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Should an English-only policy apply to EL classrooms?

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nomad soul

Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 9:09 pm    Post subject: Should an English-only policy apply to EL classrooms? Reply with quote

Opinion: Speaking Only English in Class
by K. Beare | October 24, 2017

Should an English-only policy apply to the EL classroom?

Let's look at some of the arguments made for an English-only policy in the classroom:
    • Students will learn to speak English by speaking English.
    • Allowing students to speak other languages distract them from the task of learning English.
    • Students who don't speak only English are also not thinking in English.
    • The only way to become fluent in a language is by being immersed in the language.
    • An English-only policy requires students to negotiate the learning process in English.
    • Students speaking another language distract other learners.
    • English only is part of effective classroom management that fosters learning and respect.
There are certainly arguments to be made for allowing students to communicate in other languages, especially if they are beginners. Here are some of the better points in support of allowing other languages in the classroom:
    • Providing or allowing for explanations of grammar concepts in learners' L1 speeds up the learning process.
    • Communicating in another language during class allows students to fill in the gaps, especially if the class is large.
    • Allowing some communication in learners' L1 establishes a more relaxed atmosphere that is conducive to learning.
    • Translating difficult vocabulary items is much easier and less time consuming when other languages are allowed.
    • Committing to an English-only policy in class might seem as if the English teacher has, at times, been turned into a traffic cop.
    • Students are limited in learning complex concepts through a lack of English vocabulary related to the grammar of English.
See for the entire opinion.
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Joined: 19 Sep 2016
Posts: 131

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think any value gained from framing a topic on method through contrast and opposition comes from first acknowledging a dogmatic choice is not, in fact, necessary. Which the author does at an outset and throughout the full article, though Beare is guilty of leading off with a presented and unfounded assumption:
    Here is a seemingly easy question: Should a policy of English only be put into place in the English learning classroom? I imagine the gut answer is yes, English only is the only way students will learn English! However, I can think of some exceptions to this rule.
Which is standard fare for pieces written by experts to frame explanation.

I've typically heard more Brits advocate English-only than Americans in terms of method (excepting ugly and recurring initiatives for a "national" language) that I attribute to younger teachers conflating England's more frequent funding of EFL priorities than the broader designation of ESL that is unencumbered with the objectives of assimilating immigrants. In terms of research, the links below demonstrate how settled these issues are, but chestnuts have value.

Auerbach's Reexamining English Only in the ESL Classroom, TESOL Quarterly, Spring 1993 [NCELA, US Dept of Education.pdf]

English Only? Examining the Use of Students’ L1in the ESL Classroom: A Systematic Literature Review, Erin Helland, Hamline University, 2016 []

[M]y use of L1 in the EFL classroom is minimal, a ratio of not more than 5% L1 to 95% target language.
Key EFL classroom situations:

    Requesting new lexis
    Explain abstract terms
    Aid comprehensible input/production
    During exams and other high-stress situations
    Maintain the flow of dynamic activities
    Explain idioms and expressions
    Give information/instructions to LEP
    Adapt materials to special needs
English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Hassle?
Larry Lynch[esl/base/.com]

English Only Classroom, No attribution []
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