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The use of the mother tongue in the teaching of English as a foreign language in Libyan higher education

Mansor, Rania (2017) The use of the mother tongue in the teaching of English as a foreign language in Libyan higher education. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This research examines the role of mother tongue use in the teaching of English as a foreign language within the context of Libyan Higher education. The present research aims to explore the extent of Arabic use, attitudes towards this use and reasons for it among Libyan teachers and students. Literature within the field indicates that there has been much controversy surrounding the use of the mother tongue in teaching English with shifting views over the centuries. However, recently there has been a swing towards a recognition of potential positive roles that the mother tongue could have in the language classroom. Yet, despite this recognition, the issue is far from resolved and despite research within the field, there are still substantial gaps in knowledge and understanding of teachers and students’ extent and reasons for L1 use, as well as attitudes towards this use. The ongoing debate surrounding this issue requires further empirical research as proposed by the present research, with a focus on the unexplored Libyan context, aiming to add new insights to current discussions. The present research investigates this issue through a mixed method approach, allowing for an elaborate understanding as well as offering greater confidence in conclusions reached. I carried out three studies, in which I employed questionnaires, interviews, and observational as data collection methods with each expanding and adding depth to findings. The results of the three studies indicate that various factors within the Libyan EFL classroom, including lack of teacher training, proficiency level in the TL and course content, lead with some exceptions, to an overall high use of L1 (Arabic) among teachers and students. I also found that attitudes of teachers are mostly positive, and those of students differed according to proficiency level. I reasoned that teachers’ practices could be constrained by many aspects and conditions both internal and external to the teacher. In this regard, I drew out insights to factors leading to teachers’ L1 use within the Libyan EFL classroom, raising awareness of their potential effect on the process of teaching and learning. This highlights the need for future policy change and improvement allowing for a more judicious and well-informed teacher use of L1 based on appropriate, practical, and effective teacher training and continuing professional development programs.

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