• Exploring the value of bilingual language assistants with Japanese English as a foreign language learners

      Macaro, Ernesto; Nakatani, Yasuo; Hayashi, Yuko; Khabbazbashi, Nahal; University of Oxford; Hosei University (Routledge, 2012-04-27)
      We report on a small-scale exploratory study of Japanese students’ reactions to the use of a bilingual language assistant on an EFL study-abroad course in the UK and we give an insight into the possible effect of using bilingual assistants on speaking production. First-year university students were divided into three groups all taught by a monolingual (native) speaker of English. Two teachers had monolingual assistants to help them; the third group had a bilingual (Japanese–English) assistant. In the third group, students were encouraged to ask the assistant for help with English meanings and to provide English equivalents for Japanese phrases, especially during student-centred activities. Moreover, the students in the third group were encouraged to code-switch rather than speak hesitantly or clam up in English. In the first two groups, the students were actively discouraged from using Japanese among themselves in the classroom. The data from an open-ended questionnaire suggest that attitudes to having a bilingual assistant were generally positive. Moreover the ‘bilingual’ group made the biggest gains over the three week period in fluency and in overall speaking scores although these gains were not statistically significant. Suggestions for further research are explored particularly in relation to whether a bilingual assistant may provide support with the cross-cultural challenges faced by EFL learners.