Scholarly article on topic 'The Role of the L1 as a Scaffolding Tool in the EFL Reading Classroom'

The Role of the L1 as a Scaffolding Tool in the EFL Reading Classroom Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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role of L1 / translation / EFL classroom / scaffolding tool / EFL pedagogy

Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Abdullah Bhooth, Hazita Azman, Kemboja Ismail

Abstract The role of the students’ mother tongue (L1) in the ESL/EFL classroom has been an on-going debate recently. A monolingual approach suggests that the use of the target language solely in L2 classroom increases the learning of the target language. However, this research is motivated by studies that suggest the use of L1 in ESL/EFL classroom facilitates rather than impedes target language learning. This paper examines the use of L1 in the EFL reading classroom in a University in Yemen. A mixed method design was employed and data were collected from a sample of 45-Yemeni students studying English as a Foreign Language at the university. The quantitative data was collected through a questionnaire, while qualitative data was gathered using semi-structured interviews guided by the research objectives. The findings reveal that the students perceive the use of Arabic (L1) as functional strategy in their EFL (L2) classrooms and that it is used to serve a number of purposes: to translate new words, to define concepts, to give some explanations and to help each other in their groups. The discussion of the findings concludes that L1 can be used as a scaffolding strategy by students in facilitating their learning and can be used as a pedagogical tool by the teacher to enhance learning experience as well as maximize engagement in the classroom.

Academic research paper on topic "The Role of the L1 as a Scaffolding Tool in the EFL Reading Classroom"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 118 (2014) 76 - 84

SoLLs.INTEC.13: International Conference on Knowledge-Innovation-Excellence: Synergy in Language

Research and Practice

The role of the L1 as a scaffolding tool in the EFL reading classroom Abdullah Bhootha*, Hazita Azmanb, Kemboja Ismailc

Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Malaysia

Abstract

The role of the students' mother tongue (LI) in the ESL/EFL classroom has been an on-going debate recently. A monolingual approach suggests that the use of the target language solely in L2 classroom increases the learning of the target language. However, this research is motivated by studies that suggest the use of L1 in ESL/EFL classroom facilitates rather than impedes target language learning. This paper examines the use of L1 in the EFL reading classroom in a University in Yemen. A mixed method design was employed and data were collected from a sample of 45-Yemeni students studying English as a Foreign Language at the university. The quantitative data was collected through a questionnaire, while qualitative data was gathered using semi-structured interviews guided by the research objectives. The findings reveal that the students perceive the use of Arabic (L1) as functional strategy in their EFL (L2) classrooms and that it is used to serve a number of purposes: to translate new words, to define concepts, to give some explanations and to help each other in their groups. The discussion of the findings concludes that L1 can be used as a scaffolding strategy by students in facilitating their learning and can be used as a pedagogical tool by the teacher to enhance learning experience as well as maximize engagement in the classroom.

© 2013 The Authors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd.

Selection and peer-review underresponsibilityof UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia. Keywords: role of L1; translation; EFL classroom; scaffolding tool; EFL pedagogy

1. Introduction

The role of the mother tongue (L1) in the ESL/EFL classroom has recently been the focus of an on-going debate and research. The monolingual approach suggests that the use of the target language solely in L2 classroom increases the learning of the target language. The advocators of the monolingual approach view that L1 has no essential role in the EFL/ESL classroom and that it might deprive students of valuable input in the L2 and impede progress (Bouangeune 2009; Ellis 1985; Auerbach 1993). In contrast, the proponents of using the L1 in the L2 classroom believe that its use helps students learn L2 more effectively (Atkinson 1987; Sharma 2006;

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +0-000-000-0000 ; fax: +0-000-000-0000 . E-mail address: abhooth@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.02.011

Storch & Wigglesworth 2003; Al-Nofaie 2010; Machaal 2012; Nation 2003; Salah & Farrah 2012; Tang 2002; Swain & Lapkin 2000). Furthermore, there is no empirical evidence that L1 has an impeding role in the EFL/ESL classroom in non-native environments especially. Nevertheless, there is a lack of studies on the use of L1 to determine whether its use facilitates the learning of EFL or impedes it in the Arab world (Storch & Aldosari 2010; Al-Nofaie 2010; Khresheh 2012; Machaal 2012). This paper reports on a research investigating the students' perception of using the (LI) in the EFL reading classroom at a tertiary context in Yemen. It provides insights into the use of the L1 in the learning of English as a foreign language in an Arab speaking environment. The paper will reveal the students' perception of the use of their L1 in the EFL classroom as well as its role in facilitating their uptake of the target language. A discussion on the implications for teaching of reading and its approaches in the Yemeni context especially in view of the students' needs at the tertiary level is also put forward.

