Using Swedish (L1) in the English (L2)
A study examining how much, when, and why teachers use Swedish in the English classroom
Independent project Main field of study: English Credits: 15 hp
Semester/Year: Autumn 2019 Supervisor: Rachel Allan Examiner: Irina Frisk
Course code/registration number: EN016A
1 Introduction ... 1
2 Background ... 2
2.1 Theory and approach ... 2
2.2 L1 in L2 classrooms ... 3
2.2.1 L2-only classrooms ... 3
2.2.2 L1 as a tool ... 4
2.2.3 Factors and functions for using L1 ... 5
2.3 Previous research ... 6
3 Aim and hypothesis ... 7
4 Method and material ... 8
4.1 Research approach ... 8 4.2 Participants ... 8 4.3 Data collection ... 10 4.4 Analysing data ... 11 4.5 Ethical consideration ... 13 4.6 Limitations of study ... 14
5 Results and analysis ... 14
5.1 Use of L1 ... 14
5.2 L1 use vs. teacher background ... 25
5.3 L1 use in year 4 vs. year 5 ... 27
6 Discussion ... 28
6.1 Findings in relation to sociocultural theory and CLT ... 28
6.2 How much and why is L1 used? ... 29
6.3 When is L1 used? ... 30
6.4 Differences between teachers’ L1 use ... 30
7 Conclusion ... 31
References ... 32
How to best learn a new language is, and has been an ongoing debate for a long time. New ideas and theories regarding use of our first language (L1) have always been around; some advocating its use and some not. To avoid or minimise the use of L1 in the second language (L2) classroom has been the dominant approach in second language teaching in recent times, although L1 use is becoming more widely accepted, or at least less frowned upon (De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:742). In fact according to some researchers, L1 must be used in the classroom for instance to enable communication, convey meaning, support students, and facilitate relationships (Harbord 1992; Cook 2001 as cited in Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015:68).
Whether to use, or not to use L1 in L2 classrooms is an interesting topic that I believe is current in Swedish schools today. During my internships while studying to become a primary school teacher, I have heard discussion amongst English teachers where there have been divided opinions on how to teach English, especially regarding the use of L1, in this case Swedish. Some have said that the Swedish National Agency for Education states that they should only speak English during the lessons. However, I have not found a policy on their website stating that. Other teachers have said that Swedish needs to be a part of English teaching, since there needs to be a way to create a link between the two languages. Regarding the topic of using L1 in L2 classrooms I have not found any studies focusing on Swedish schools, and I believe that this is a gap in the research that should be addressed.
In this section topics will be presented that have relevance to the study. Theories and approaches will be outlined in section 2.1, then L1 in L2 classrooms in section 2.2, and finally previous research in section 2.3.
2.1 Theory and approach
The theory that has relevance to this study is Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, and the relevant approach is Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). Both sociocultural theory and CLT are connected through the need for interaction between students and teachers. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory describes learning as a social process; learners obtain new knowledge from each other or with the guidance from someone more able, for instance a teacher (Vygotsky 1978:85; Vygotsky 1987:209). According to sociocultural theory, learners co-produce knowledge through interaction within the social process as well as within the internal world. The guidance from a teacher can for example help the learner reach beyond his or her capacity, within what Vygotsky (1987:209) termed the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory supports cooperative learning where scaffolding takes place within the ZPD. Cooperative learning is where students work together to maximise their own and each other’s learning, and scaffolding is the assistance or guidance given by someone more able to help the learner solve a problem (Panhwar et al. 2016:185; Richards & Rodgers 2010a:192). Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory has been broadly accepted within educational practice, and is an appropriate foundation in language learning since it engages both students and teachers in pedagogical activities (Gibbons 2010:36).
life, and they should be aware of the purpose of communication. Furthermore, students need to be able to share information with others, choose how and what they are going to say, and lastly practice with material linked to their needs and interest (Littlewood 1981, Savignon 1983 and Taylor 1983 as cited in Cheng 2015:706).
2.2 L1 in L2 classrooms
Use of L1 in L2 classrooms is a subject provoking ongoing debate when it comes to language teaching (Cheng 2015:707). In sections 2.2.1 and 2.2.2, both positive and negative views on L1 use will be presented, followed by section 2.2.3, where the functions and factors of L1 applied in this study will be explained.
2.2.1 L2-only classrooms
Some researchers believe in monolingual classrooms where the teacher aims to use as much L2 as possible. L2-only has been common in teaching methods as most of them have been influenced by the Direct Method; a method that requires the teacher to refrain from using L1. Learning is considered to be maximised if the students are only exposed to L2 (Khonamri & Khonamri 2017:34; Tveiten 2019:13; Wu 2008:52; Butzkamm 2003, Eldridge 1996 and Mering & Norman 2002 as cited in Sampson 2011:293). Even though there is some L1 use in L2-only classrooms, it is very often seen as a negative that should be put aside; i.e. L1 should be minimised, preferably not mentioned at all (Cook 2001:403ff.). L2-only has been considered a central foundation in CLT; however, according to Cook (2001:405), there is no logical obligation why tasks within the CLT approach should require students to avoid L1.
that L2 should be acquired like children acquire L1, which is done by only using L2 in the classroom. But L2 learners are not small children with no language, they are often more mature, developed socially, and already know “how to mean” (Halliday 1975 and Singleton 1989 as cited in Cook 2001:406). It is also argued that the use of L1 by the teacher reduces students’ exposure to L2, particularly in the case of environments with limited access to L2 (Wharton 2004 as cited in Zulfikar 2018:47).
