Chinese Learners’ L1 Use in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Programme
This article reports on a classroom-based study that explored the functions of first language (L1) use in second language classroom discourse, particularly in pair and group discussions. Students’ and teachers’ perceptions of L1 use was also examined. Six Chinese students from an intact English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programme in New Zealand took part in this study. Their interaction in class was audio-recorded for two hours per week for eighteen weeks. Stimulated recall interviews were conducted with them once every month to gauge their perceptions of L1 use. The teachers were also interviewed about the students’ participation in class and their L1 use. The results show that the students have negative views of L1 use in L2 classroom interactions while the teachers seemed to have mixed attitudes towards it. The functions identified for the use of L1 include maintaining flow of the communication, clarification of meaning, use of metalinguistic knowledge, and facilitation of deliberation of vocabulary and grammar. The findings suggest that due to the positive role that L1 use can play in L2 development, students should not be prohibited the use of L1 in L2 classes.