The Young Language Learners (YLL) Symposium in Oxford (UK)
A growing body of research has shown how a balanced use of the first language (L1) in the foreign language (FL) classroom has beneficial effects for second language (L2) learning (García Mayo and Lázaro Ibarrola, 2016; Moore, 2013; Storch and Aldosari, 2010). Teachers, however, are still concerned about their learners resorting to their shared L1 instead of completing communicative tasks in the target language (TL) (Tognini and Oliver, 2012). Most studies on L1 use have focused on adult learners and there is a lack of research documenting the extent to which young learners (YLs) in FL contexts use their L1 in the classroom. This research gap becomes even more noticeable with regards to the teaching approach which is becoming prevalent in Europe: Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), in which learners have more contact hours with the FL and follow a more interactive methodology.
The main goal of the present longitudinal study is to fill in the gap by analysing the oral interactions of 32 Spanish YLs (age 8-10) when performing a communicative task twice in two years. The participants attended two schools following two different teaching approaches (traditional FL and CLIL). We have analyzed the learners’ L1 use and the function it serves, compared the differences between the two settings and assessed the changes over a two-year period.
Our findings confirmed the facilitative role of the L1, used for task management purposes or to replace unknown TL terms, which allowed the task to move along. The use of L1 words among the CLIL learners was significantly lower than that among the FL learners at the two data collection times (Time 1: U=37, p