Students’ Perception of Teacher’s Bilingual Language Use in an English Classroom

The need of an understandable language instruction is very important in learning a new language because if the students do not feel clear enough about what teacher gives or explains to them of the target language, they will not get any kind of information from the teacher during the learning process and hence they might be failed in the learning process. In Indonesian context, English is seen as a foreign language (EFL) in which it is not widely used by learners in their immediate social context (Saville-troike, 2006, p. 4), it includes in school area where the students learn English as a leaning subject, the students rarely use English as their language for communication or interaction with others and they tend to use Indonesian language or their local language to communicate each other inside or outside the classroom.

The condition mentioned before influences the language use by the teacher in order to conduct an English language learning (ELL) classroom; teachers may incorporate Indonesian language in ELL classroom for conducting the class especially to teach the students in the beginning level of English language proficiency in which at this level the students do not have much knowledge about English. The condition mentioned before also leads to the argument of Brown (2001, p. 98) which states that teaching students at beginning level is seen as the most challenging level of language instruction, because at this level students only have little or even do not have prior knowledge of the target language. Besides, Brown (2001) also argues that beginning students are highly dependent on the teacher for models of language (p. 99). Thus, incorporating students’ first language (in this study: Indonesian language) could be considered as a learning tool to facilitate the students to learn English. In line with the arguments mentioned above, Brown (2001, p. 99) believes that the use of students’ first language (L1) in foreign language classroom situations is becoming an option, as long as it is limited by the need of the first language itself and gives some distinct advantages in learning the target language (L2). In addition, Nazary (2008, p. 138) also says that it is common for EFL teachers to use the students’ mother tongue as a tool for conveying meaning as a means of interaction both in English language institutes and in the classroom. Existing students’ native language in an EFL classroom will influence the classroom dynamic and suggestions, because L1 provides a sense of security and validates the learners’ live experiences, allowing them to express themselves (Schweers, 1999, p. 7).

In accordance with the previous statements, as stated by Brown (2000) teachers and educators have debated whether or not they use the students’ first language (L1) in an EFL classroom. Some teachers may think that teaching foreign language to students and bringing their L1 to take a part in the learning process may be effective for them to learn the foreign language, especially for the students in the low level proficiency of English because allowing students to be close to their native speaker will help them to learn and to acquire a new language (Cook, 2001a, p. 171-172). Moreover, to be proficient in a new language acquisition, someone should have basic knowledge of the new language. As stated by Saville-Troike (2006, p. 18) that since L2 acquisition follows L1 acquisition, a major component of the initial state for L2 learning must be prior knowledge of L1. Students will acquire the L2 when they have a prior knowledge of L1 in which responsible for the transfer from L1 to L2 during second language development. That prior knowledge helps them to develop their second language acquisition and act as a tool to be proficient in that target language or second language (L2) learning process.

On the other hand, in Indonesian context, there is also no regulation or education institution policy for the use of language instruction in order to conduct an English language learning (ELL). Language instruction in ELL classroom is only determined by the teachers who teach English as the learning subject. Teachers only determine the language use based on their belief or their used approach to language learning. Furthermore, in order to determine the language use for conducting their ELL classroom, teachers actually have two kinds of language instruction alternative; whether to use (1) English only or (2) English is incorporated with Indonesian language or students’ first language (L1). The classification of language instruction is in line with the report of U.S Department of Education (2012), it is report that there are two kinds of language instruction for conducting an English language learning classroom—English as a second language (ESL) and bilingual approaches.

The use of those approaches or language instructions should be based on some factors such as age, formal education background or L1 literacy because it is believed that there is no one approach or model is appropriate for all English learners (U.S Department of Education, 2012, p. xxii). In order to deal with the condition and situation mentioned above, the use of bilingual approach in English language learning (ELL) classroom especially for teaching English to the students in low level English proficiency is needed to be investigated. Regarding this, this study would like to investigate the perception of students toward the use of Indonesian in ELL classroom and to find out whether or not incorporating Indonesian in ELL classroom gives benefits for students in learning English. Bilingual approach in this study leads to the use of students’ first language (Indonesian) in learning target language (in this study it is due to learn English). Moreover, the term of teacher’s bilingual language use in this study is defined as two languages of classroom instruction that used by the teacher in teaching English (the implementation of Indonesian and English in teaching English to the beginning level of students).

Name : Yusi Nursanti

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