Different but similar: Student teachers’ perspectives on the use of L1 in arab and jewish EFL classroom settings

Lily Orland-Barak, Hayuta Yinon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The complex cultural mosaic of EFL teaching and teacher education in Israel calls for the need to explore how different ethnic and cultural backgrounds shape prospective EFL teachers' perspectives about their roles and practices as communicative teachers; an approach solidly entrenched in western, democratic views of teaching and learning. Focusing on one aspect of communicative language teaching, the function of L1 and L2 for promoting communication, this qualitative-interpretative study explored the perspectives that 14 Arab and Jewish EFL student teachers adopted towards the use of L1 (mother tongue) and L2 (target language). The study was conducted within the context of student teachers' reflections on their classroom discourse during practice teaching. Student teachers were asked to record, transcribe and reflect on one classroom lesson implemented in their practice teaching through a series of guiding questions. The questions aimed at encouraging reflection at levels of mapping and naming teaching and learning behaviours, connecting between theoretical notions and their realisation in ‘action’, surfacing gaps between expectations and reality, interpreting, scrutinising and appraising particular teaching and learning behaviours. The inductive analysis revealed that both Jewish and Arab student teachers exhibited new insights regarding the different purposes for which L1 can be used in a communicative lesson. Novices reported to have gained a more situated and realistic perspective of the various uses of mother tongue in communicative teaching as a result of analysing their own classroom discourse. The findings shed light on the striking similarities between Arab and Jewish student teachers in regard to the new understandings gained about the use of L1/L2 in communicative lessons. The uniform perspectives exhibited by novices, regardless of their socio-cultural background, challenged our initial assumptions regarding the differences that we would expect to find between Arab and Jewish student teachers on the issue. Thus, as the title of this paper suggests, student teachers ‘however different’, exhibited ‘similar’ perspectives towards the use of L1/L2 in EFL communicative lessons. The question of why socio-cultural differences were mitigated is discussed through three inter-related themes that might account for such similarities: (1) the state of being a novice, (2) the ‘culture’ of EFL teaching and, (3) the homogeneous character of the teacher education programme.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-113
    Number of pages23
    JournalLanguage, Culture and Curriculum
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2005


    • Classroom discourse
    • Curriculum
    • Second language teacher education

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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