Effective use of mother tongue in foreign language teaching in Chinese foreign languages institutes

  • Gao Wen-jian

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Whether or not the mother tongue is to be used in the language classroom has long been a subject of heated argument among language teachers in China. The great success of the communicative approach in second language teaching seems to have strengthened some peoples' belief that the mother tongue should be completely avoided in language teaching. It is, therefore, of great importance in China, and perhaps of interest to foreign language teachers in other countries as well, to analyse the situations of foreign language teaching and learning, including the difference between second language and foreign language teaching, in order to see whether controlled use of the mother tongue can in fact make teaching and learning effective and efficient. Chapter 1 reviews the major language teaching methods and approaches now in use within and outside China. These methods and approaches are categorized in accordance with the ways of the learning they represent, and the advantages and problems of these methods and approaches are analysed. The differences between foreign language learning and second language learning are examined in Chapter 2. Since foreign language learners have different aims and objectives, a different environment and possibly different motives, their ways of learning are bound to be affected. Theories of language learning --- compound and co-ordinate bilingualism, independent and interdependent bilinguals, acquisition and learning, --- are also discussed in relation to the influence of these theories on language teaching as well as the reasons why people use the mother tongue in foreign language teaching. However, it is the teacher's responsibility to select the appropriate techniques for presenting and practising the target language. In the case of foreign language learning the use of the mother tongue is not only possible but can be effective and efficient. Chapter 3 focuses on the foreign language teaching situation in China. It includes a description of and comments on the changes in methods in the last 50 years as well as some important arguments in academic circles associated with the issue of the use of the mother tongue in foreign language teaching. Chapter 4 describes the author's investigation in the form of questionnaires sent to foreign language teachers and observations of foreign language classrooms. Answers to the questionnaires appear to confirm the existence of the problems in the use of the mother tongue. Analysis of the observations reveals possible solutions to the problems . Practical suggestions about the actual use of the mother tongue in the foreign language teaching are offered in Chapter 5, For teaching, it seems possible to use the mother tongue to teach/explain 1) new concepts; 2) abstract ideas; 3) different points; 4) target language grammar; 5) translation skills and 6) target language culture. Mother tongue is also very helpful for teachers in their compiling of teaching materials. On the other hand, students can use mother tongue in their learning; it helps them practise as well as gather historical and cultural background information.
    Date of Award1984
    Original languageEnglish

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