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Vietnamese teachers’ viewpoints on their use of vietnamese in english language classrooms for young learners in may school english center

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

VŨ THỊ THU TRANG

VIETNAMESE TEACHERS’ VIEWPOINTS ON THEIR USE OF
VIETNAMESE IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS FOR YOUNG
LEARNERS IN MAY SCHOOL ENGLISH CENTER

Quan điểm của giáo viên Việt Nam đối với việc sử dụng
tiếng Việt của họ trong các lớp học Tiếng Anh cho trẻ em
tại Trung Tâm Ngoại Ngữ Tháng Năm

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English Teaching Methodology
Code: 60140111

HANOI, 2016



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

VŨ THỊ THU TRANG

VIETNAMESE TEACHERS’ VIEWPOINTS ON THEIR USE OF
VIETNAMESE IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS FOR YOUNG
LEARNERS IN MAY SCHOOL ENGLISH CENTER

Quan điểm của giáo viên Việt Nam đối với việc sử dụng
tiếng Việt của họ trong các lớp học Tiếng Anh cho trẻ em
tại Trung Tâm Ngoại Ngữ Tháng Năm

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English Teaching Methodology
Code: 60140111
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Nguyễn Xuân Thơm

HANOI, 2016


DECLARATION

I declare that this thesis submitted for the Master of Art degree at the
University of Languages and International Studies is a presentation of my own
research and has not been previously submitted at any other universities for any
degrees. Wherever contributions of other researchers are involved, every effort is
made to indicate this clearly, with due reference to the literature, and
acknowledgement o collaborative research and discussion. The work was done
under the guidance of Associated Professor Nguyen Xuan Thom, at the University
of Languages and International Studies.

Hanoi, 2016

Vũ Thị Thu Trang

i




ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

At the completion of this thesis, I would like to express my sincere thanks to
my lecturer and my supervisor, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Thom for his valuable support
and instructions without which it would have been really difficult for me to handle
the task.
I would like to acknowledge my debt to my colleagues in May School
English Center for their effective cooperation in collecting data for completing this
study. Their enthusiastic participation was indispensable to my research.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my family for all the support
I received to finish this thesis.

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ABSTRACT
The use of the mother tongue has been argued for ages in English language
teaching and the argument over whether students‟ native language should be
included or excluded in English language classrooms has been a controversial issue.
Conducted in the context of Vietnam, the study is an attempt to address the use of
Vietnamese as mother tongue in English language classrooms in a prestigious
English center for young learners in Hanoi (May School). It focuses on the
viewpoints of Vietnamese teachers in May School on their use of Vietnamese as
mother tongue in their English language classrooms as well as the amount and
situations in which it is employed. The findings and discussion are based on the
analysis of the data collected from group interview of five female teachers and ten
one-hour classroom observations. The current study supports the judicious use of
Vietnamese in some situations such as giving instructions, responding to students‟
Vietnamese. The results also highlight that the use of Vietnamese is significantly
different in classrooms in May School but the average amount of its use is quite
limited.

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LIST OF ABRREVIATIONS

ALM:

Audio-Lingual Method

CLT:

Communicative Language Teaching

EFL:

English as a Foreign Language

ELT:

English Language Teaching

FL:

Foreign language

GMT:

Grammar Translation Method

L1:

First Language

L2:

Second Language

TL:

Target Language

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LIST OF CHARTS AND TABLES

Chart 1: The amount of Vietnamese used in observed classes
Table 1: Participating teachers‟ profile
Table 2: Information of observed classes
Table 3: The occasions of teachers‟ use of Vietnamese in Starters classes
Table 4: The occasions of teachers‟ use of Vietnamese in Movers classes
Table 5: The occasions of teachers‟ use of Vietnamese in Flyers classes

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TABLE OF CONTENT

Declaration ................................................................................................................. i
Acknowledgement .................................................................................................... ii
Abstract .................................................................................................................... iii
List of abrreviations ................................................................................................ iv
List of charts and tables ............................................................................................v
Table of content ....................................................................................................... vi
PART A: INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................1
1.

