Analysis of four Chinese EFL classrooms: the use of L1 and L2
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Although there have been a large number of studies on the use of L1 and L2, there seem to be few on L1 use in Chinese university EFL classrooms, especially investigating the language use of those who teach English to students at different proficiency levels or teach different types of English courses. This thesis aims to analyze four Chinese EFL teachers’ actual use of L1 and L2, to understand their attitudes and beliefs regarding this issue, and their own perceptions of and reasons for their language use, and to explore possible influencing factors. The reading-and-writing lessons and the listening-and-speaking lessons of these four teachers, who were teaching non-English major students at four different levels, were observed and recorded. All the observed lessons were subjected to quantitative analysis with the aim of providing a clear picture of the distribution of their L1 and L2 use. Some episodes selected from these lessons were subjected to further detailed analysis, in order to provide an account of the circumstances, functions, and grammatical patterns of their language use, as well as their language use across different frames of classroom discourse. The teachers were interviewed subsequently about their general beliefs on the use of L1 in L2 teaching and learning. Separately, in a stimulated recall interview, they were invited to provide comments specifically on their language use in the selected episodes that were replayed to them. The quantitative findings show that the amount of the teachers’ L1 use was not necessarily closely related to their students’ English proficiency levels, although the teacher of the students at the lowest level used the highest amount of Chinese in her lessons. However, a noteworthy finding was that all four teachers used more Chinese in the reading-and-writing lessons than in the listening-and-speaking lessons, although with substantial individual variation. The qualitative analysis of classroom data indicates that these teachers switched often at unit boundaries, but rarely at clause boundaries. They also switched frequently within units, especially within noun phrases, and the ‘Chinese determiner + English noun’ pattern is the main one they had in common. Furthermore, the teachers used Chinese as the matrix language in their mixed utterances in most cases, and these mixed utterances nearly always fitted Myers-Scotton’s Morpheme Order principle and System Morpheme principle. The teachers were also found to use Chinese in a variety of circumstances, such as talking about lesson plans or examinations, dealing with exercises, analyzing text, teaching vocabulary, checking the students’ comprehension or retention, giving the students advice on learning, telling anecdotes and assigning homework. The functions for which they used Chinese could be divided into four main categories: facilitating developing lesson content; supporting students and carrying out classroom management; delivering information related to teaching agenda or examinations; and facilitating communication beyond language learning and teaching. The most frequent function common to all four teachers was translation. Furthermore, the study used four different ‘frames’ to analyze classroom discourse, and found that the teachers used the L1 with varying frequency across these frames. Moreover, although all four teachers believed that using the L1 was beneficial to L2 learning, their attitudes towards the medium of instruction were different. While two advocated using the L1, the other two expressed a preference for speaking English-only and perceived their L1 use as a compromise or an expedient. The teachers reported many reasons for their L1 use. The factors that affected their language use consisted of both immediate classroom factors, such as functions of utterances, students’ language use, students’ perceived mood, students’ background knowledge, the difficulty of lesson content, time limitations, teachers’ awareness of their own L1 use, and teachers’ state of mind at a particular moment in a lesson, and relatively static factors, such as the university policy, students’ L2 abilities, teaching objectives, teachers’ beliefs regarding L1 use, and teachers’ L2 abilities. Through its detailed analysis of the teachers’ language use, as well as their relevant beliefs and decision-making, this thesis hopes to make a contribution to L2 teachers’ professional development and L2 teaching, especially in helping to establish a pedagogically principled approach to L1 and L2 use.