2.2.2 L1 as a tool
The CLT approach provides a learner-centred classroom, in which learners are active participants (Richards & Rodgers 2010b:158). By being active participants, the students are “more responsible managers of their own learning” (Banciu & Jireghie 2012:97); this leads to the teacher becoming more of a passive observer after setting up the task. Teachers need to adapt their use of L2 to fit the learners' comprehension, as it is all about finding the right balance between maximising use of L2 and using L1 as a support (Wu 2008:52). Therefore it seems fitting that L1 has a place in a communicative classroom as a scaffolding tool. The use of L1 as a scaffolding tool increases learners’ comprehension, while reducing anxiety and stress (Alrabah et al. 2016:3ff.; Brooks-Lewis 2009:233; Cheng 2015:707). In other words, L1 is a tool to reduce affective filters, which is a psychological obstacle influenced by the learner’s emotions that can hinder L2 acquisition (Meyer 2008 and Norman 2008 as cited in Carson & Kashikara 2012:42). Using L1 to reduce affective filters creates a less stressful environment, thus enhancing L2 acquisition. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory can be considered to speak against monolingual classrooms since L1 can be classed as a scaffolding tool in addition to serving cognitive and social functions (Antón & DiCamilla 1999:236; De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:755; Khonamri & Khonamri 2017:34ff.; Levine 2014:332; Swain & Lapkin 2000 as cited in Carless 2007:331).
sociolinguistic reasons for L1 to have a place in the L2 classroom. Students can benefit from their knowledge of their L1 when it comes to understanding the world, new concepts and a new language; in other words L1 becomes a cognitive tool (Artemeva 1995, Butzkamm 1998, Cook 2011, Hinkel 1980 and van Lier 1995 as cited in De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:743). L1 as a sociolinguistic tool means the student can collect ideas that can help their L2 acquisition and also encourage interaction between students in the L2 classroom (Antón & DiCamilla 1999, Storch & Wigglesworth 2003, Thoms, Liao & Szustak 2005 and Wells 1998 as cited in De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:743). Moreover, L1 is also beneficial to the language learning process as a psychological tool; Antón and DiCamilla (1999:245) explain that in order to complete a language task, L1 enables the students to engage in effective collaborative dialogue by for instance providing scaffolding and prerequisites to generate content.
2.2.3 Factors and functions for using L1
Previous research has concluded there are a number of factors around why L1 is used and functions referring to when L1 is used. The factors around why L1 is used in the L2 classroom are the following: for efficiency, for learning, for naturalness and for external relevance (Cook 2001:413). L1 can be used to increase efficiency when performing a task, and support learning by using it alongside L2; participants can feel more comfortable or natural about some topics using L1 rather than L2. Lastly, use of L1 and L2 alongside each other can help students master specific uses of L2 they may need in external real life situations (Cook 2001:413).
2.3 Previous research
Numerous studies have been conducted regarding teachers’ use of L1 in the L2 classroom. There are a number of older but often cited studies, such as Polio and Duff (1994 as cited in De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:743), and Franklin (1990 as cited in De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:743) who have all been mentioned in previous sections. The present study is based on somewhat newer material; a study from 2009 by De la Campa and Nassaji as well as a study from 2015 by Bozorgian and Fallahpour, which will be described in the following paragraphs.
De la Campa and Nassaji (2009) conducted a study that examined the quantity of L1 used in the L2 classroom, and the purposes and reasons for using it. The study was performed in two Canadian second year German conversation courses at university level. Data was collected through audio- and video-recordings of eight lessons, interviews with the two teachers as well as stimulated
recall sessions (SRS). SRS is a research tool that is used to collect the participants' thought
processes regarding an event they have been involved in. This is done by playing a recording of an event which helps the participant to remember their thought processes during that particular event (De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:745). Data from the recordings were transcribed and coded through the computer programme CHILDES, Child Language Data Exchange System, a program that performs conversation analyses and language learning related research, including identifying all occurrences of L1 use (De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:745ff.). These instances were then analysed quantitatively to see the amount of L1 use.
The functions for the occurrences were for instance: translation, translation from L2 to L1;
L1-L2 contrast, L1 utterances used to contrast L2 forms or cultural concepts; evaluation,
code-switching to evaluate students’ contributions; activity instruction, instructions in L1; activity
objective, describing activity objective in L1; elicitation of student contribution, L1 utterances to
between the teachers when it came to why they used L1; the teacher with less experience often used L1 for translating while the teacher with more experience used it for jokes, personal takes on events or to create an enjoyable environment. The purpose of L1 use was shown to be both pedagogical and social (De la Campa & Nassaji 2009:755).
Bozorgian and Fallahpour (2015) conducted a study that examined the amount and purposes of L1 use in EFL classrooms by teachers and students. The study was performed in a total of six pre-intermediate English classes in two English language institutes in Iran. Six teachers and 155 students participated (Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015:71ff.). Data was collected through video recordings of two lessons per teacher, which were then transcribed and coded for L1 instances. The analysis of data was done both quantitatively and qualitatively through counting the total amount of L1 words and utterances, and identifying them, as well as specifying the purpose of L1 use based on the coding scheme from the above-mentioned study by De la Campa and Nassaji (Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015:72ff.).
The coding scheme was then extended by Bozorgian and Fallahpour (2015:75) with seven more functions, which were the following: Encouraging, use of L1 for the sake of encouraging and reinforcing students; Giving reference, use of L1 to refer to an external material or a specific part of the book; Asking questions, use of L1 to ask questions; Answering, use of L1 to answer the questions; Scaffolding, use of L1 in group work tasks or in other occasions to help each other;
Self-correction, use of L1 for interrupting their own speech and correcting it; and Clarification, use of
L1 to ask for clarification and elaboration on complex issues (Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015:76). The results of the study showed that teachers and students used a small amount of L1 in the classroom; the purpose of using L1 was as a facilitative tool to, for instance: convey meaning, manage the classroom, make a friendly environment, reduce the students’ anxiety and facilitate communication. The study concluded that L1 is an important and effective tool in L1 learning and teaching processes (Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015:78ff.).
3 Aim and hypothesis
what extent it is positive, i.e. to help the pupils understand or for other aims such as reducing affective filters. For this purpose, the research questions for the following study are:
• How much, when, and why is Swedish (L1) used when the observed teachers are teaching English (L2)?
• Is there any evidence that the amount of Swedish (L1) used is affected by the teachers’ education/experience/confidence?
• How does the use of L1 differ between years 4-6, if at all?
My hypothesis is that the results will show that L1 is used regularly in the L2 classroom. I expect that L1 will be used for a range of functions, particularly for giving instructions and translating words or sentences. Furthermore, I expect to find that L1 is used more at different stages of the lesson; for example, at the beginning of the lessons due to giving instructions and answering questions. Regarding any possible differences between years 4-6; I think that year 4 will contain more L1 than year 5, due to the difference in knowledge and comprehension.
