a try. She told him, “Because if I try, it won’t be very good and I’ll be a failure; but if I don’t try, then you’re the failure.”

     I have often thought about where the blame lies when a student fails. I know that when I am grading papers or tests and a student does not do well I reflect back over what I could have improved on in my teaching.

     “Did I cover the material in enough detail? Did I allow for different learning styles? Was I unclear in certain areas?” And if there is a trend through the class, then this helps me redo my lessons and improve my teaching. But when the majority of a class displays understanding of the material and there are no extenuating circumstances at some point the student needs to take responsibility for actually fronting up and completing the work themselves.

     I have noticed a trend of more and more responsibilities being placed on teachers and schools. But, why do people blame teachers? Are they really responsible for the students’ failure? Who should convince the ministry of education, the parents, the students, the journalist and all the community that the responsibility is elsewhere.  By placing the fault for Baccalaureate poor performance with teachers we are not doing the students any favours, but rather are teaching that there is not a need for personal responsibility.

As a teacher for many years, I would say that there are several problems I see with holding teachers responsible for students’ performance:


    Student’s low test scores are not solely due to the teacher’s behavior. There are at least three components which contribute to a student’s performance. One is the teacher. A teacher must provide a non-threatening atmosphere in which the child can feel challenged, yet comfortable working at their own rate.


     If the child is learning at the expected acceptable rate, the teacher’s role is to keep the child progressing while continuing to monitor the child’s progress. If the child is not performing as expected, then the teacher must go back to step one and reassess and adjust as necessary so the child will learn.


     The second important component which contributes to a child’s performance and success is the parent. Parents who provide a healthy physical and emotional environment are much more likely to have a child who succeeds in school.


     It is important here to note that if the fundamental needs of the child are not met or if these needs become significantly neglected throughout the early school years, it is all but impossible for the child to perform to their full potential. Unfortunately, the teacher has no influence upon how a child was reared and at best, modest influence on how the parents provide for the child during the school year.


     The third, yet equally important component influencing the child’s success in school is the student. The emotionally healthy child has a role to play by choosing to follow instructions, ask for help, follow the rules, complete tasks and get along with peers. The child who learns early in life to act the way they know is acceptable does better in school than the child who acts the way they feel.


     Failure by any one of the above three components can cause under-performance in school, regardless of the efforts of the other two components to compensate. The educational system cannot control parents’ behavior which may affect the child’s performance and the school has limited influence over the child, who may choose to perform poorly, despite the best efforts of parents and teacher.


     Therefore, the educational system has significant influence on only one component of the three, and that is the teacher.


       The teacher is often blamed for the unsuccessful student when the fault may actually be due to the parent or student. The educational system has limited ability to hold parents and students accountable, so it appears our system has chosen to assign blame to the only person they have authority to blame, the teacher.


     Such a blind system is unfair to the teacher, ignores poor parenting and betrays the student who the system exists for in the first place. So, what are the consequences to the child if the teacher is held totally responsible for the success and failure of the student?

Do you blame teachers for students’ low performance?

I had a big debate about the use of the mother tongue in EFL classes. It happened during the ‘Back to School’ meeting on September 19th, 2010. The participants were divided into two groups. One group played the role of students and the other, the role of teachers. The conclusion I draw from the constructive debate is that many teachers use Arabic and/or French in English classes, and this indicates that they have positive attitudes towards employing Arabic. Teachers highlighted the importance of L1 in their classes, however, their use of Arabic appeared to be limited as they were aware that the excessive use of Arabic may hinder learning English.

   Similar to the teachers’ attitudes, the students’ attitudes towards using Arabic in the classroom were generally positive. According their feedback, 95% of the students were in favour of their teacher’s use of Arabic. They revealed that they can understand better and feel more self-confident. However, some of them showed that the students should avoid the over-use of Arabic, except for doing pair or group work. For instance, a very small number of students thought that using Arabic might prevent them from learning English. Moreover, they preferred to use it only when necessary. I personally think that the limited use of L1 is a sign of a positive attitude both from teachers and students. I felt even satisfaction to see no real rejection of the mother tongue (L1) use in EFL classes.

    According to most teachers, they might use Arabic to clarify difficult items for weak learners, so that they do not lag behind their peers. Most of them think that L1 use reduces anxiety, increases motivation and helps low level learners feel confident when learning a foreign language.

