The Role of Minority Students’ L1 when Learning English

Jonas Iversen


This paper examines the context of multilingual minority students in Norwegian English classrooms, particularly focusing on the role of their L1. First, do minority students find their L1 useful when learning English? Second, how do minority students make use of their L1 when learning English? And finally, how do their teachers support the use of their L1 in the English classroom? Qualitative interviews with 10 minority students from three different secondary schools in Norway shows that although their teachers often ignore their linguistic background and do not encourage the use of the L1 in the English classroom, many students make use of their L1; they translate between English and their L1, see grammatical similarities between their L1 and English, and receive support from peers and parents through the medium of the L1. However, the lack of encouragement and support has also led many minority students to hold rather negative attitudes towards their L1 and they often consider their L1 as unfit for academic purposes. Hence, they often hesitate to make use of their L1 in the English classroom and there is great variety among the participants on whether they find their L1 useful in the context of the English classroom.


English Teaching, Multilingualism; Minority Languages; Multicultural Pedagogy; Minority Education

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Department of Foreign Languages and Translation, University of Agder


ISSN: 1894-2245  Bookmark and Share