4 Method and material
In section 4.1 the research approach will be presented. Furthermore, participants will be introduced (section 4.2) as well as data collection methods (section 4.3), and how the data has been analysed (section 4.4). Lastly, ethical consideration (section 4.5), and limitations (section 4.6) concerning the current study will be presented.
4.1 Research approach
This study mainly takes a qualitative research approach because the aim is to find out what characterises L1 use rather than generating generalisable results. However there is also a quantitative element to the study since the use of L1 in the classrooms has been measured and analysed through numerical data. Data was collected and interpreted through surveys, observations and semi-structured interviews to find which factors and functions influenced L1 use.
I had previously interviewed through her private email; she wanted to participate and she helped me get in contact with the other five participants.
The six teachers that were recruited taught English in either year 4 or year 5. The participating teachers have been anonymised by referring to them as Teacher A, B, C, D, E and F. Furthermore, they will all be called ‘she’, as a way of maintaining the anonymity. In table 1 below, some background information about each teacher is presented, which was gathered through a survey (see appendix 1). The survey asked for their education and graduation year (year); if they were certified to teach English (Cert.); if they had any students with Swedish as a second language (SSL); their confidence in speaking English on a Likert-scale of 1 to 5 (Con.), where 5 is most confident, and which methods and approaches they preferred. The methods have been abbreviated and are as follows; Communicative language teaching (CLT); Task-based learning (TBL); Grammar translation method (GTM); Total physical response (TPR), and Audiolingual (AL).
Table 1: Background information about each teacher.
Participants Education Year Cert. SSL Con. Methods/Approaches
Teacher A Primary 1-7 1998 Yes No 5 CLT, TBL Teacher B Primary 4-6 2016 Yes No 4 CLT, TBL Teacher C Ext. school 2017 No No 4 CLT, GTM, TPR Teacher D Primary 4-6 2016 Yes No 5 CLT, GTM
Teacher E Primary F-6 2011 Yes No 3 CLT, GTM, TPR, AL, TBL Teacher F Primary 1-7 1991 Yes Yes 5 CLT, GTM, TPR, AL
TPR along with CLT, while Teacher E prefers CLT, GTM, TPR, AL, and TBL. Lastly Teacher F prefers CLT, GTM, TPR and AL.
4.3 Data collection
Three methods of data collection were used in this study, namely: through a total of six individual survey answers, observations, and semi-structured interviews.
The observed lessons varied in length from 30-90 minutes; the type of lesson structure and focus also varied, as well as age group and if the teacher was active or passive. Active means walking around the room and helping as the students work individually; passive means being more of an observer while the students work together to solve a task. Each teacher’s lesson features are shown below in table 2.
Table 2: Information about each lesson regarding length, and type.
Participants Length Type of lesson Year Active/Passive
Teacher A 90 min Speaking, reading, writing and listening 5 Active Teacher B 90 min Speaking, reading, writing and listening 5 Active
Teacher C 30 min Listening and reading 4 Active
Teacher D 30 min Vocabulary group work 4 Passive
Teacher E 60 min Writing and speaking 5 Active
Teacher F 60 min Reading, translating and writing 4 Active
write stories and Christmas cards. Teacher F was active throughout the lesson helping and asking questions.
Before the observations two surveys were sent out to each teacher to be filled in and sent back to me. The two surveys were created through an online tool called Google Surveys; one in English and one in Swedish. The links to these were then emailed out to the teachers that had agreed to participate. These were to be filled in before booking in observations and interviews. The survey questions are given in section 4.2 (see also appendix 1). They got to choose which of the two surveys to fill in, and all of the teachers chose to fill it in in Swedish.
Observations were performed to see how much, when, and for what reason the teachers used L1 during their English lesson. I sat at the back of the classroom simply as an observer without any interaction with the participant or students. To help achieve objective observations I created an observation grid with different language functions, as well as time frames; beginning, middle, and end of lesson. Through the grid I could simply tick in the suitable function when the teacher made an utterance in L1. An utterance in this study is defined by either one word or a longer sentence. The criteria for it to be classed as one is that the utterance is either interrupted by switching to L2, a longer pause, or changing subject. The observation grid was created by choosing functions I thought would be likely to appear. These functions are presented in section 4.4. The grid is provided in appendix 2.
The interviews conducted after the observation were semi-structured with a few prepared questions (see appendix 3). The aim of the interviews was to ascertain the teachers’ opinion of L1 use in the L2 classroom, and to clear up any questions that arose during the observations. The answers from the participants were then used to support the data from the observations during the analysis.
4.4 Analysing data
Table 3: Functions referring to when L1 is used in this study.
L1 Functions Description of L1 function
Asking questions The teacher asks a question in L1
Attention The teacher calls for attention from the students Classroom equipment The teacher uses L1 when dealing with course
books, digital tools, furniture etc.
Comprehension check The teacher uses L1 to make sure the students have understood the task
Evaluation The teacher uses L1 to evaluate/praise the students Explain/teach grammar The teacher uses L1 to explain or teach grammar Instructions/clarifying task The teacher uses L1 to give instructions for a task
or clarifying it Organising students
The teacher uses L1 to organise students, for example tell them to sit down or stop doing something irrelevant
Other information/task background The teacher uses L1 to give other information about for example upcoming events or attendance Reaction to student’s question or reaction The teacher uses L1 to answer questions or to
respond to a student reaction
Repeating student’s answer The teacher uses L1 when repeating a student’s answer Sentence filler The teacher uses L1 as a sentence filler while speaking L2 Social conversation The teacher uses L1 as a social tool, for example to lower affective filters
Spelling The teacher uses L1 to spell an L2 word
Talking to other staff The teacher speaks to other staff, external or internal in L1
Translating phrases or single words The teacher translates words or phrases from L2 to L1
The functions in table 3 are Asking questions in L1; Classroom equipment where the teacher uses L1 when dealing with digital tools, course books etc.; Comprehension check in L1 to make sure students understand; Evaluation in L1 to evaluate students; Explain/teach grammar in L1;
Instructions/clarifying task in L1 to make sure students understand; Organising students in L1
when for instance telling them to sit down or be quiet; Other information/task background in L1 about upcoming events or for example background of a text they are reading; Reaction to student’s
question or reaction where the teacher replies in L1 to a student asking a question in L1, or
responding to a student’s reaction; Repeating student’s answer in L1 because the student used L1;
tool for example to lower affective filters; Spelling and L2 word using L1; Talking to other staff in L1, for example help teacher or someone knocking on door to ask something; and finally
Translating phrases or single words from L2 to L1. After the collection and identification, the data
was structured in tables and figures which could easily be used for comparisons. Finally, the result of the data was analysed in connection to the research questions.