2. L1 in the EFL Classroom

In the EFL context, there appears to be an increasing conviction that the use of L1 in the EFL Classroom has a necessary and facilitating role. From a cognitive perspective, Storch and Wigglesworth's (2003) study demonstrates that LI provides 'cognitive support' for L2 learners during language analysis and in the completion of cognitively demanding tasks. If L1 is shared among L2 learners, it allows students to work at cognitively higher levels and may be a normal psychological process that allows students to initiate and sustain verbal interaction. Storch and Wigglesworth also report that LI can serve a number of functions, including enlisting and maintaining interest in the task as well as developing strategies to make a difficult task more manageable.

From a sociocultural perspective, research shows that L1 enables learners to work effectively in the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and the role it plays in the production of L2 particularly in peer work. For example, Anton & Dicamilla's (1999) study on collaborative writing tasks found that L1 moved learners through their zone of proximal development and played a strategic cognitive role in scaffolding. This view was also supported by Wells (1999) and Morahan (2010) that the use of L1 allows students to work within their ZPD, as proposed by Vygotsky. Morahan (2010) further maintained that using L1 occasionally with L2 in pair and group work may help students cognitively process a task at a higher level than only in the target language.

Scaffolding is an important teaching strategy that traced back to Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and his concept of the (ZPD). Scaffolding refers to the assistance offered by others to be able to achieve more than he or she would be able to achieve alone in the ZPD. It provides individualized support based on the learner's ZPD. The scaffolding teaching strategy provides differing degrees of assistance for a learner based on the learner's ZPD (Chang et al. 2002). In this study, L1 serves as scaffolding strategy (Carless 2008) to assist students' language learning. The Li's primary role is to supply scaffolding to lower affective filters by making the L2 and the classroom environment comprehensible (Meyer 2008).

Research also has shown that the use of the students' mother tongue (LI) in certain situations by both students and teachers increases both comprehension and learning of L2 (Cook 2001; Machaal 2012; Tang 2002; Wells 1999; Atkinson 1993; Kharma & Hajjaj 1989). Atkinson (1993) incorporated selective use of L1 into communicative methodology and concluded that "LI can be a valuable resource if it is used at appropriate times and in appropriate ways." (p. 2) In line with Atkinson, Jadallah and Hasan (2011) advised that the use of L1 should be in a purposive manner, at appropriate times and in appropriate places. In Kuwait context, Kharma and Hajjaj (1989) concluded that the use of L1 should not be overused, and that it should decrease with the increase of the students' experience with the target language. In other words, a limited and systematized use of L1 is recommended if there is a need. However, teachers in this study expressed their worry on impact of L1 on learning the target language: prolonged use of the mother tongue, hindrance to fluency, demotivation of using the target language.

Other researches have in fact, shown that students' mother tongue (LI) foster a positive affective learning environment, especially in the beginning and intermediate classes (Tang 2002; Wells 1999; Schweers 1999). Schweers (1999) found that that using Spanish (L1) in her L2 classroom has led to positive attitudes toward the process of learning English and, better yet, encourages students to learn more English. She suggests that starting with LI in L2 classroom provides a sense of security and validates the learners' lived experiences, allowing them to express themselves. She also encourages teachers to insert the native language into lessons to influence the classroom dynamic.

The use of L1 serves a number of purposes, such as to give instruction especially at the early levels in order to ensure that everyone fully understands what to do (Cole 1998; Tang 2002; Machaal 2012; Atkinson 1987), explain the meanings of words (Tang 2002; Morahan 2010; Jingxia 2010), explain complex ideas, translate from L1 to L2 when students do not have English words (Nadzrah Abu Bakar & Kemboja Ismail 2009), and explain complex grammar points (Machaal 2012; Tang 2002). This suggests that L1 can be used by the teacher as a mediating tool to facilitate students' learning. It can also be used by students to elicit language, to check comprehension at the level of sentence as well as text (Atkinson 1987). Besides, L1 can be used to promote 'cooperation among learners' where students, in pairs or groups, share their ideas and help each other using L1 (Atkinson 1987), ask for clarification, translate new words, find new words in L2 and process complex concepts (Machaal 2012; Tang 2002).

