March 28, 2015 Dan Frost & Prof. Rintaro Sato: Considering the use of L1 (Japanese) in English language classes: A discussion of its effectiveness

posted Mar 31, 2015, 10:47 PM by Hamamatsu JALT   [ updated Apr 2, 2015, 8:36 PM ]

On March 28, 2015 Dan Frost and Professor Rintaro Sato of Nara University of Education examined the pros and cons of using L1 and L2 in class and to what extent both should and can be used.

Dan Frost set out his arguments for only using English in the classroom (allowing Japanese for reference or confirmation only). There was some extended polite disagreement about this. Professor Sato argued for the judicious use of the Japanese language. While Frost argued in favor of even using English for explicit grammar instruction, Professor Sato generally rejected that, but did concede that in some instances Japanese grammar textbooks do go too far (e.g., no need for 私はサッカーが好きです for I like soccer). There was general agreement from the audience also that Japanese textbooks use too much Japanese. Sato suggested that future textbooks may get rid of a lot of unnecessary Japanese. We'll have to wait and see.

During the course of the debate which was actually closer to a discussion, Professor Sato advocated first building up teacher talk in English and then trying to increase student talk (ideally 80%). He touched on the importance of creating a psychologically satisfying environment where students can feel as comfortable as possible using L2 with their peers. He stated his view that the JTE is a more suitable role model for learners than native-speaker teachers, which is frequently mentioned in the literature.

There was a lot of lively interrogation from the audience so both presenters were called upon to carefully justify their positions. In the end it was concluded that only English in the classroom might be difficult and that there is still a great of room left for improvements in Japan's EFL programs. At this point the discussion became too far reaching so we adjourned.

Reported by Gregg McNabb