How much L1 use was analysed through looking at the observation grid and creating tables from the existing data. When L1 was used was analysed by looking at which time period of the lesson it occurred, at the beginning, middle or end; when is also connected to why L1 was used, as in when meaning ‘for what reason’. Why L1 was used was analysed through looking at which function and factor the L1 use represents; for instance, the function Instructions/clarifying task and the factor learning.
Since the lessons were of different length with 2x30 minutes, 2x60 minutes, and 2x90 minutes, the results of the longer lessons were analysed in two stages to ensure a valid comparison. More specifically, the first stage comprised the full length of these lessons, and the second the first 30 minutes. When comparing the teachers’ L1 use regarding education, experience, and confidence as well as comparing L1 use between year 4 and 5, the lessons were only analysed for the first 30 minutes. This was done to be able to compare the L1 use during the same number of minutes between all lessons. This does have an impact on the question of when the teachers use L1, since the longer lessons in the second step are only analysed at the beginning, or beginning and part of the middle. However, how much L1 was used in total during the beginning, middle, and end are presented in the summarised result (section 5.1.7), and when L1 was used in each full length lesson is presented in the individual results (section 5.1).
Whether the L1 use was affected by the teachers’ education, experience, and/or confidence was analysed by looking for links between their L1 use and their background, as well as comparing them to each other via tables. To see if there were any differences between the teachers’ L1 use and the age of the students, the L1 use in all functions as well as specific functions were compared via tables.
4.5 Ethical consideration
participation at any time, and they were informed that they would be kept anonymous. The participating teachers gave their consent to participate through the first email mentioned in (section 4.2) and at that time they were also informed about the aim of the study. The collected results may only be used for scientific reasons.
4.6 Limitations of study
Several limitations of the present study should be kept in mind. One is the limited sample; more diverse data from a wider range of schools, teachers and classes would have given a more comprehensive result. Furthermore, the different length and types of lessons (section 4.3) limited the study regarding the analysis of how much, when, and why they used L1. Data collection through observations leads to the consideration of the observer’s paradox; participants’ behaviours might have been influenced by their assumptions of the researcher’s expectations. Data was also lost through the observations during the time the teacher left the classroom to attend to students sitting out in the corridor or in group rooms. Lastly, it could be argued that there is subjectivity in the analysis; the opinion of what one instance of L1 use is in this study might not be the same as in another researcher's opinion regarding the definition and classifications of utterances.
5 Results and analysis
The results presented below are divided into three subsections relating to the research questions (section 3). Firstly, individual, and summarised results regarding how much, when, and why the teachers use L1 is presented, as well as their opinions on L1 use (section 5.1). Secondly, results of whether L1 use is affected by the teachers’ background is presented (section 5.2). Lastly, results of whether L1 use differs between the years 4-5 is presented (section 5.3).
5.1 Use of L1
their lesson. As mentioned in section 4.4 each lesson longer than 30 minutes also presents a result for the first 30 minutes as to compare results of L1 use during the same number of minutes. Since the interest lies in which functions that have been used. Functions not used have been removed from the figures.
5.1.1 Teacher A
Teacher A was observed in year five during a 90 minute lesson. The observed L1 use is presented below in figure 1.
Figure 1: The amount, when and through which functions, Teacher A used L1.
The total number of times L1 was used by Teacher A was 49. The results show that Teacher A used L1 the most during the end of the lesson with 23 instances; in the beginning L1 was used 18 times, and during the middle 8 times. The function that brings the amount of L1 up during the end is Classroom equipment with 5 instances; in this case because the students were using laptops and she used L1 to help them get going. The function with the highest amount of L1 use was
Instructions/clarifying task with 10 instances (20.4%), 6 of those being at the beginning of the
lesson, which can be explained by Teacher A going through all the different task briefly at the beginning and then again in more detail when it was time for those tasks to be performed. The second most used function for L1 use was Translating phrases or single words with 8 instances (16.3%), which also added to the L1 use during the end of the lesson as the students were filling in single word answers to questions in L2, and they might only know the answer in L1. Finally,
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
the third most used functions were Classroom equipment and Reaction to student’s question or
reaction, both with 6 instances (12.2%).
The least used functions were fairly close to each other regarding how much they were used. At the bottom were Asking questions, Other information/task background, Spelling, and
Talking to other staff with 1 instance (2%) each. The second least used functions were Attention
and Repeating student’s answer with 2 instances (4%) each, followed by the third least used functions Evaluation and Organising students with 3 instances (6.1%) each. In between least used and most used functions we find Social conversation with 5 instances (10.2%).
The total number of times L1 was used in the first 30 minutes was 18, in which
Instructions/clarifying task was the most common function with 6 instances (33.3%), which was
discussed above. Translating phrases or single words was the second most used with 3 instances (16.6%), those translations occurred when the students were speaking and knew the L1 word but not the L2 translation. The third most used function was Repeating student’s answer with 2 instances (11.1%), due to Teacher A repeating a student’s answer so everyone could hear it. The least used functions were Asking questions, Attention, Organising students, Reaction to student’s
question or reaction, Social conversation, Spelling and Talking to other staff with 1 instance
5.1.2 Teacher B
Teacher B was observed in year 5 during a 90 minute lesson. The observed L1 use is presented below in figure 2.
Figure 2: The amount, when and through which functions Teacher B used L1.