In the context of Yemen, teaching has been characterized by the domination of traditional teaching practices (Azzan 2001; Ba-Matraf 1997; Balfakeh 1999). Their research has shown that translation is one of the most common characteristic in the EFL classroom. Alkadasy's (2008) study revealed that Arabic can never be banned or avoided in EFL classroom. It also revealed that Arabic has a facilitating role in in the learning of English; the teachers are not aware of the effective use of Arabic in the EFL classroom. In addition, students believed that using Arabic is only way for them to understand English. She concluded that teachers should be made aware that using Arabic purposively would lead to more interaction in English classroom on the part of students. On the contrary, Al-Seghayer (2010) believes that L1 should not be used in the EFL classroom and that only target language should be used to provide students with sufficient practice in the target language. This argument completely denies the fact that students use and need to use the L1 for a variety of reasons. Hence, the arising question here, should we deny students' needs or should we use Arabic LI in L2 classroom? If Arabic could be used, how should it be used in the EFL classroom?

3. Method

The current study employed a mixed method design where both qualitative and quantitative data collection are conducted concurrently in an embedded mixed methods approach (Creswell, 2008). By using this design, the data collection and analysis was further enhanced in finding out how the EFL Yemeni students perceive the use of the L1 and the role it plays in the EFL classroom (Creswell, 2008; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). This was proven by the corroboration of results yielded from the students' perspectives.

1.1 Participants

In this study, the participants were selected through purposive sampling using the homogeneous technique. Maxwell (1998) defined purposive sampling as a type of sampling in which, "particular settings, persons, or events are deliberately selected for the important information they can provide that cannot be gotten as well from other choices" (p. 87). The students selected could provide the researcher with the desired information in giving their views on the use of L1 from a sample of the same educational background.

The selected participants comprised 45 EFL second year undergraduate students from the Department of English Foreign Language, University in Yemen. Of this total, 10 were males and 35 females. The participants share similar characteristics as they are studying EFL at the Department of English where they receive training to

be English teachers. All participants speak the same mother tongue (Arabic) and have had between five to seven years of English instruction as well as the same level of Secondary Education.

1.2 Data Collection & Analysis

Data used for the present study comprised a questionnaire and interviews. There were 14 items in the questionnaire about the functions of L1 in terms of translating in the EFL/ESL classroom based on the literature (Machaal 2012; Storch & Wigglesworth 2003; Tang 2002). Respondents were asked to indicate the frequency of occurrence on a 4-point Likert scale (Strongly disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly Disagree). For the qualitative data, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 participants from the total sample to gain a better understanding of their reading practices. Semi-structured interviews involved pre-determined questions prepared in advance. Semi-structured interviews allowed the researcher to prompt and probe deeper during the interview sessions. Each interview lasted approximately 15-20 minutes. The questionnaire data were analysed descriptively using SPSS and data from semi-structured interviews were transcribed, and analysed to search for semantic patterns that suggest trends in practices and preferences.

4. Findings

The findings revealed that the EFL Yemeni students perceive the use of Arabic as a useful facilitating tool in their learning of English as a foreign language. As shown in Table 1, a high percentage of respondents agreed or strongly agreed to the usefulness of Arabic in the class. The frequency and percentages of respondents, who strongly agreed and agreed, in rank order, include using Arabic : [7] ... to explain complex grammar points (40, 89.1%), [8] ... to ask friends/classmates for clarification (40, 89.1%), [3] ... in explaining difficult concepts (43, 96.2 %), [2] ... helps me arrive at the meaning of the English language (41, 91.1 %), [6] ... is useful for defining new vocabulary items ( 36, 80.0%), [11] ... is useful to express myself when I do not have the appropriate English words (39, 86.7%), [5] ... is useful when carrying out group work (36, 80.0%), [1] ... helps me bring on my personal experiences and background knowledge into class ( 38, 84.4%), [4] ... is useful when checking for comprehension (37, 82.2%), [13] ... enables us to provide each other with help in the class e.g. during group discussion (73.3%), [9] ... is useful to ask friends/classmates for clarification (31, 68.9%), [14] ... helps me progress from what I can do with the help of peers to what I can do alone (28, 62.2%), [12] I understand how to use reading strategies better when the teacher explains these strategies in Arabic (29, 64.4%), and [10] ... is useful when I want to ask for clarification from the teacher (25, 55.5%). The finding indicates that student perceived the use of Arabic in the reading classroom as useful because they believe it helps them understand difficult grammar points, some instructions, and new concepts. It is also believed that it is useful for translating new words, engaging in pair and/or group work.

