L1 and L2 in teaching

Since both L1 (English) and L2 (foreign languages) are taught in our schools, it is important to know how they might support one another. Here is a very small and incomplete collection of relevant research items.

L1 supporting L2

  • Ströbel, M, E Kerz & D Wiechmann. 2020. The relationship between first and second language writing: investigating the effects of first language complexity on second language complexity in advanced stages of learning. Language Learning.
  • Relyea, Jackie Eunjung & Steven Amendum. 2019. English Reading Growth in Spanish‐Speaking Bilingual Students: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross‐Linguistic Influence Jackie Eunjung Relyea Steven J. Amendum. Child Development.
    • Abstract: This study examined the extent to which kindergarten Spanish reading affected English reading growth trajectories through fourth grade among nationally representative Spanish‐speaking bilingual students (N = 312) in the United States and whether the association varied by students’ English oral proficiency. Multilevel growth curve analyses revealed that stronger early Spanish reading was related to greater English reading growth. Within the stronger Spanish reading group, students with lower English oral proficiency initially began behind their counterparts but caught up with and surpassed them later. Within the weaker Spanish reading group, the difference between lower and higher English oral proficiency groups increased over time. Findings suggest that initially well‐developed Spanish reading competence plays a greater role in English reading development than English oral proficiency.
    • Abstract: The present study examined the extent to which first language (L1) awareness can benefit second language (L2) grammatical learning of the French Imparfait, a crosslinguistically complex target feature. Sixty-nine English-speaking learners of L2 French received different types of explicit information (EI) about L2 or L2 + L1 form-meaning mappings. A ‘core’ treatment received by all learners consisted of EI about L2 with L2 comprehension-based practice of French sentences. Two further treatments examined the impact of additional (i) EI about L1 and (ii) comprehension practice of L1 sentences. Results from an online self-paced reading test, offline judgment tests (in reading and listening) and an oral sentence completion test with source of knowledge probes showed that performance immediately after the instruction and then six weeks later improved only for learners exhibiting L1 awareness. These results suggest that awareness of L1 form-meaning mappings can benefit L2 grammar learning of a crosslinguistically complex target feature.
  • Sparks, Richard, Jon Patton & Julie Luebbers. 2019. Individual differences in L2 achievement mirror individual differences in L1 skills and L2aptitude: Crosslinguistic transfer of L1 to L2 skills. Foreign Language Annals 1–29.
    • OASIS: accessible summary
    • Abstract: Studies with U.S. secondary second language (L2) learners have revealed individual differences (IDs) in first language (L1) skills and L2 aptitude and shown that these IDs are related to L2 achievement and proficiency. In this study, U.S. students were administered measures of L1 achievement, L1 cognitive processing, and L2 aptitude; followed through 2 to 3 years of Spanish courses; and administered standardized measures of Spanish achievement at the end of each year. Students were divided into high‐, average‐, and low‐achieving groups according to their scores on the Spanish measures and compared on the L1 measures and L2 aptitude test. Findings showed significant overall group differences on most L1 measures and significant between‐group differences on most L1 measures and the L2 aptitude test. IDs in L1 literacy, L1 working memory, and L2 aptitude best discriminated among students who completed 2 versus 3 years of Spanish. Results support claims that IDs in L2 achievement mirror IDs in L1 skills and provide evidence for the crosslinguistic transfer of L1 to L2 skills.
  • Sparks & Ganschow (1991) Foreign language learning difficulties: Affective or native language aptitude differences? The Modern Language Journal, 7, 3-16
  • Sparks, R., Ganschow, L. Patton, J. (1995) Prediction of performance in first-year foreign language courses: Connections between native and foreign language learning. Journal of Educational Psychology 87, 638-655
