Date of Award

5-1-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Halliday, Laura

Abstract

Throughout the history of English Language teaching, the pendulum of L1 use has shifted drastically depending on the method that had gained prominence during a particular period of time. Today, that pendulum has yet to settle and the use of a learner's first language during instruction in a second language classroom continues to be an issue of serious debate. This study aimed to examine the effect of L1 use in instruction on the performance of low proficiency level learners on a grammar task of the present and progressives tenses in an ESL/IEP environment. To determine its effect, the 24 Arabic speaking English learners participating in the study were divided into two groups, an English-Only instruction group and an English & Arabic instruction group and an instrument with three item types (items with adverbials, non-action verbs and context clues that determined tense use) was created. The participants were given the instrument as a pre-and post-test before and after instruction on present and progressive tense use in either English only or English and Arabic according to the group. After the post-test, the students took a survey intended to ascertain their perceptions of the instruction they received. The quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and independent and dependent t-tests to draw comparisons between the means of the performance scores of both groups and within each group over the pre- and post-tests. Additionally, the quantitative data from the survey underwent content analysis to discover themes for student preference for instructional language use in the classroom. The resultant findings showed that the participants in the English & Arabic Group performed better on the grammar task and had greater percent increases from the pre-test to the post-test than the English-Only Group. The means of the total performance score and of the question types exhibited these same increases. The surveys indicated that the participants in the English & Arabic Group understood their instruction better and a majority of the participants preferred the use of both English and Arabic during grammar instruction irrespective of language instructional group during the treatment. This study showed that the use of L1 in the classroom has measureable positive effects on the learning of the students. Moreover, it has contributed to the growing body of research in favor of L1 use in the classroom and has considerable implications for the field of second language teaching.

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