Table 1 Uses of L1 in EFL classroom

N Statement SA A D SD

7 I understand better when the teacher uses Arabic to explain 25 15 4 1

complex grammar points. 55.8% 33.3% 8.9% 2.2%

8 Using Arabic is useful to understand complex instructions. 25 15 3 2

55.8% 33.3% 6.7% 4.4%

3 Using Arabic is helpful in explaining difficult concepts 18 25 1 1

40.0% 55.8% 2.2% 2.2%

2 Using Arabic helps me arrive at the meaning of English language 17 24 2 2

37.8% 53.3% 4.4% 4.4%

6 Using Arabic is useful for defining new vocabulary items 22 14 6 3

48.9% 31.1% 13.3% 6.7%

11 Using Arabic is useful to express myself when I do not have the 16 23 5 1

appropriate English words. 35.6% 51.1% 11.1% 2.2%

3.42 ±.753 3.42 ±.753 3.33 ±.640 3.24 ±.743 3.22 ±.927 3.20 ±.726

5 Using Arabic is useful when carrying out group work 18 18 8 1 3.18 ±.806

40.0% 40.0% 17.8% 2.2%

1 Using Arabic helps me bring on my personal experiences and 15 23 6 1 3.16 ±.737

background knowledge 33.3% 51.1% 13.3% 2.2%

4 Using Arabic is useful when checking for comprehension 15 22 7 1 3.13 ±.757

33.3% 48.9% 15.6% 2.2%

13 Using Arabic enables us to provide each other with help in the class 9 24 11 1 2.91 ±.733

20.0% 53.3% 24.4% 2.2%

9 Using Arabic is useful to ask friends/classmates for clarification 10 21 13 1 2.89 ±.775

22.2% 46.7% 28.9% 2.2%

14 Using Arabic helps me progress from what you I can do with the 9 19 14 3 2.76 ±.857

help of peers to what I can do alone 20.0% 42.2% 31.1% 6.7%

12 I understand how to use reading strategies better when the teacher 6 23 12 4 2.69 ±.821

explains these strategies in Arabic 13.3% 51.1% 26.7% 8.9%

10 Using Arabic is useful when I want to ask for clarification from the 6 19 19 1 2.67 ±.739

teacher. 13.3% 42.2% 42.2% 2.2%

Note: Strongly Agree = SA; Agree =A; Disagree= D; Strongly Disagree=SD; Mean; o=Standard deviation

The functional use of Arabic, students' mother tongue, was also highlighted in the students' interview responses. Students used L1 to translate new words, for some explanation, unknown topics, and when it is difficult to understand in English and at the beginning of learning new things. Some students identified translating the new and difficult words as one of the main functions of the use of L1 in the EFL classroom. The students acknowledged that Arabic could sometimes be helpful to understand the difficult words by translating these words into Arabic. This is evident in the following excerpts.

When don't understand some words. (S2-TA)

Sometimes we need to translate to understand and.....(S9-TA)

I prefer that I translate difficult words. (S10-TA)

Equally, some students pointed out that the use of Arabic was helpful in making clarifications and explaining difficult concepts, i.e. grammatical points, literature and literary terms. The following examples of responses from the interview data provide an expanded understanding of the use of Arabic to explain difficult points such as grammar point and literary terms.

When don't understand some words, for some explanation, and ... and sometimes we use Arabic in, students when we don't have anything or any information for this topic. I think when we have difficult points, especially, grammar teacher should use Arabic. (S2-TA) In literature class. I wish teacher use Arabic. (S3-TA)

Sometime like literature. Because some words are difficult. I can't the meaning in dictionary. (S5-TA) Sometimes we need some explanations in Arabic. (S6-TA)

When there are ambiguous mysterious things we can't understand like literature concepts. (S10-TA)

Interestingly, it was noted that all the participants of the study agreed that the Arabic should only be used, especially by the teacher, when they have difficulties to understand in English. Participants reported that teacher should only use Arabic to help them learn English when they cannot understand in English. This declaration indicates the level of consciousness that the students have in terms of the role of L1 in their own learning of the target language. The following examples of responses from the interview data provide an expanded understanding of the role and use of Arabic in the class:

The teacher should speak very little Arabic, only when we don't understand. (SI-TA) Sometime we need teacher to use Arabic when we can't understand (S2-TA)

