Many English teachers of the Indonesian Defense Language Training Center (DLTC) assume that it is a sin for the students using mother tongue in the classroom and it will affect the English learning process. As a consequence, we apply a strict rule to minimize the use of mother tongue in the classroom, especially for the upper intermediate and advanced levels. Usually, before the course is started, the teachers set an agreement with the students to fine every student being caught using Indonesian language. The objectives of this rule besides to motivate students using English all the time is also to create a conducive teaching and learning situation in order to be as likely English environment as possible.
Surprisingly, according to Rinvolucri (2001:44), students’ mother tongue is a very useful media to develop students’ language intelligence, as long as it is planned and managed properly. He also states that it would be better for the English teachers to know their students’ mother tongue. Besides to build students respect and trust, knowing students’ mother tongue will help teacher to understand the linguistic context either in L1 or in L2. Some activities utilizing students’ mother tongue in the classroom are also suggested by Rinvolucri (2001:42) that can be applied either by the teachers who do not speak their students’ mother tongue or for those who speak the same language with their students. Some of the activities proposed are; sandwich stories, translating letters, excuses, bi-lingual vocabulary tennis, and semantic flip-flops. A very interesting example the use of students’ L1 activity in the classroom is “translating letter”. In this activity the teacher does not need to be able to speak students’ L1, and it can be applied into a multilingual class. Asks students to select a postcard, letter, or email that they have just received or want to be sent and asks them to translate the letters into English. After that, asks them to exchange with their friends and read and discuss them.
In line with Rinvolucri, Dajani (2002:65) has the same idea dealing with the role of mother tongue in the classroom. She considers that students’ native language is very significant in developing and improving their learning strategy. Teacher can use students’ L1 to help them in increasing the awareness of their learning style, strategy they apply, and also assisting them in assessing their own weaknesses and strengths in the process of learning L2. She gives some ideas for the teachers in helping their students control their learning process and evaluate their learning.
1. teaching and modeling learning strategies;
3. self evaluation;
4. journal keeping;
5. sensitizing students to their own learning styles; and
6. teaching thinking dispositions