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Target Language in the MFL classroom

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Mark Payne

on 9 October 2013

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Transcript of Target Language in the MFL classroom

Target Language in the MFL Classroom
Table groups:
What TL have you experienced and what issues did you notice?
As pupils
As teachers
Observed in KS2
Observed in secondary school
As a teacher of English? FLA?
Teachers often talk of 'Target Language'.
What is "Target Language"?
Can you define it?
Teacher TL is not necessarily the most accurate version of a language. It is a simplified, artificial version of the language, pitched at the pupils’ levels, and consisting of (mostly) language they know. Many cognates may be used. It will be different for every class.
Using the TL for us (teachers) goes beyond referring to the content of the lesson e.g. learning how to order food and drink in Spanish. It means that the TL is used in a ‘meta-’ sense (languages for teaching languages), it is the language that the lesson itself is conducted in, regardless of the topic being learned.
Should MFL lessons be conducted in the TL and why/why not?
Imagine this question comes up at interview, and it could, how would you respond?
Some reasons for TL use:
environment of immersion
Teachers lead by example
model for language acquisition
Reinforces prior learning
Pupils learn new vocabulary in context
pupils hear language before they say, read or write it- logical progression
Stigma/fear of switching to the TL (e.g. when doing a role play or listening exercise) is removed for the pupils- it is not such a shock.
Some advice...
In contemplating a teaching or communication point, the challenge for teachers to set themselves is:
Why not use the target language for this piece of teaching or communication?
What do I need to do and plan in order to ensure that this can happen, now or in future?
The key is to plan for the maximum use of target language, with English the clearly signalled exception and last resort,
but preferable to incomprehension
. Put otherwise, the overriding principle for the use of English should be:
Whenever English is used in the MFL classroom, there should be a clear justification for it which is evident to the pupils and which serves the planned purpose of the lesson.

DES (2003). Key Stage 3 National Strategy. Foundation Subjects MFL: Core training materials. London: Department for Education and Skills, p.165.
We want the pupils to speak in the TL, but they may not want to.
Why not???
Many learners (not all), especially children, opt for a silent period. However, we oblige them to speak in the FL classroom.
Krashen (1987) puts this down to the child building up competence via listening.
Saville-Troike (1988) maintains that the child is preparing for social use of the language and is actually sometimes engaged in private speech
The silent period
What is this?
Lyons (1968) calls these ‘expressions which are learnt as unanalysable wholes and employed on particular occasions’ (Lyons, 1968, p.177).
Can I have a ....?
Do you like. ..?
These can serve as a basis for subsequent creative speech through increased substitution of elements of the ‘formulas’.
and when they do...
Extensive use of formulas...
Early creative utterances are typically truncated, particularly in the ‘unplanned’ language of children, with both grammatical functors and content words missing:
Library (He is in the library)
Clean floor (Give me something to clean the floor)
Come back (He is coming back)
Facilitating use of the TL
Having a coherent departmental policy which all members of staff support and use.
Carefully planning appropriate phrases to use in the classroom.
Double-sided flag for use in the classroom; when the flag is set to French/Spanish/German etc pupils and teacher must only use TL.
Having a prepared list of common classroom phrases.
Participating in forfeits/rewards with pupils for using the correct language.
Colourful posters/charts with classroom language/verbs/numbers etc in the classroom.
Refuse to accept English where target language could be used (within reason!).
The double-sided flag encourages the pupils as much as the teachers to use TL.
Give pupils a list of common classroom language phrases to refer to and use.
Use group or pair activities which encourage use of TL, e.g. ‘Beat the Teacher’ where students can score points or be rewarded for use of TL.
Time constraints in lessons.
Time constraints in planning TL into the lesson.
Need to be understood by all.
Lack of confidence in own TL capabilities.
Fear of losing control of the class.
Fear that pupils will not understand.
Fear of not being able to form good relationships with pupils- of appearing detached from them.
Previously established routines of little TL use are hard to break.
The nature of the class and class size.
The reaction of the class (behaviour).
External factors (ethos, exams).
Low expectations.
Some Barriers for teachers
what could they be?
Lack of confidence.
Fear of getting it wrong.
Being ridiculed.
Lack of motivation.
Xenophobic attitude.
Any others..???
Look at Silverdale school policies
Can you think of any examples in your languages??
How could you
facilitate teacher use?
How could you facilitate
pupil use??
and Krashen handout
Chambers, F. (1991). Promoting use of the target language in the classroom, The Language Learning Journal, 4:1, 27-31

Franklin, C. (1990). Teaching in the target language: Problems and prospects, The Language Learning Journal, 2:1, 20-24

Krashen, S. (1987). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Prentice-Hall
Pupil target language is a form of 'interlanguage', somewhere on a scale from 'L1' to 'L2'.
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