Ifwe can't understand in English. The teacher should only use Arabic to help us learn English. (S3-TA)

Well, when we can't understand the main idea, just to have in mind the complete idea. So use Arabic only if there is a need. (S5-TA)

I think when we need it or find a difficult thing. Only when we don't understand. (S6-TA) When we don't understand when he see our confusion on our faces. (S7-TA) Ifwe don't understand the text we need Arabic to understand. (S9-TA) I prefer that I translate difficult words I can't understand I try to use Arabic (S10-TA)

S4's and S6's views denote that LI should be carefully used into the EFL classroom. Many expressed their belief that the use of Arabic could be useful at the beginning of learning or the early level in reference to the first level of their study at the Department of English and secondary school. However, they believe that (L1) should not be used when they understand the meaning. These examples of responses from the students' interviews illustrate such belief.

Yes, in the first level we hear the teachers to help us. Or explain. But now we don't like our teacher to use Arabic. (S4-TA)

Yes. When we are starting or at the beginning Arabic is very important especially in elementary schools

but we still use it in the university...... Yes, in the first we need to understand what to do and how. When

we know the words we don't need Arabic. (S6-TA)

Another function of the use of L1 is to trigger some schema background to the texts as demonstrated by S2. She claimed that the use of Arabic was helpful when they had no information about the reading topic and that using Arabic helped them draw on their background knowledge. This example from her interview illustrates this opinion.

And sometimes we use Arabic in, students when we don't have anything or any information for this topic. (S2-TA)

S3's and OS7 comments reveal that students benefited from using LI in their classroom as it was helpful in helping them to cooperate with their classmates. These examples from their interviews and reflections illustrate this belief.

Yes, it is useful. I cooperate with my friends to analyse and understand the lesson. (OS7-RC4) I loved it so much because it was interesting and I liked to cooperate with my friends. (S3-TA)

Finally, an interesting find emerged is that students themselves were aware that the excessive use of Arabic is harmful for their total learning of the English language. One of these disadvantages that participants mentioned is the overuse of L1 is unhelpful for practicing in the actual use of the English language. These examples of responses from the students' interview illustrate such belief.

Some teachers speak a lot of time in Arabic. It is not good, we need to listen more English. (S1-TA) Sometimes but not always because speaks English in class, weprovide... develop our language. (S2-TA) Ifwe are encouraged to useArabic, we won'tspeakEnglish. (S5-TA) If we want to improve our language we have to try to use English. (S6-TA) Because if we use it for everything we will not, then we practice Arabic not English. (S9-TA)

Although students had ambivalent opinions towards using Arabic in their EFL classrooms, they all acknowledge the benefits of using Arabic as a scaffolding tool, i.e. translate words, for some explanation.

5. Discussion

The purpose of the current paper is to investigate the use of L1 in the EFL classroom at tertiary level in Yemen. The findings indicate that the use of the students' mother tongue LI in the EFL classrooms has a facilitating role rather than impeding as it was useful in the reading lessons in the EFL classroom. The results indicate that Arabic language was commonly used in the EFL classroom for a range of purposes i.e. to understand some grammar points, instructions, difficult concepts, and new vocabulary; to express themselves when they did not have the appropriate English words; when carrying out group work; and to check for comprehension. This finding is in line with the findings of other studies (Machaal 2012; Salah & Farrah 2012; Nation 2003; Tang 2002; Al-Nofaie 2010; Sharma 2006; Storch & Wigglesworth 2003) in the contexts of Nebal, Australia, Saudi, Palestine and China .These studies revealed that students use and prefer their teachers to use L1 for targeted purposes. The finding also suggests that the use of Arabic may usefully serve social and cognitive functions, including scaffolding, and promote collaborative work to facilitate language learning.

Therefore, the study suggests that the use of the Arabic may be beneficial in the EFL class, especially when students have difficulty in understanding. It may represent a resource that both students and the teacher share in common. This concurs with Cook (2001) who argues that treating L1 as a classroom resource opens up several ways to use it. The teacher can use L1 to convey meaning, explain grammar, and organize the class. Students also can use L1 as part of their collaborative learning and individual strategy use. Thus, the teacher can use L1 as a pedagogical tool to facilitate the teaching and learning of English as a foreign language.

