Use of First Language in Teaching and Learning English and Chinese

Project Number
OER 16/11 VV

Project Duration
December 2011 - March 2016


This project pilots and perfects a bilingual coding scheme to be used in English and Chinese classes to measure the quantity, quality, purpose and pace of L1 (first language) used to teach/learn the L2 (second language) by both teachers and students. The theoretical foundation of this project is that of language transfer in bilingualism in which the L1 and L2 are placed on a continuum of skills and where both are resources in acquiring the target language (Hornberger, 2003; Cummins, 2000). The project focuses on children who are failing to meet the language requirements of Singapore's schools in English and Chinese. As languages of enormous linguistic and cultural capital we believe that an investment in helping such children is founded on Singapore's ideology of a meritocratic school system which provides a level playing field to all children. This project will run simultaneously in the Learning Support Program (LSP), which is a remedial program for children with weak reading skills in English, and in the Chinese mother tongue class. Taking a comparative approach the project will study three groups of students: - Foreign nationals from China for whom Chinese is the first language and English is the second (CL1, EL2) in the LSP class. - Singaporean children from Chinese speaking homes (CL1, EL2) in the LSP and Chinese mother tongue class. - Singaporean children from English speaking homes (EL1, CL2) in the LSP and Chinese mother tongue classes. Though bilingual coding schemes have been used before there has never been one to code Chinese and English with the purpose of analyzing the use of L1 to teach and learn L2. Called 'ME-CODES' (Mandarin-English Coding Scheme), this new bilingual coding instrument will be developed by the PIs though some of the items in this instrument will taken from other validated instruments. Data generated by ME-CODES will help to explore exactly which types of L1 use in the classroom are helpful for L2 acquisition and what implications this has for future interventions and teacher education.

Research Themes
Bilingual & Biliteracy Development

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 6  2012: Looking at Language Learning with a Bilingual Lens
ReEd Vol 18 2015: Using The First Language To Teach The Second 

Related Projects