0 2 4 6 8 10
The total number of times L1 was used by Teacher B was 82. The results show that Teacher B used L1 the most during the middle of the lesson with 30 instances; in the beginning L1 was used 29 times, and during the end 23 times. The reason for L1 use being higher during the middle of the lesson was due to a conflict between Teacher B and a few students regarding the task they were doing. The function with the highest amount of L1 use was Translating phrases or single words with 20 instances (24.3%), which was due to the nature of the task where the students were writing a text about themselves. The second most used function was Reaction to student’s question or
reaction with 13 instances (15.8%), L1 through this function seemed mainly used as an efficiency
factor to speed up the conversation. Finally, the third most used function was Organising students with 9 instances (10.9%), this function was very evenly used throughout the lesson, possibly because Teacher B was not the ordinary English teacher in this class.
The least used functions were Comprehension check, Explain/teach grammar and Other
information/task background with 2 instances (2.4%) each, and the second least used functions
were Classroom equipment and Sentence filler with 3 instances (3.6%) each. The function
Attention with 4 instances (4.8%) was the third least during this lesson, and in the middle of most
used and least used functions are Evaluation and Social conversation with 5 instances (6.1%) each, as well as Asking questions and Instructions/clarifying task with 7 instances (8.5%) each.
The total number of times L1 was used in the first 30 minutes was 29, in which Translating
phrases or single words was the most common function with 9 instances (31%). The first 30
minutes was a speaking exercise where the students talked about their hobbies, which meant there was new vocabulary that needed translating. The second most used functions were
Instructions/clarifying task, Organising students and Reaction to student’s question or reaction
with 3 instances (10.3%) each, which were expected functions at the beginning of a lesson. The third most used functions were Comprehension check, Other information/task background,
Sentence filler and Social conversation with 2 instances (6.9%) each, and the least used functions
5.1.3 Teacher C
Teacher C was observed in year 4 during a 30 minute lesson. The observed L1 use is presented below in figure 3.
Figure 3: The amount, when and through which functions Teacher C used L1.
The total number of times L1 was used by Teacher C was 26. The results show that Teacher C used L1 the most during the beginning of the lesson with 12 instances; during the middle L1 was used 4 times, and at the end 10 times. L1 was used more at the beginning of the lesson since they had to change classroom, and also because Teacher C translated each instruction into L1. The function with the highest amount of L1 use was Translating phrases or single words with 12 instances (46.1%), this function was as previously mentioned higher because Teacher C used L1 to translate almost every utterance in L2 into L1. This can be referred to as a learning, and natural factor by using L1 in contrast to L2 for an easier transition to a new language as well as reducing affective filters. The second most used functions were Instructions/clarifying task, Organising
students, and Reaction to student’s question or reaction with 3 instances (11.5%) each. Instructions/clarifying task could have been higher, but since Teacher C gave the instructions in
L2 first and then L1 the function used was Translating phrases or single words.
As the total amount of functions used was low the place of the third most used and the least used functions were shared by Asking questions, Comprehension check, Evaluation, Other
information/task background and Talking to other staff with 1 instance (3.8%) each. The results
are not being presented for the first 30 minutes due to the fact that this lesson was only 30 minutes long. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
5.1.4 Teacher D
Teacher D was observed in year 4 during a 30 minute lesson. The observed L1 use is presented below in figure 4.
Figure 4: The amount, when and through which functions Teacher D used L1.
The total number of times L1 was used by Teacher D was 26. The results show that Teacher D used L1 the most during the beginning of the lesson with 6 instances; during the middle L1 was used 4 times, and at the end 3 times. L1 was used more during the beginning of the lesson as Teacher D then translated vocabulary that reoccurred throughout the lesson. The function with the highest amount of L1 use was Translating phrases or single words with 10 instances (76.9%), this function was higher because the lesson was about writing down as many words as possible within a certain subject, e.g. sports. The second most used functions were Attention,
Instruction/Clarifying task, and Reaction to student’s question or reaction with 1 instance (7.6%)
each. There were no other functions used due to the lesson being structured in such a way that Teacher D was more of a passive observer. The results are not being presented for the first 30 minutes since this lesson was only 30 minutes long.
5.1.5 Teacher E
Teacher E was observed in year 5 during a 60 minute lesson. The observed L1 use is presented below in figure 5.
Figure 5: The amount, when and through which functions Teacher E used L1.
The total number of times L1 was used by Teacher E was 54. The results show that Teacher E used L1 the most during the end of the lesson with 23 instances; in the beginning L1 was used 16 times, and during the middle 15 times. During the end of the lesson a wider range of functions were used then at the beginning and during the middle, which brought the amount up. The function with the highest amount of L1 use was Reaction to student’s questions or reaction with 12 instances (22.2%); this function seemed to be mainly used as an efficiency and naturalness factor. The second most used function was Instruction/Clarifying task with 8 instances (14.8%); Teacher E gave all the instructions in L1 to make sure the students understood the task. Classroom equipment with 7 instances (12.9%) was the third most used function as the students used laptops and Teacher E used L1 to help them get started with the task.
The least used functions were Comprehension check, Repeating student’s answer, and
Talking to other staff with 1 instance (1.8%) each. Evaluation, Organising students, Other information/task background, and Social conversation with 2 instances (3.7%) each share the spot
of second least used functions, while Asking questions, Attention, Explain/teach grammar, and
Spelling share the spot of third least used functions with 3 instances (5.5%) each. In between the
most used, and least used function we find Translating phrases and single words with 4 instances (7.4%). 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
The total number of times L1 was used in the first 30 minutes was 24, in which the most used functions were Reaction to student’s question or reaction and Instruction/Clarifying task with 6 instances (25%) each. During task instructions a teacher can usually expect student questions to follow. The second most used function was Classroom equipment with 3 instances (12.5%), which was due to the students using laptops for the first task. Finally the third most used function was shared between Spelling and Translating phrases or single words with 2 instances (8.3%) each, which correlates with the nature of the task to write a text to an image. The least used functions were Attention, Comprehension check, Other information/task background, Repeating student’s
answer, and Translating phrases or single words with 1 instance (4.1%) each.
5.1.6 Teacher F
Teacher F was observed in year 4 during a 60 minute lesson. The observed L1 use is presented below in figure 6.
Figure 6: The amount, when and through which functions Teacher F used L1.