     According to students (teachers playing the role of students), L1 use is a necessity to encourage them to learn a foreign language, but its overuse should be avoided in the classroom to increase their language learning practices. I was a bit surprised to see that student’ attitudes towards L1 use is in line with the one of teachers. I was not expecting this L1 use adoption from teachers who have been using the ENGLISH-ONLY approach for years.

    The constructive discussion revealed that L1 could be used in explaining key or abstract words. Translating abstract words has proved to be effective in gaining time and giving the right equivalent in L1. Some other teachers recommended using L1 to teach grammar or to show the comparison between the English and Arabic grammatical pattern. Another recommendation agreed on by most of participants is the translation of instructions to ensure understanding and avoid confusion.

    I was very pleased to see the positive reaction of teachers towards L1 use, however, clear guidance on how to use L1 should be provided by planners and educators to make sure that teachers are using translation effectively.

    I may add that a rational and judicious use of L1 in EFL classes can only be advantageous. L1 use must be tuned up with effective target language teaching, taking into consideration learner’s mother tongue and cultural background and using them to the best of their interest…

M. Louznadji

Recently, two different opinions have been discussed about L1 use in EFL classes. On  the one  side,  it  is  believed  that L1 should  be  used in  EFL classrooms  with the  opinion of  that  L1 use  reduces anxiety which helps students learn better.


   The  potential  advantages of  L1 use  are  discussed in  terms  of  grammar, classroom  management, vocabulary   and  methodological  issues  in  EFL  classrooms. 


        Using  English  only, in  EFL  classrooms  is  possible  but  it  fails  to  take accounts  of  a number  of  factors. Many  EFL teachers  try  to  use  English as  much as possible  as  they  can  in  the classroom. They  give  instructions  in  English, they  require  students  to  ask  any  kind  of  questions  in  English and  they  say  students  should  use  English while  working  in  groups  and  pairs.  These are all probable and positive things in an EFL classroom. However  the  mother tongue can  be  used  to   provide a  quick and  accurate  translation  of  an  English  word  that  might  take  several  minutes  for  the  teacher  to  explain.


        Using  English  only, in  EFL classrooms  can  lead  to  some  problems  because  there  would  be  no  guarantee  that  the  instructions  and  explanations  are  understood. Also,  an  English  teacher  can  have  difficulties  in  general  classroom  management  if  he/she  insists  on  using  English  only.   Depending  on English    only  makes  students  feel  uncomfortable  if  they  have  some  problems  with  speaking  skills. In  addition  students  cannot  combine  the  two  languages  if they  are  restricted  to  use English  in  classroom.


           Hopkins (1988:18) claims that ‘’if  the learner  of  a foreign  language  is  encouraged  to  ignore  his/her  native  language, he/she  might  well  feel   identity  threatened.’’


        Because  of  these  problems  caused  by  using  English  only, in  EFL classroom, teachers  should  use  mother  tongue  while  teaching  English  as a foreign  language. But  EFL   teachers  should  know  to  what  extend  they  should  use  mother  tongue. By  taking  the  advantage  of  using  mother  tongue  in  EFL  classrooms  teachers  should  create  the  best  teaching  environment  for  their  students.

Which of the two opinions do you share?

L1 in the classroom can be divided into advantages and disadvantages. As a final comment before examining use of the native language of the students in greater detail, the teacher should always consider the reasons for his use of the L1 before weighing any positives or negatives. If he wants to practice his foreign language skills, speaking the L1 of the students, then this ultimately fails to serve the class. Students should always come first.


Advantages of L1 Use in EFL Classroom


   The focus of the class often determines how much emphasis gets placed on using or limiting L1 in the classroom. A conversation class may often be better served if students try to use English as much as possible. When a student can’t understand a word or phrase, or can’t follow some aspect of a spoken conversation, then he has the chance to employ speaking strategies.


   When students can use their L1 to ask questions and confirm comprehension, it often leads to a clearer realization of the form and meaning of the language. Students may ask either their teacher or peers. Although students can ask similar questions solely in English, lower-level students may need further clarification on some point or aspect of the new material. They may not know how to phrase the question to the answer they seek. Without this opportunity to ask in their L1, some students may get frustrated with their inability to receive improved comprehension and language production. Some types of students need to understand the details in order to use and link the target language correctly, and so will very much need the chance to seek clarification in their L1.