Rationale ....................................................................................................... 1

2.

Aims and objectives of the study ................................................................. 1
2.1.

Aims of the study ................................................................................1

2.2.

Objectives of the study ........................................................................1

3.

Research questions ....................................................................................... 2

4.

Scope of the study ........................................................................................ 2

5.

Methods of the study .................................................................................... 2

6.

Significance of the study .............................................................................. 3

7.

Design of the study ....................................................................................... 3

PART B: DEVELOPMENT.....................................................................................5
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW ............................................................5
1.1.

A brief history of language teaching method focusing on mother

tongue use in English classroom ......................................................................5
1.2.

Arguments about the use of mother tongue in EFL classroom ...........6

1.2.1. Arguments against using mother tongue in EFL classroom ............6
1.2.2. Arguments in favor of using mother tongue in EFL classrooms .....8
1.3.

Studies focusing on teachers‟ L1 use in EFL classrooms .................10

1.3.1. Teachers‟ viewpoints .....................................................................10
1.3.2. Amount of mother tongue use........................................................12
1.3.3. Situations of mother tongue use .....................................................13
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CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY .....................................................................15
2.1.

Setting and participants .....................................................................15

2.2.1. Setting ............................................................................................15
2.1.1.1. General information about May School ..................................15
2.1.1.2. Students and English classes in May School ..........................15
2.2.2. Participants .....................................................................................16
2.3.

Data collection instruments ...............................................................17

2.3.1. Group interview ............................................................................17
2.3.2. Classroom observation ...................................................................18
2.4.

Data collection procedure ..................................................................19

2.5.

Data analysis procedure.....................................................................20

CHAPTER 3: DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION ..................................21
3.1.

Data analysis ......................................................................................21

3.1.1. Group interview analysis ...............................................................21
3.1.1.1. Teachers‟ general viewpoints ..................................................21
3.1.1.2. Amount of Vietnamese use .....................................................22
3.1.1.3. Situations of Vietnamese use ..................................................23
3.1.1.4. Summary .................................................................................25
3.1.2. Classroom observation analysis .....................................................26
3.1.2.1. Amount of Vietnamese use .....................................................26
3.1.2.2. Situations of Vietnamese use ..................................................27
3.1.2.3. Summary .................................................................................35
3.2.

Findings and discussion.....................................................................35

PART C: CONCLUSION.......................................................................................38
1.

Summary of major findings ........................................................................ 38

2.

Concluding remarks ................................................................................... 39

3.

Recommendations ...................................................................................... 39

4.

Limitations.................................................................................................. 40

5.

Suggestions for further studies ................................................................... 41
vii


REFERENCES ........................................................................................................42
APPENDIX 1 ............................................................................................................. I
APPENDIX 2 ........................................................................................................... II

viii


PART A: INTRODUCTION
1. Rationale
In the process of teaching and learning a foreign language, the use of mother
tongue is a controversy topic for many years, especially when Communicative
Language Teaching becomes popular. In global scale, many studies were conducted
to investigate the use of mother tongue in English classrooms such as Schweers
(1999) at the University of Puerto Rico, Tang (2002) at a university in Beijing, Duff
and Polio (2009) at University of California, Al-Nofaie (2010) in Saudi public
schools. In Vietnam, a few researchers also investigated the attitude of teachers and
students towards the use of Vietnamese in English classroom at universities and
high schools. However, it is rather difficult to find studies in which the subject of
using Vietnamese in teaching English for young learners is focused. There still exist
huge gaps on the reality of Vietnamese use in English classroom for children.
Working as a teacher of English in May School English Center (from now
mentioned as May School) for young learners in Hanoi, the researcher found that
Vietnamese teachers in this center have different language choices for their lessons.
Therefore, this study focuses on their viewpoints on as well as their practice of
Vietnamese use in English classrooms.
2. Aims and objectives of the study
2.1.

Aims of the study
As the title suggests, the overarching aim of this thesis is to study

Vietnamese teachers‟ use of their mother tongue in English classrooms in the
context of an English center in Hanoi, in order to guide English teachers in their use
of L1 in L2 classrooms.
2.2.