The total number of times L1 was used by Teacher F was 76. The results show that Teacher F used L1 the same number of times in the beginning and the middle of the lesson with 28 instances each; at the end L1 was used 20 times. The higher use of L1 during the beginning and the middle of the lesson was due to the type of tasks. The beginning and middle consisted mostly of reading and translating texts and single words, while the end of the lesson was about writing a text about yourself. The function with the highest amount of L1 use was Translating phrases or single words with 17 instances (22.3%), as the lesson was about translating texts this is not surprising. The
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Asking q
second most used functions for L1 use were Instruction/Clarifying task and Asking questions with 11 instances (14.4%) each; instructions were given in L1 since they were a few unsecure students who needed extra support, which can be referred to the naturalness factor to reduce affective filters.
Comprehension check was the third most used function with 10 instances (13.1%), Teacher F was
careful to make sure every student understood what she was saying.
The least used functions were Social conversation, and Spelling with 1 instance (1.3%) each, and the second least used functions were Classroom Equipment, and Repeating Student’s
answer with 2 instances (2.6%) each. Evaluation, and Explain/teach grammar were the third least
used functions with 3 instances (3.9%) each. In the middle the functions were Attention with 4 instances (5.2%), Organising students with 5 instances (6.5%) and finally Reaction to student’s
question or reaction with 6 instances (7.9%).
The total number of times L1 was used in the first 30 minutes was 40, in which the most used function was Translating phrases or single word with 11 instances (27.5%), and the second most used function was Comprehension check with 9 instances (22.5%). Asking questions was the third most used function with 7 instances (17.5%), which can also be correlated to the insecurity of some students as Teacher F made sure they understood by asking them follow up questions. The least used functions were Classroom equipment, and Explain/teach grammar with 1 instance (2.5%) each, and the second least used functions were Attention, Organising students, Reaction to
student’s question or reaction, and Repeating student’s answer with 2 instances (5%) each. Instructions/clarifying task was the third least used function with 3 instances (7.5%), the reason
this function was lower at the beginning of the lesson was because Teacher F read parts of a text and then translated it with the help of the students; meaning there was not much need for instructions.
5.1.7 Summarised results
anonymity of the participants. The functions (why), the amount of L1, and when it occurred are presented in table 4 below; the result is the combined total of all participants.
Table 4: The total number, when, and why Swedish was used.
L1 Functions Beginning Middle End Total %
Asking questions 8 8 7 23 7.6 Attention 4 8 2 14 4.6 Classroom equipment 4 2 12 18 6 Comprehension check 11 3 0 14 4.6 Evaluation 2 3 9 14 4.6 Explain/teach grammar 0 6 2 8 2.6 Instructions/clarifying task 18 7 15 40 13.3 Organising students 7 5 10 22 7.3
Other information/task background 3 0 3 6 2
Reaction to student’s question or reaction 8 19 14 41 13.6
Repeating student’s answer 5 0 0 5 1.6
Sentence filler 2 1 0 3 1
Social conversation 3 5 5 13 4.3
Spelling 1 4 0 5 1.6
Talking to other staff 2 0 1 3 1
Translating phrases or single words 31 18 22 71 23.6
Total 109 89 102 300 100
The most common function for L1 use was Translating phrases or single words with 71 instances (23.6%), which is a function that is expected in an L2 classroom; if using other words or gestures does not help, a translation is needed. This function is also higher because a few of the teachers used a strategy where they said an utterance in L2 and straight away said it in L1 as way to increase learning and reduce affective filters. The second most common function was Reaction to student’s
question or reaction with 41 instances (13.6%), which can be referred to as the efficiency factor
where answering in L1 might be quicker than L2; or the naturalness factor since L1 is used to make students feel comfortable. The third most common function was Instructions/clarifying task with 40 instances (13.3%), that supports the factors of learning and efficiency; since using L1 reduces affective filters and saves the teacher time having to repeat instructions because of comprehension problems. In the middle of most common functions are Explain/teach grammar with 8 instances (2.6%), and Social conversation with 13 instances (4.3%), closely followed by Attention,
Classroom equipment was used 18 times (6%), and Organising students on 22 occasions (7.3%).
Lastly the function Asking questions was used a total of 23 instances (7.6%).
The least used functions were Talking to other staff and Sentence filler with 3 instances (1%) each, and the second least used functions were Repeating student’s answer and Spelling with 5 instances (1.6%) each. Other information/Task background was the third least used function with 6 instances (2%). Four out of six teachers had the functions Translating phrases or single words, and Instructions/Clarifying task in their top three used functions, while five out of six had Reaction
to student’s question or reaction in the top three; the sixth teacher had Reaction to student’s question or reaction as the fourth highest function, but Comprehension check was used more by
her due to insecure students. It is interesting that the function of using L1 when reacting to a student’s question is common amongst all of them; I interpret that as when a student uses L1 it is most likely that the teacher will too, possibly because that is a natural reaction. L1 was used most during the beginning of the lessons with 109 instances (36.3%), and used the least during the
middle of the lessons with 89 instances (29.6%). At the end of the lessons L1 was used a total of
102 instances (34%); the number of occasions L1 was used does not greatly differ between the beginning, middle, and end of the lessons.
All the above mentioned numerical data has been measured by counting the utterances related to each function; a selection of these utterances were transcribed (see appendix 4). Table 5 below presents a selected sample of the transcribed utterances. The utterance made in L1 is in quotation marks and the English translation is in the third column, square brackets marks my clarification, and ellipses denote a shortening of the utterance.
Table 5: Examples of utterances by function.
L1 Utterances Swedish English Translation
Asking questions “Vem vet, och som kan berätta?” Who knows, and can tell us?
Attention ”Fokus nu då” Come on, focus!
Classroom equipment ”Då plockar ni ihop och hämtar
era datorer” Clean up and grab your laptops
Evaluation ”Jättebra!” Very good!
Explain/teach grammar ”Det är ’are’ om det är två eller fler” You use ’are’ if there’s two or more Instructions/Clarifying
25 Reaction to student’s
question or reaction
”Till enstaka ord får ni använda [Google] translate”
For single words you may use [Google] translate
Sentence filler ”Ja, asså…” Yeah, well…
Spelling ”Som det låter” As it sounds
Translating phrases or single/ words
“Då parar man ihop dem,
‘match’” Then you will pair them together, ‘match’
The utterances in table 5 above are some examples of functions for L1 use, these functions and what they represent are clarified in section 4.4.