   It should be noted that the teacher can sometimes use the L1 to help students provide sentences beyond their ability. Students say a sentence in their native tongue, which the teacher translates for future use and/or reference. This proves especially beneficial with incidental language, such as a singular phrase or sentence. The teacher may have otherwise ignored the opportunity, or perhaps only addressed it in the Wrap Up portion of the lesson. Students may similarly do this, as in looking at a text in their native language and translating it (or summarizing it) into the target language of the class.


   The teacher might also consider using the native tongue of the class to quickly start an activity. Lengthy and complicated explanations beforehand can raise teacher talk time. It can also detract from the purpose, namely building accuracy and fluency. If the teacher wants to jump into the practice session without wasting valuable student talk time, a thirty-second explanation in the students’ L1 may accomplish this best. An explanation in the native language of the students may be necessary with a class of low-level students in English.


   It’s also effective for students to provide an occasional word or sentence in their native languages, especially during activities which focus on fluency. A student may get stuck in a conversation and find themselves unable to express their opinions, answers, or questions. Most often, the student passes up the question, answer, etc. and restricts their conversation to previously studied, comfortable language. Limited approval to use their L1 allows for longer and richer discussions. However, limited and occasional use of the L1 is the key idea here. To restrict excessive use of the L1, the teacher can simply allow only two opportunities to use the native tongue per person in a five minute conversation, for example.


Disadvantages of L1 Use in EFL Classroom


   There are also disadvantages for the L1 in the class, from both the perspective of the teacher and the students.


   For students, an entire class in English offers additional opportunities to hear the language. The English used for explanations and instructions represent “real” English because students actively listen how to use a grammar point or vocabulary word, or how to conduct an activity, for example. When they use the new material or complete the activity correctly, this boosts confidence. They can measure comprehension through success. (Note: Although the teacher should always strive to make activities representative of real and relevant English, students may sometimes see activities as something slightly less than real. They still question how much they’ve achieved. The teacher can point to explanations and instructions that were understood as proof of ability.)


    Some teachers fear that tacit approval of L1 will result in its heavy use in the classroom. Students will rely on it, especially if allowed to occasionally insert a word or phrase in their native tongue. This can be true, such as when students fail to develop speaking strategies. They thus shouldn’t resort to their native language immediately, but should strive to ask questions, provide explanations, or give information in English. In most classes, it doesn’t take much effort for the teacher to encourage students to do so. However, it should be noted that some students may want to speak and speak and speak, resorting to their native tongue when any difficulties arise. They don’t view communication as a balance between fluency and accuracy. They use the teacher’s policy of occasional L1 use a little too liberally.


    There is also the concern that the teacher won’t understand what the students are saying, assuming that he doesn’t speak the same language well or at all. In student-centered classes where everyone is interested and actively engaged, though, students are focused on the target language, not the teacher. Use of the L1 among students only presents a problem when students have sought to confirm information via their peers. The explanation given between students may not be correct, which the teacher would miss. Or if the teacher opts to explain in the L1, and again is not very adept or fluent in, then he could easily miss much-needed nuance. He may even provide the incorrect meaning of a word or grammar structure, thereby causing greater confusion.


   Lastly, it’s generally agreed that the L1 shouldn’t be used except in homogenous classes where everyone speaks the same native language. This is my point of view. How about yours?


Chris Cotter

Using L1 is not the problem. The problem is when and how to use it. Before answering this question, it should be born in mind that L1 use must be considered “as a means to an end”. The target language must be used where possible and L1 when necessary.  Here are some examples of appropriate use of L1 in EFL classes.

  • Beginners
    The mother tongue can be probably more beneficial to beginners. As they progress in their learning the target language will take the lead.
  • L1 can be time-saving.

Instead of going through long explanations in the target language, it is sometimes easier and more efficient to give a translation of a vocabulary item or an explanation of a grammar point.

  • Comparison
    A comparison of English and the mother tongue can be a very enriching experience. In fact, discovering the similarities and differences of both languages can enhance the TL acquisition. This comparison can be done at different levels:
    • Vocabulary
      – Exploring the nuances of vocabulary items in both languages
      – Building bilingual (or even multilingual) semantic maps
    • Grammar
      – A comparison between L1 grammar and TL grammar yields interesting results.
      – This comparison will highlight the differences between the two languages. Teachers and learners may build on these differences to avoid negative transfer ( L1 transfer which may be a source of errors.)

