I have just returned (at least that's how I feel) from National JALT conference 2011, which was held from 19 to 21st. It was such an inspiring and thought-provoking conference. I have attended 5 presentation and 1 Pecha Kucha while helping at Aston table, meeting wonderful grads. All the presentations were amazing and educational especially the one by Dr. Fiona Copland, investigating complexities and contradictions of EFL classrooms. The question was if using L1 is effective in teaching L2. It was the exactly the same and recurring question of mine. I have started using L1 in case of supporting student's better understanding, however, it has more advantages than that, according to Dr. Fiona.
I have read a few articles on this issue and would love to investigate the result in my classroom. I must read more about bilingualism in classrooms and implement the method effectively. Otherwise, mother tongue would dominate the classroom language. which is not my intention.
Since I have found this interesting research point. I would focus on this topic and write relevant discoveries in my classes.
So far, in my 6 graders new class on Monday, using Japanese (mother tongue/MT) lessen the tension of using English and thus Ss can focus more on enjoying to find the similarities between MT and TL(target language). It also satisfies their desire to know all everything said in the class.
The obvious problem is overreliance on MT which might take away the joy of spontaneous discovery of the meaning of new words. However, some report stated that it would be achieved as their understanding increases. From my personal experience in learning English, I also believe in this view and will use "Sandwich Method" in order to decrease the stress of incapability to use the TL and increase understanding. Sandwich method is to use MT in between TL.
This will be interesting to investigate. I believe it would work particularly well in high-schooler's class since they are afraid of being considered as impotent in any fields and they refuse to talk in order to avoid to make mistakes.