5.1.9 Opinions on L1 use
During the interviews the teachers were asked if they think Swedish (L1) has a place in the English language (L2) classroom, and why or why not. To sum up, their answers showed that they do believe L1 has a place in the L2 classroom, but it needs to be carefully balanced. The participating teachers believe that L1 works as a learning and teaching tool; the extent to which it is used depends on the students’ ability, knowledge, and interest. By using L1, the teachers expressed that they can make sure that all students get an equal opportunity for comprehending and learning L2, as well as making them feel comfortable in the classroom. Even though all the teachers expressed that L1 has a place in the L2 classroom, there were some feelings of guilt when using L1; for instance during the interviews, some teachers apologised for using so much L1, which gave the impression they felt as if they had done something incorrectly.
5.2 L1 use vs. teacher background
This section compares the amount of L1 use between the more experienced teachers and the less experienced teachers with regard to their education, experience and confidence. The comparisons will focus on the first 30 minutes of the lesson to get a fair result, as mentioned in section 4.4. A summary of all the participants’ education, experience and confidence can be seen in table 6 below.
Table 6: The teachers’ education, experience in years and confidence on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is most confident.
Participants Education Experience, in years Confidence, scale 1-5
Teacher A Primary 1-7 21 5
Teacher B Primary 4-6 3 4
Teacher D Primary 4-6 3 5
Teacher E Primary F-6 8 3
Teacher F Primary 1-7 16 5
Teacher A, Teacher E and Teacher F have the most experience, and their education certified them to teach the largest span of years (years 1-7 and years F-6); all three are qualified to teach English. Teacher B, Teacher C and Teacher D have less experience, but only Teacher B and D are qualified to teach English. In tables 7 and 8 below the amount of L1 use is presented as two sets of results. Table 7 shows the amount of L1 used by the more experienced teachers and table 8 shows the amount of L1 used by the less experienced teachers.
Table 7: The more experienced teachers’ use of L1.
More experienced Beginning Middle End First 30 min Confidence
Teacher A 18 8 23 18 5
Teacher E 16 15 23 24 3
Teacher F 28 28 20 40 5
Total 62 51 66 82
The more experienced teachers used a higher frequency of L1, but they all mentioned in the interviews that their students’ comprehension and knowledge was at the lower end. Teacher F used the most L1, which is explained by her lesson partially being about translating texts.
Table 8: The less experienced teachers’ use of L1.
Less experienced Beginning Middle End First 30 min Confidence
Teacher B 29 30 23 29 4
Teacher C 12 4 10 26 4
Teacher D 6 4 3 13 5
Total 47 38 36 65
confidence as a 5 used L1 71 times, which gives an average of 23.6 instances per teacher. The two teachers who rated their confidence as a four used L1 55 times, which gives an average of 27.5 instances per teacher. One teacher rated her confidence as a 3 and her total use of L1 was 24 instances. Regarding their education it is only Teacher C that is not certified to teach English and her result does not stand out from the rest. Just as with the result regarding experience these results do not suggest that confidence and education have an impact on L1 use either.
5.3 L1 use in year 4 vs. year 5
This section compares the L1 use between year 4 and year 5 to see how the use differs, if at all. Teacher C, Teacher D and Teacher F taught in year 4, and their combined L1 use gave the top three functions presented in table 9. Teacher A, Teacher B and Teacher E taught in year 5, and their combined L1 use gave the top three functions presented in table 10.
Table 9: The top three functions used in year 4.
L1 functions in year 4 Combined top three amount, first 30 min
Translating phrases or single words 33
Asking questions 8
Instructions/clarifying task 7
The top function for L1 use in year 4 was Translating phrases or single words, with 33 instances during the first 30 minutes, the amount is brought up by Teacher F’s lesson being about translating words and text. The second and third most used function were Asking questions with 8 instances, and Instructions/clarifying task with 7 instances, which are on the lower side considering Teacher D did not speak much at all due to her passive role and Teacher F did not need to instruct her students very much during the translation exercises. However, given the fact that one teacher’s numbers might be higher than usual and another one’s lower, the total amount could give a somewhat accurate indication.
Table 10: The top three functions used in year 5.
L1 functions in year 5 Combined top three amount, first 30 min
Instructions/clarifying task 15
Translating phrases or single words 14
The top function for L1 use in year 5 was Instructions/classifying task, with 15 instances. But the second most used function Translating phrases or single words was close behind with 14 instances in the first 30 minutes. The third function with 11 instances was Reaction to student’s question or
reaction. The question of how the L1 use differs between years 4 and 5 is hard to answer with the
present data since the lessons were of such different character and length, as addressed in section 4.6. Additionally, only measuring the first 30 minutes of the longer lessons to be able to compare all of them to each other also affects the data, even when considering that the L1 use only differed slightly between beginning, middle and end of the lessons (section 5.1.7).
The following section aims to discuss the results of this study with reference to the theoretical background (section 2) and in relation to the research questions (section 3). For clarity the discussion has been divided into four sub-sections. Firstly, in section 6.1 the result will be discussed in relation to theory and approach. In sections 6.2 and 6.3 the result will be discussed in relation to the first research question of how much, when, and why L1 is used. Finally in section 6.4 the result will be discussed in relation to both the second and third research question regarding if differences between the teachers’ background and age of students affects L1 use.
6.1 Findings in relation to sociocultural theory and CLT
During the observations, it was interesting to observe that the majority of the teachers worked with cooperative learning, which is supported by Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (section 2.1). All of the teachers said on the survey (section 4.3) that they prefer to use the CLT approach when teaching English (L2). As mentioned in section 5.1.7 some of the teachers used a strategy of saying an utterance in L2 and then instantly repeating it in Swedish (L1); this contrast is believed to promote L2 learning and let the students develop an improved linguistic awareness (Carless 2007:331ff.; Cenoz 2007, Cook 2002, Macaro 2005, Meiring & Norman 2002 and Üstünel & Seedhouse 2005 as cited in Sampson 2011:293ff.).
guilt, L1 as a teaching and learning tool is also something that was brought up during the interview; teachers were aware of the value of L1 as a scaffolding tool as it increases learners’ comprehension, and reduces affective filters (section 2.2.2). The participating teachers mentioned that L1 use needs to be balanced, and they seemed to be aware that the use of L2 needs to be adapted to fit the learners' comprehension (Wu 2008:52). In short, the teachers appeared to be largely following a principled approach to the use of L1 in the classroom, following sociocultural theory and CLT, although not always consciously.