  • Kupferberg, Irit & E Olshtain. 1996.  Explicit contrastive instruction facilitates the acquisition of difficult l2 forms. Special issue on Cross linguistic approaches to language awareness. Language Awareness 5, 149–165. Language Awareness 5 (Special issue on cross-linguistic approaches to language awareness). 149–165.
  • Kupferberg, Irit. 1999. The Cognitive Turn of Contrastive Analysis: Empirical Evidence. Language Awareness 8. 210–213.
  • Cook, Vivian. 2001. “Using the First Language in the Classroom.Canadian Modern Language Review-Revue Canadienne Des Langues Vivantes 57: 402–23
    • L1 can be a useful tool in teaching L2.
  • Sparks, R., L. Ganschow and J. Patton, 2008. L1 and L2 literacy, aptitude, and affective variables as discriminators among high- and low-achieving L2 learners with special needs. In J. Kormos, & E. Kontra (Eds). Language learners with special needs. Bristol: Maltilingual Matters. pp: 11-35.
  • Sparks, R., J. Patton, L. Ganschow and N. Humbach, 2011. Subcomponents of second language aptitude and second-language proficiency. Modern Language Journal, 95: 253-273. Perspective. London: Multilingual Matters. pp: 11-35
  • Hall, Graham, and Guy Cook. 2012. “Own-Language Use in Language Teaching and Learning.” Language Teaching 45 (03): 271–308. doi:10.1017/S0261444812000067.
    • L2 teaching was dominated through the 20th century by the principle of using only L2 in the classroom, but recent research shows that L2 learning benefits from the ‘judicious’ use of L1, and from explicit comparisons with L1.
  • Falk, Y., Lindqvist, C., Bardel, C. (2015) The role of L1 explicit metalinguistic knowledge in L3 oral production at the initial stage.  Bilingualism, Language and Cognition 18, 2, 227-235
    • Those with better metalinguistic knowledge about their 1st language (Swedish) performed better on placing attributive (colour) adjectives in front of nouns in their 3rd language (Dutch). Both Swedish and Dutch put adjectives in front of nouns, so this was transferring their knowledge from their first language. However, those with lower metalinguistic knowledge about their 1st language, transferred (erroneously) from their Romance 2nd languages, being more likely to put attributive adjectives post nominally.
  • McManus, Kevin, and Emma Marsden. 2016. “L1 Explicit Instruction Can Improve L2 Online and Offline Performance. An Exploratory Study.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition.
    • This study investigated the effectiveness of providing L1 explicit information with practice for making more accurate and faster interpretations of L2 French Imparfait. Two treatments were investigated: (i) ‘L2-only’, providing explicit information (EI) about the L2 with L2 interpretation practice and (ii) ‘L2+L1’, providing the exact same L2-only treatment and including EI about the L1 (English) with practice interpreting L1 features that are equivalent to the Imparfait. 50 L2 French learners were randomly assigned to either L2-only, L2+L1, or a Control group. Online (self-paced reading) and offline (context-sentence matching) measures from Pretest, Posttest and Delayed Posttests showed that providing additional L1 EI and practice improved not only offline L2 accuracy, but also the speed of online L2 processing. To our knowledge, this makes an original and significant contribution about the nature of EI with practice, the role of L1 (Tolentino & Tokowicz, 2014), and extends a recent line of research examining EI effects in online sentence processing (Andringa & Curcic, 2015).

L2 supporting L1

  • Murphy, Victoria, Ernesto Macaro, Sonia Alba, and Claudia Cipolla. 2015. The Influence of Learning a Second Language in Primary School on Developing first Language Literacy Skills. Applied Psycholinguistics 36: 1133–53. doi:doi:10.1017 / S0142716414000095.
    • Teaching Year 3 children French or Italian for 15 weeks had a measurable positive effect on their phonological processing and reading accuracy in English; the effect was especially strong with Italian because of its regular spelling.
  • Cook, V. (Ed.). (2003a). Effects of the second language on the first. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
    • Most chapters show either neutral or negative influences of L2 on L1, but one (by Murphy and Price) shows that young learners can become more aware of rules in L1 through learning L2.

L1 and L2 supporting each other


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.