The role of L1 in teaching vocabulary to young learners

The role of L1 in teaching vocabulary to young learners

         We all know that teaching young learners is different in terms of preparing the materials and the organizing the activities. We need to make use of more concrete and colorful materials so that we can attaract their attention and address their needs. When it comes to teaching vocabulary, we try to use as many different techniques as possible. We start with visuals (pictures, flashcards, images, filmscripts and etc), realia, drawings and etc. We sometimes need to make use of verbal expressions which requires preexisting knowledge. Since students are in the beginning of their language and the range of their vocabulary knowledge is limited, we need to make very simple explanations so that they can understand what we mean.
The heart of the matter I want to focus about our verbal expressions is that we sometimes need to use L1 when necessary. Since our audience is young learners, we should keep in mind that they are also in the process of learning their mother tongue. Therefore, we should be careful in selecting the words in L1 when we make an explanation. Students may not understand what we mean if they are not familiar with certain words aor concepts. For this very reason, we should take young learners’ developmental and contextual developments in vocabulary teaching, for it affects their grasping the meaning of our messages.
Young learners of a second/foreign language are still building their first language vocabulary, which is tied up with their contextual development; thus, in planning and teaching a foreign language we need to take into account this first language background to know what will work and what may be too difficult for children. The role of words as language units begins with the early use of nouns for naming objects in first language acquisition and use of other words to express the child’s wants and needs, followed by a period of rapid vocabulary development .
As Vygotsky states, although children may use the same words with adults, they may not hold the same meaning for those words. The acquisition of word meaning takes much longer than the acquisition of the spoken form of the words, and children use words in their speech long before they have a full understanding of them.
Learning Words (Cameron, 2001, pp. 72)

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