– The comparison also shows the similarities which will undoubtedly boost the internalization of the TL grammar.

  • Culture
    Language is a vehicle for cultural aspects. If teachers ban the use of the mother tongue, this underlies an ideological conception of L1 culture as being inferior. Alternatively, cultural differences and similarities can be highlighted to help learners accept and tolerate differences while at the same time preserve their cultural uniqueness. This can be done through various activities where L1 plays an important role.
    • Proverbs
      Students may be given a set of proverbs in the TL and be asked to find the corresponding ones in their mother tongue if they exisit. If not they try to translate the proverbs into their language.
    • Idiomatic Expressions

     Again, finding the corresponding idioms or a translation of TL idioms might be very helpful to detect cultural differences or similarities

    • Songs
      Translation of lyrics
    • Jokes
      Funny EFL activities can be built on jokes. Students may translate and tell or act TL jokes to create a free stress environment and spot TL cultural specificities.
  • Stress
    Using L1 gives a sense of security and acknowledges the learners identity, allowing them to minimize the stress they may feel in EFL classrooms. With careful use of L1 learners may become willing to experiment and take risks with English.
  • Needs
    Learners needs must be expressed in L1 since the TL is not yet mastered. Learners will never be able to express and communicate their needs with a language they speak poorly.
  • Classroom management

       Management of conduct and discipline is sometimes hard to be done in the target language. For instance, if a serious problem emerges in the classroom, will the teacher really insist on an English-only policy when coping with it?

  • Grammar
    L1 can be of great help when teaching grammar. Translation exercises for example may be the perfect practice when there is a grammar point that is causing trouble to students.
  • Instructions
    Many failures in tests are due to learners lack of understanding of instructions. L1 can be used to redress this issue, helping students to understand what is exactly asked from them.
  • Rationale
    Students need to understand the rationale behind activities or methods. It is important that they know where they start and what they will able to do. They should understand what lies behind the methods the teacher is using. This can only be done at this level through the students’ native language.

           Of course, the list may be extended to other areas of foreign language teaching.


Extracts from the ‘Using of the Mother Tongue’ book of

                Sheelagh Deller and Mario Rinvolucri

The question of whether or not to use students’ first language (L1) in the foreign language class is an issue that is as old as the teaching of a foreign language itself.


    I was trained to be a Communicative teacher. In the time I did my basic training as an EFL teacher in the 80’s. If you were to be a qualified teacher you had to be one. I was taught not to use L1 in the classroom, I remember one of the items in my inspector’s observation sheet during his observation of my classes said “ use of L1 “, I was encouraged to avoid using L1 and told to use it only “as the last resource possible”.


   I was taught a thousand and one forms not to use (or allow students to use  L1 in class: “getting meanings from contexts”, “paraphrasing “, “miming“, ”gestures”, “the use of realia” ”paralinguistic features”, etc, etc were some of the techniques I was taught to use to avoid the “hampering” use of L1 in the class.


     Using L1 impeded acquisition, we were told. The very famous L1 interference, language transfer, among others was held responsible for many of our students’ mistakes in the process of learning a foreign language. The conclusion was simple: There was little (if any) we could get from using L1 in the communicative language class.


     The fact of the matter is that while teachers kept telling their students not to do it, students kept translating (and most likely will always translate) into and out of their own languages; any fairly experienced EFL teacher knows this. So how do we deal with this? What are we supposed to do with regard to something we have been told to avoid but in practice very few of us can actually manage to achieve? Does the fact that we usually cannot get our students to avoid using L1 in the classroom mean that we somehow fail as communicative teachers? These and other questions on the subject drove me to do some further research on this extremely relevant topic.


     By using a 100% DIRECT METHOD approach we can find ourselves in some bizarre situations, performing real contortionist acts when trying to explain a language item when a simple translation could save both teacher’s and students’ a great deal of time and anguish. Could you easily explain just in English the meaning of FAITH to a group of students? Would it not be much faster and memorable to use its equivalent in L1 directly?




     So far we can say that using L1 in the foreign language class has not been CLT’s favorite principle. However, recent research findings have demonstrated that much too radical CLT methodology advocates’ disagreement, it has an important place in the EFL classroom. Let us begin by mentioning when it is not advisable to use L1.