Objectives of the study

To achieve the above aim, the following objectives are set for exploration:

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a. examining the attitudes of teachers toward Vietnamese use in English
classrooms in May School;
b. identifying the average percentage of Vietnamese used in different levels in
the center in comparison with the number given by teachers there; and
c. defining the situations in which Vietnamese is preferred by teachers in
English as second language (EFL) classroom
3. Research questions
To make the task manageable, the above objectives are translated into the
following research questions:
1) How much Vietnamese is used by Vietnamese teachers in English classrooms
in May School?
2) In which situations is Vietnamese preferred by Vietnamese teachers in May
School?
3) What are Vietnamese teachers’ viewpoints on their use of Vietnamese as
mother tongue in English classrooms?
4. Scope of the study
In fact, the first language (L1) (i.e. Vietnamese) can be used by both teachers
and learners in second language (L2) classrooms. However, within the framework
of this minor thesis, the study only focuses on Vietnamese teachers‟ use of the
mother tongue in English classes for children. Specifically, the main objective of
the study is investigating the perspectives of teachers toward their L1 use, the
amount of L1 use as well as the situations for L1 use in English classrooms in May
School.
5. Methods of the study
The study adopted qualitative and quantitative method for data collection and
data analysis. Five teachers teaching different levels of students were investigated
so as to compare and contrast their use of mother tongue in their EFL classes. Two

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collection instruments were employed including teacher group interview and
classroom observation.
6. Significance of the study
The findings of the present study are hoped to be useful to the following
groups:
a. Teachers of English in May School and other English centers for children
can make use of the findings and become aware of their practice in
language choice. They also can adjust their use of mother tongue while
teaching English for different student levels so that they can get the best
results in teaching English.
b. Academic staff in May School and other English center can use the results
of the study as a reference to consider some changes if needed in teacher
training process.
c. Language teaching methodology researchers can conduct further studies in
the area which may form other new English teaching methods and
techniques that identify the appropriate role of mother tongue in the
classroom.
7. Design of the study
The thesis consists of three parts, namely Introduction, Development and
Conclusion.
Part A: Introduction
This part presents the rationale, the aims, the scope, the method and the
design of the study.
Part B: Development
This part consists of three chapters including Literature Review,
Methodology and Data analysis and discussion.
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Chapter 1: Literature Review
This chapter provides an overview of history of English Language Teaching
focusing on L1 use, some arguments for and against mother tongue use as well as
the review of related works in this topic.
Chapter 2: Methodology
It presents the subjects of the study, research instruments, collecting data
procedure and data analysis procedure from which answers for research questions
could be found.
Chapter 3: Data analysis and discussion
The data collected from group interview and classroom observations are
analyzed in this chapter. Also, some findings and discussion based on the analysis
are presented.
Part C: Conclusion
In this part, the major findings, some recommendations, limitations of the
research as well as suggestions for further study are presented.
The appendices are the last part of the study following the reference.

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PART B: DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW
1.1.

A brief history of language teaching method focusing on mother tongue
use in English classroom
In the history of foreign language (FL) teaching, different linguistics

suggested diverse methods and approaches which were widely used for different
periods. According to Stern (1992), the role of mother tongue in language teaching
is “one of the most long-standing controversies in the history of language pedagogy”
(as cited in Nguyen Thi Nhu Quynh, 2011). The following quick look will
summarize the periodic changes in the role of mother tongue in English teaching.
By the early nineteenth century, Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) was
the standard way of FL teaching in Western countries. At that time, it was believed
that to learn a language was to read its literature. In GTM classrooms, the students‟
native language is the “medium of instruction”, which is used to explain new item
and to make comparisons between L1 and L2 (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). In other
words, teachers of GTM mostly use L1 in their classrooms.
However, some other linguistics strongly criticized the inadequacies of GTM.
In the late nineteenth century, scholars tried to apply natural principles to language
classes with the aim of communicating. This foundation is lately known as the
Direct Method. According to Richards & Rodgers (2001), in this light, classroom
instruction is conducted exclusively in L2 and teachers should “never translate but
demonstrate” because it focuses mainly on the exclusive use of the target language
in the classroom. Though this method overemphasized the similarities between
naturalistic L1 learning and FL learning, it has laid the foundation on which many
of the later methods developed. Among them are Audio-Lingual Method (ALM)
and Communicative Language Teaching (CLT).