These findings confirm that the use of the students' L1, Arabic language, is effective for the non-native speakers of English particularly in helping them comprehend their reading materials. Additionally, translating from L2 to L1 and back as used in the EFL Yemeni research context has shown pedagogical potential to be used in the reading lessons to enhance higher order cognitive reading skills among the EFL students. . The study also provided evidence that the students, needed to use L1in their interactions with their peers for expediency and efficacy of information transmission and clarification. Hence, Arabic could be used by the teacher as a pedagogical strategy to facilitate students learning and to maximize their engagement in the classroom. This finding is in conformity with Machaal's (2012) study, which concluded that using Arabic had mediating roles in the EFL classes: as a pedagogical tool and as a learning strategy. This view was also emphasised by Hazita Azman (2006); she suggests that the use of translation in teaching should be adopted as a useful strategy but teachers should be properly trained to effectively use it.

The use of L1 was emphatically perceived as useful by the EFL students for their learning in the English reading classroom. In fact the students regarded the use of Arabic as a learning strategy to translate new words, define concepts and help each other in their groups.

Although students perceived the use of Arabic as useful and of great help in the reading classroom, they were aware of the fact that the overuse of Arabic was harmful and might impede their English language development. They believe that Arabic should only be used, especially by the teacher, when they had difficulty in understanding in English. Students were in favour of limited and purposeful use of L1. This finding agrees with previous studies in other L2 learning contexts (e.g. Swain & Lapkin, 2000; Storch & Wigglesworth, 2003), that EFL learners used their LI to a fairly limited extent. This finding also supports Atkinson's (1987:422) discussion of mother tongue use in EFL context. Three reasons are offered for allowing limited LI use in the classroom: 1) it is a 'learner-preferred strategy'. Given the opportunity, learners will choose to translate without encouragement from the teacher, 2) the use of mother tongue is a humanistic approach. It permits them to say what they want, when they do not have the appropriate English. Hence, it appears reasonable enough for the teacher to allow for a limited use of Arabic in the EFL reading classroom, and 3) L1 strategies are efficient in terms of time spent explaining to achieve a specific aim.

As discussed above, the findings showed that students prefer to use Arabic for a number of functions. However, it is not easy to decide when and how appropriately in the EFL classroom, because it depends on the

classroom situation. Students themselves had ambivalent feelings in that they wanted to use Arabic only when they did not understand in English and they wanted to use English most of the time to practice English. Therefore, teachers should be flexible and aware of their students' needs so that they could decide when and how Arabic could be used in the EFL classroom. This view is supported by Clanfield and Foord (2000) who state that the "teacher should decide when it may be beneficial to use the LI and why.... Encourage and approve of mother tongue use at chosen moment and in designated activities, and also explain to the students why this should be done" (p. 1).

Hence the finding of the study reported reiterates the role of the L1 as a supportive and facilitating tool. Students in the study had expressed their awareness of the consequences of excessive use of Arabic, as it might prevent them from practicing English. And they believed that Arabic should only be used if they needed it. Therefore, L1 should only be used as a breakthrough means towards ensuring progress in the acquisition of the target language. The implication for this is that the EFL teachers should support this view of purposeful but limited use of the L1 in order to facilitate students learning.

6. Conclusion

Based on the findings it could be concluded that L1, in this case the Arabic language, could be used by students as a learning strategy i.e. translate new words, define concepts and help each other in their groups. Likewise, L1 could be used by the teacher as a pedagogical strategy to facilitate students learning and to maximize their engagement in the classroom. However, teachers should make sure that students are not increasingly or extremely dependent on L1. This balance should be exponential in that as the student's proficiency in the target language increases, the dependence of L1 decreases. Finally, the issue of the role of L1 in the EFL classroom can be further investigated, especially from the teacher's perspective, to draw a better pedagogical decision on the way that L1 could be integrated in the teaching methodologies. This is because the current study experienced two main limitations in the conduct of the research. Due to administrative constraints, the study was conducted on one classroom only. While another limitation is related to the design methodology. Admittedly, data collection methods are often determined or circumscribed by practical considerations (Pawar 2004). Such considerations include the nature of the research problem, the cost in terms of time and money, as well as institutional and interpersonal realities that allow (or not), the availability of the data and researcher access to it. It should be noted that the study exclusively focused on a small student sample of only 45 as a result of the environmental limitation as well as the university regulations. Therefore, future research could look into this point in the same context or in a different context to further confirm L1's potential in the EFL classroom. Replication of the study would also be desirable to overcome the limitation issues in terms of participants and design.

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