    We should not overuse L1 in the classroom. Learning a foreign language is a difficult process. Using the target language as much as possible should be the main goal of any language course. I think there is no need to argue on this point. Therefore, we should be careful about overusing L1.


L1 should not be used during speaking and creative activities, there is little justification for this unless misunderstanding of instructions may lead to different results. The use of L1 in pronunciation is usually inappropriate. The use of L1 should not become students’ (or even worse the teacher’s) lifesaver they can take hold of every time a difficult moment comes up. L1 should not be used to explain simple vocabulary or to remind students past items they have already studied and simply cannot remember. The use of L1 is not advisable either to save students from embarrassment or miscomprehension in the understanding of COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT. It is not something they should use to avoid hard work, placate fear of failure or compensate for lack of motivation. In these cases the teacher must make students think and speak in TL..


     I understand that not all EFL teachers will agree with the ideas presented in this article. I particularly support the idea that English should be the main language to be used in an EFL class. I totally support communicative methodological arguments like the one saying that students should be exposed as much as possible to the target language to permit its acquisition considering that their language class is the only time when they can be in contact with the target language in their otherwise L1 environment, and the one stating that by inhibiting L1 use in the class, students are forced to think and speak in English therefore to produce COMPREHENSIBLE OUTPUT and negotiate meaning.


     However, I suggest that in contrast to traditional Communicative Language Teaching methodology a controlled and judicious use of L1 can have both pedagogical and affective positive effects in the communicative language class. In the light of recent research the use of L1 seems of particular importance in EFL classes.


     Additionally, I suggest that in contrast to ESL contexts where English teaching presents a different context, EFL teachers in the Middle East and North Africa should take into account not just the mere linguistic aspect of English but also its important socio-cultural implications. By bringing English to the language class with elements of their mother tongue students will welcome English more easily and will feel that neither the English language nor its culture is being imposed to them.


      All this, is of particular importance if we are to create a student-centered classroom as most new methodological trends seem to be suggesting these days.


By : Edgar Larrea


There seems to be political and ideological reasons rather than pedagogical reasons behind the challenging debate on L1 use. These ideological / political reasons date back to the Americanization movement in the 19th century. While this  movement  gave  rise  the spread of ESL instruction, ELT methodology advocated the use of English-only instruction, for example as in direct method, in contrast to the earlier ones in which the use of learners’ L1 had been allowed, as in Grammar-Translation (Celce-Murcia,1991; Auerbach,1993; and Richard & Rodgers, 1986).

         With the World War I, the number of immigrants increased in America. This immigration movement made ESL instruction more important than ever because those immigrants were working at different jobs and expected to speak good English.This Americanization movement influenced ELT methods. For example; Direct Method, which put an emphasis on using English only with no L1 was allowed  (Auerbach,1993).

        L1 use in ELT methodology  was not only affected  by the Americanization  movement  but it was also  affected  by  British policies. In the  late 1950s and  early1960s, English  was regarded as  a tool which helps  the spreading colonies  of  Britain. Therefore, L1  use had no  place  in  ELT. In a conference at  Makare University, Uganda in 1961, an ELT  expert mentioned  that ;

      “English is best taught monolingually. The ideal teacher of English is a native  speaker. The earlier English is taught, the  better  are the results. The more English is  taught, the  better  are the results. If other languages are used too much, standards of  English  will drop” (Phillipson, 1992.p.185).

       So we conclude that spreading English was such a  strong  purpose in America and Britain that using L1 was excluded in  ESL during Americanization movement.

         However, researches   in ELT showed that L1 can be a very important source. The belief that L1 use might play an important  to improve the  foreign language has  received great attention in bilingual education (Collingham, 1988; and Piasecka,1988 ) lists the advantages of using learners’ L1 in ESL classrooms like:

      – Valuing and building on the knowledge that learners already have and bring to the classroom.

       – Raising the position of  languages  used by ethnic minorities in Britain, which in turn raises the self esteem of the speakers of those languages, making them more confident and effective  learners.

       –  Raising language awareness.

       – Learners already have some linguistic skills and knowledge; by thinking about their own and other languages, a class will learn  more about language and languages in  general.

      This can speed up aspects of  learning and  increase learners’ tolerance of one another’s  difficulties. Using learners’ first language improves English learning. Using L1 Reduces learner anxiety and increases confidence and motivation in  the classroom. Gaining every learner, no matter how limited their knowledge of English.