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ALM, which was suggested by American linguists in 1950s, aims to develop
communicative competence of students by the repetition of dialogues and drills.
Supporting this method, Larsen-Freeman (2000) says the more often something is
repeated, the stronger the habit and the greater the learning. Because of this view,
the use of mother tongue is forbidden and translation as well as grammatical
explanation in students‟ native language is avoided in the classroom.
Be similar with ALM in terms of communicating purpose, the CLT has
served as a major source of influence on language teaching practice around the
world since its inception in the 1970s (Richards, 2006). The author also regards pair
work activities, role plays, group work activities and project work in CLT as kinds
of classroom activities that best facilitate learning. He and Rodgers (2001) also
claim that “judicious use of native language is accepted where feasible” and
teachers can translate when students “need or benefit from it”.
Though the teaching methods popular in the twentieth century differed in
many ways, they nearly all tried to avoid using the students‟ mother tongue in the
classroom, except GTM. However, the use of mother tongue in EFL classroom is
still an issue which raises many debates among linguistics and teachers of English
all over the world.
1.2.

Arguments about the use of mother tongue in EFL classroom
1.2.1. Arguments against using mother tongue in EFL classroom
Many linguists who support the Monolingual approach object to using L1 in

ELT (English Language Teaching) because it obstructs learning. In other words, the
Monolingual approach suggests that the FL should be the only tool of
communication in the classroom. According to Cook 2001, arguments against
teachers using students‟ mother tongue in the literature are generally organized into
three following reasons:

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1) The learning of L2 should model the learning of an L1 (through
maximum exposure to the L2).
2) Successful learning involves the separation and distinction of L1 and L2.
3) Students should be shown the importance of the L2 through its continual
use.
(Cook, 2001, p412)
While the research may not be entirely convincing, it is considered likely that
L2 acquisition is similar to L1 acquisition, which is based on the notion of exposure
as being the determining factor for learning (Lewis, 1993, p54). Children learn their
first language through listening and copying what those around them say, and
exposure to the language is vital in the development of their linguistic skills. Hence,
Krashen and Terrell (1983), as cited in Salah & Farrah (2012), indicate that L1 use
should be excluded in the English classroom to increase students‟ exposure to the
FL. In agreement with the previous view, Phillipson (1992, as cited in Salah &
Farrah, 2012) argues that the more the learners expose to the target language, the
more quickly will they learn. Turnbull (2001) also mentions that students do not
benefit if teachers rely too much on using their students‟ mother tongue.
In regards to Cook‟s second point, supporters of the Monolingual Approach
have stated that translating between L1 and L2 can be dangerous as it encourages
the belief that there are equivalents between the languages, which is not always the
case (Pracek, 2003). They believe the two languages should be distinct and separate.
Supporters of the Bilingual Approach might argue that to make the separation or
distinction between L1 and L2, explanations in L1 are necessary, because the
teaching of grammar is so complex, that without the use of L1, there would be little
or no comprehension on the students‟ part, especially at lower levels. This is not
true according to others, who state that actually quite a number of grammar points
can be taught in the target language, especially through the use of physical or visual
displays (Pachler & Field, 2001, p92). Moreover, monolingual approach advocators
7


