Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Role of the first language (L1) in English Medium Schools

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.

Post comp open day

Who this event is for

  • Staff - teaching
  • Current students - undergraduate
  • Current students - postgraduate taught
  • Academic community


The Glasgow Room, B Building, Harcourt Hill Campus


The role of the first language (L1) of multilingual learners in English medium schools has been an area of hot dispute between second language acquisition (SLA) researchers and the schools in which the fruits of their research is intended to inform practice. Among the SLA research community, it is taken as axiomatic that a multilingual learner’s L1 provides a vital support system for learning both the language of instruction (English in this case) and curriculum content. However, many schools explicitly prohibit the L1 through official school policy, tacitly exclude it through individual teacher practice, or simply ignore it. However, with the rise in interest in a theoretical and pedagogic construct known as translanguaging, interest in how the L1 can be used to support multilingual learners is gaining ground. In this context a number of claims are made about what the L1 can do, some apparently based on robust empirical evidence, others less so. Against this backdrop I prepared a state of the art review of evidence on the use of L1 in English medium schools. This was done with a view to summarising what can legitimately be claimed about L1 use and to help inform policy and practice in schools where significant proportions of the student body do not use the language of instruction in their homes. In this seminar I shall summarise this review and present its findings.

Hamish is a lecturer in the School of Education at Oxford University and is currently a PhD student at Oxford Brookes School of Education. He is a member of the executive committee of the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC). He is editor of NALDIC’s blog EALjournal.org, and associate editor of the EAL Journal, NALDIC’s professional periodical. He is on the advisory panel for the Informed Education Choices project in collaboration with the Education Endowment Foundation and the Chartered College of Teaching.

Hamish’s research interest centres on evaluation of pedagogical approaches to teaching children who use English as an Additional Language (EAL). In particular, his research focuses on the use of the first language as a pedagogical tool for multilingual learners in English medium classrooms. His methodological interest is in randomised trials and systematic reviews

A workshop will take place from 18:15 –19:.15 (numbers are limited so please email education-cecd@brookes.ac.uk to register your interest in the workshop).