6.2 How much and why is L1 used?
During the observations, L1 was used in a total of 300 utterances, the most used function was
Translating phrases or single words (23.6%), corresponding to the findings of De la Campa and
Nassaji (2009:750), and Bozorgian and Fallahpour (2015:77), who also found this to be the most common function. The second most-used function was Reaction to student’s question or reaction with 41 instances (13.6%). The fact that the teachers commonly replied to students in L1 may be due to the students’ age and L2 ability, which can be referred to as the learning and naturalness factor (section 2.2.3); when interpreting the data it seems to come naturally for the teacher to answer in L1 when the students use L1 to ask a question. This contrasts with previous studies, where this function was much lower; 4.9% (De la Campa & Nassaji 2009) and 3% (Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015). The third most common function was Instructions/clarifying task with 40 instances (13.3%), the use of this function was in line with previous studies where it got 12.7% (De la Campa & Nassaji 2009) and 12% (Bozorgian & Fallahpour 2015).
6.3 When is L1 used?
The results shows that the most common time during the lessons to use L1 was during the
beginning with 36.3% (109 instances), but the end of the lessons corresponded 34% (102
instances); the least common time was in the middle of the lessons with 29.6% (89 instances). My hypothesis was that the amount of L1 use was going to be higher at the beginning of the lessons, which proved to be true by small margins. I did not expect it to be almost as high at the end of the lessons as during the beginning. However, as the figures show, overall there was relatively little variance throughout the lessons, as the amount of L1 used in the middle of the lessons was only a few percentage points below. At the end of the lessons the amount of L1 was higher because most teachers split the lesson up into different tasks, which meant giving instructions once again; I expected this to be done mainly in the beginning. This also meant that by working on a new task there were more translations needed, which was the most used function at the end of the lessons. Since most teachers used computers for their final task, the function of Classroom equipment went from 4 occasions in the beginning to 12 at the end of the lesson, and interestingly enough there were noticeable increases in the functions Evaluation, Organising students, and Reaction to
student’s question or reaction. This could be explained by students finishing their work and
therefore being evaluated; the increase of organising and reacting to the students in L1 possibly occurred because of lower energy levels towards the end. To my knowledge, there is no previous research that I could cross-reference in regards to a specific time during the lesson when L1 is used.
6.4 Differences between teachers’ L1 use
types. Previously referenced studies were as mentioned made on adult learners, which is why their results regarding different age groups are not discussed.
The present study examined how much, when, and why six Swedish primary school teachers use Swedish when it comes to teaching English as a second language to students in years 4-5. This study also aimed to answer whether the L1 use is affected by the teacher’s education, experience, or confidence, and how the L1 use differed between years 4-5, if at all. In summary, the study showed that the participating teachers used a small amount of Swedish in the English classroom. The use was not unnecessary; it was used with a purpose in mind. Although there were some signs of guilt as a result of using L1, the teachers were not reluctant to use it. The teaching was influenced by the sociocultural theory, communicative language teaching, and cooperative learning; all theories and approaches promoting active learners and scaffolding. L1 was seen as a learning and teaching tool to help increase students’ comprehension, reduce anxiety, and enhance L2 acquisition. All teachers agreed that L1 needs to be balanced and adapted to fit the learners’ comprehension. There was no evidence of L1 use being affected by the teachers’ education, experience, or confidence; as well as no evidence of differences between years 4 and 5. Further observations would have to be made to conclude whether the L1 use differs for the above mentioned reasons.
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39 Appendix 3
1. Do you feel like this was a typical lesson or that my presence altered
2. What was the aim with today’s lesson?
3. Did everything go as planned during the lesson or would you have
4. Which approach were you aiming for?
5. Which part of the syllabus were you working from?
6. Do you think that Swedish has a place in the English classroom?
40 Appendix 4
Table 3: L1 Utterances
Asking questions ”Vad betyder det in Swedish?” [What does that mean in Swedish?]
”Vad tänker du på när du hör ordet vindruva?” [What comes to mind when you hear the word grape?]
”Hur stavas det?” [How do you spell that?]
“Vem vet, och som kan berätta?” [Who knows, and can tell us?] “Vad tror du?” [What do you think?]
“Vad gör de?” [What are they doing?]
Attention ”Fyra minuter till i läsförståelse” [Another four minutes of reading comprehension]
“Lyssna istället för att klaga!” [Listen instead of complaining!] ”Fokus nu då” [Come on, focus!]
“Lyssna på mig…” [Listen to me…] ”Häng med här!” [Keep up!]
Classroom equipment ”Refresha sidan bara” [Just refresh the page]
”Vi håller på att köpa in nya hörlurar” [We are in the middle of buying new headphones]
”Då plockar ni ihop och hämtar era datorer” [Clean up and grab your laptops]
”Ni kommer inte få helbild, men ljud” [You are not getting a full screen, but sound]
Evaluation ”Wow, snyggt!” [Wow, nice!] ”Rätt!” [Correct!]
”Jättebra!” [Very good!]
Explain/teach grammar ”Det är ’are’ om det är två eller fler” [You use ’are’ if there’s two or more]
”I Engelskan har man bestämd form före, ’the’, och i Svenskan har man bestämd form efter ordet” [In English you put the definite before, ’the’, and in Swedish you put the definite after the word]
Instructions/Clarifying task “I will take the instructions in Swedish first så att alla förstår” [… so everyone understands]
“Ni behöver inte tänka så mycket på stavning” [You don’t have to worry about your spelling]
”Som ni ser kan man hitta på lite vad som helst om dom här bilderna” [As you can see, you could come up with pretty much anything about these pictures]
“You are going to draw an alien – ni ska rita en alien” [English – Swedish]
”Kom ihåg ordet ‘because’” [Remember the word ‘because’] “Då kommer jag läsa instruktionerna på svenska…” [I will read the instructions in Swedish…]