believe that the use of the mother tongue in class has bad influences on students‟
achievements and proficiency in FL. Krashen (1981, as cited in Kieu Hang Kim
Anh, 2010) reveals in her study that L1 is a source of errors in learners‟ L2
performance. Sharing the same idea, Howatt (1983, as cited in Timor, 2012)
suggests that (a) L2 teaching should be done exclusively in L2; (b) the translation
between L1 and L2 should be avoided.
Regarding Cook‟s third point, it is considered likely that the use of L2 only
in the classroom does help demonstrate the L2‟s importance and can portray the
usage of the language being studied (Pachler & Field, 2001, p86).
Proponents of English-only also claim that using L1 in the classroom is not
in accordance with second language acquisition theories, which advocate modified
input and negotiation in L2 as a means of learning (Polio, 1994, p156). Ironically
though, negotiations of meaning and trial and error often lead to what has been
dubbed an „interlanguage‟, where a mix of L1 and L2 is used to communicate and
establish the correct way of communicating in the L2 (Weschler, 1997, p2).
1.2.2. Arguments in favor of using mother tongue in EFL classrooms
Researchers who advocate Monolingual approach argue that L1 represents a
powerful source that can be used to enhance FL learning; however, it should be
used in a principled way. Atkinson (1987), who sees mother tongue as a “resource”
in class, in his discussion about general advantages of L1 use, claims that to let
learners use their L1 is “a humanistic approach” which allows them to “say what
they really want to say sometimes”.
The biggest problem with the Monolingual Approach to teaching is that it is
very impractical (Phillipson, 1992, as cited in Kieu Hang Kim Anh, 2010). One
reason the exclusion of L1 is impractical is that the majority of English teachers are
not native speakers (Hawks, 2001, p50). Sometimes these teachers‟ own English is

8


not very good, and by insisting on an English only policy, we can severely
undermine their ability to communicate and consequently their ability to teach.
Besides, excluding L1 can lead to a higher drop-out rate in ESL schools,
whereas when L1 is permitted, researchers and teachers alike report much more
positive results (Auerbach, 1998, as cited in Sharma, 2006). She acknowledges the
positive role of the mother tongue in the classroom. In his points of view, L1 plays
an important role as a useful tool in language analysis, class management,
presenting grammar rules, giving instructions or prompts, explaining errors as well
as checking for comprehension. In this light, Macaro (2001) argues that it is not
only impractical to reject to use L1 in the classroom but also likely to deprive
learners of an essential tool for language learning.
Additionally, motivating students by using L1 has received much
interest

in

literature. Monolingual teaching can create tension and a barrier

between students and teachers, and there are many occasions when it is
inappropriate or impossible (Pachler & Field, 2001, p86). When something in a
lesson is not being understood, and is then clarified through the use of L1, that
barrier and tension can be reduced or removed. The use of the L1 saves learners
from a feeling of frustration they might have within their L2 learning. L1 use
improves the students‟ affective filters and the EFL learning environment; its use
facilitates an affective environment for learning and reduces students‟ anxiety levels
and other affective barriers (Auerbach, 1993). This is also one of the reasons for
teachers to use mother tongue in the study by Rabbidge and Chappell (2014).
Students who are unmotivated, without self-confidence, or anxious are less likely to
utilize L2 in the classroom. By using L1, they could reduce their inhibitions or
affective blocks, which would encourage them to use English in class in more
confident ways than would otherwise be possible in a solely EFL environment.
Another problem with the Monolingual Approach is its belief that exposure
to language leads to learning. Excluding the students‟ L1 for the sake of
9


maximizing students‟ exposure to the L2 is not necessarily productive. In fact there
is no evidence that teaching in the TL directly leads to better learning of the TL
(Pachler & Field, 2001, p85). Obviously the quantity of exposure is important, but
other factors such as the quality of the text material, trained teachers, and sound
methods of teaching are more important than the amount of exposure to English
(Phillipson, 1992, p210). This is particularly obvious with struggling lower-level
students. Increasing the amount of L2 instead of perhaps a simple explanation in
L1 is likely to have a negative effect and simply add to the frustration on the
student‟s part (Burden, 2000, p6). Teaching in the TL does have benefits but
teaching in the TL alone, will not guarantee learning among the students (Pachler &
Field, 2001, p101), but excluding it, may “impede learning” (Auerbach, 1993, p16).
1.3.

Studies focusing on teachers’ L1 use in EFL classrooms
1.3.1. Teachers’ viewpoints
To investigate areas in which L1 is used for teaching EFL and find out how

teachers think about the L1 use in FL classroom, the writer has reviewed a number
of relevant studies conducted in different parts of the world and at different times.
Surveying students and teachers at his Puerto Rican university with regard to
using their mother tongue (i.e. Spanish) within their English classes, Schweers
(1999) finds that 100 percent of the teachers feel that Spanish should be used in
their English classes. He concludes by encouraging teachers to employ L1 so as to
promote dynamicity in the classroom, provide a sense of security and activate
learners‟ experiences. Sharing the similar findings, Tang (2002) in his study
conducted in China adds two more reasons for using L1 in L2 classrooms including
effectiveness and being less time consuming. The study reveals that the use of L1 in
L2 classes doesn‟t hinder L2 learning but helps teaching and learning.
In his paper on using L1 in EFL classrooms, Aqel (2006) investigates the
instructors‟ and students‟ reactions to using Arabic language in teaching EFL in the
10


Department of English and Modern European languages at Qatar University. It was
found that all of native English teachers and 62.5% of teachers of English believed
that Arabic was accepted in EFL teaching. The researcher then recommended the
judicious use of L1 in EFL classroom when it is “the shortest possible way” for
students to understand the requirements.
Conducted in the same context of Arab, the study by Salah & Farrah (2012)
shows that the attitude of the teachers toward Arabic use in the EFL classroom is
moderate by a mean of 3.51. It also shows that teachers were aware that the
excessive use of Arabic may hinder learning; therefore, their use of Arabic appeared
to be limited.
Cianflone (2009) conducted a research on L1 use in English courses at the
University of Messina in Italy. The results reveal that the interviewed teachers seem
favorable to L1 use in terms of explaining grammar, vocabulary items, and difficult
concepts as well as getting general comprehension. He concludes that in university
level, such use may save time and increase students‟ motivation.
Investigating the mother tongue use at elementary and secondary schools in
the context of Israel, Timor (2012) shows a positive viewpoint of teachers regarding
the use of Hebrew as L1 in EFL classroom. It is indicated that most of elementary
and secondary teachers see the benefits of using mother tongue as a useful tool to
teach grammar, vocabulary, to give instructions, handle discipline problems. It is
also concluded that Hebrew is used more frequently by elementary teachers rather
than by secondary ones.
Studying the issue at the same similar level of students in English classroom
in Korea, Rabbidge and Chappell (2014) indicates that despite the need of target
language exposure, all participating teachers acknowledge the importance of
English and Korean in the classroom. These researchers conclude that teachers‟

11


reasons for using Korean as mother tongue are to motivate students, to help them in
the progress of scaffolding learning and to build a relaxing learning environment.
In Vietnam, many researches were conducted in high schools and there are
some in universities. The results in the study by Kieu Hang Kim Anh (2010) which
investigates the teachers in three universities in Ho Chi Minh City presents the
possible useful role of Vietnamese in several situations but it should not be
overused. Besides, it is reported that 83% of the teachers participating in the
investigation at Ba Vi high school highlighted the positive effects of L1 on
facilitating students‟ comprehension of English, and building a comfortable
environment for English classes (Nguyen Thi Nhu Quynh, 2011). Conducted in an
English center for young learners in Hanoi, the study by Phung Thi Hien indicates
that the use of Vietnamese was an unavoidable phenomenon in English
classrooms for young learners. Teachers have positive attitudes towards to the
use of Vietnamese in English language classroom but it varies in terms of
occasions in different-aged classes.
1.3.2. Amount of mother tongue use
Evidence from a variety of contexts shows that there is a wide discrepancy
between official recommendations and the practice actually observed or reported in
classrooms. For example, Turnbull (reported in Turnbull 2001; Turnbull & Arnett
2002) analyzed the L1 and TL „functional units‟ in the discourse of four teachers of
French in Canadian secondary schools. He found that the use of L1 (English)
ranged from 28% to 76%. Kim & Elder (2005) examined the discourse of seven
native-speaker secondary-school teachers of Japanese, Korean, German and French
in New Zealand and found a range from 12% to 77% use of the students‟ L1
(English). In South Korea, Liu et al. (2004) calculated the percentage of L1 (Korean)
and TL words in the lessons of thirteen high-school teachers of English and found
that their use of L1 ranged from only 10% (in a „model lesson‟ intended to
demonstrate Teaching English Through English policy) to 90%. The overall average
12


was 40% use of L1, but in view of the special nature of the data (the teachers
supplied their own audio recordings), the researchers suggest that the teachers‟ own
estimate of 68% use of L1 may give a more reliable picture of their day-to-day
practice. These and other studies support the conclusion reached by Macaro (1997)
(as cited in Littlewood & Yu, 2009) in summing up the results of several studies,
including his own detailed investigations of TL and L1 use by secondary-school
teachers in the United Kingdom, that exclusive or near-exclusive use of the TL „is
rarely encountered in any learning context apart from [classrooms with mixed L1
learners]‟.
1.3.3. Situations of mother tongue use
In contrast to the ideas on “English only classrooms”, the researchers
have investigated the advantages of mother tongue use and they look over in
what situations the teachers and students use the mother tongue. Atkinson
(1987: 243,244) provided extensive knowledge on where to use mother tongue in
language classrooms:
1) Eliciting language (all levels)
2) Checking comprehension (all levels)
3) Giving instructions (early levels)
4) Co-operation among learners.
5) Discussions of classroom methodology (early levels)
6) Presentations and reinforcement of language (mainly early levels)
7) Checking for sense
8) Testing
In her article, Auerbach (1993, p9) listed the reasons of using mother
tongue as: a) Negotiation of the syllabus and the lesson; b) Record keeping; c)
Classroom management; d) Scene setting; e) Language analysis; f) Presentation of
rules governing grammar. g) Phonology, morphology and spelling; h) Discussion
of cross-cultural issues; instructions of prompts; i) Explanation of errors; j)
Assessment of comprehension.
13


In the context of Vietnam, the findings in the study by Kieu Hang Kim Anh
(2012) indicate that the three reasons which the teacher participants chose with the
highest frequency were „helping students understand complex grammatical points
better‟ (75%), „helping students understand difficult new words more clearly‟ (67%)
and „making sure that students understand the lessons‟ (50%). The findings of the
study by Nguyen Thi Nhu Quynh (2011) also highlighted some situations in which
Vietnamese appeared to be a helpful option. Data from her research instruments
revealed that the most common uses among the teachers were using Vietnamese for
explaining complex grammar structures, giving the meanings of new words, and
clarifying the difficult abstract ideas. She indicates that the use of Vietnamese in
these situations not only made the teachers feel more confident but also help
students understand the lesson better.

14


CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY
2.1.

Setting and participants
2.2.1. Setting
2.1.1.1.

General information about May School

The study is conducted in one of three locations of an English center in
Hanoi (i.e. May School). It was established in 1996 as the first center in Hanoi
specializing in teaching English to children. Ever since, it has upheld its reputation
as the leading school for children in Hanoi.
May School‟s prestige was made not only by its effective teaching
methodology but by a thorough understanding of the development needs of children
as well. From the beginning, the school‟s main aims have been to identify these
needs and to carefully address them by providing the students with a safe,
productive and rich learning environment in which to learn English as well as
essential life skills.
Their modern teaching methods are the result of a 20-year continuous
development and research into the ELT field. With a communicative approach to
learning, four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing are focused so that
students can communicate in English in real life. Also, by acknowledging the
different learning styles of students, they have made sure that the English learning
experience at May School stimulates as many senses as possible through the use of
visual aids, songs, realia and fun activities.
2.1.1.2.

Students and English classes in May School

The children age in May School ranges from five to thirteen years old. There
are from ten to eighteen students in each class and most of them are at the same age.
In every class, students sit on chairs in U shape and use flexible tables when needed.
Each class also benefits from a weekly session with a native English speaker in
order to put into meaningful practice the language learned with the class teacher,

15


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