On Friday, January 28, 2011, Dr. Isabel Pefianco Martin of the Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University, relayed an email to Ched Arzadon, et al., which email was promptly relayed to MTBMLE/Talaytayan Group. It called attention to an article about teaching English using Cantonese. Dr. Martin wrote that “This is something that I’d really like to work on soon–teaching English using the mother tongue. I haven’t read the handbook yet, but I thought you might want to do so first.” To help shed light on where Dr. Martin is coming from, I recommend to the reader to check Dr. Martin’s commentary, “Fearing English in the Philippines“, published more than two years ago in the Inquirer. For the reader’s information, “Fearing English in the Philippines” drew a rebuttal from Dean Jorge Bocobo of Philippine Commentary on April 16, 2008, and the rebuttal itself generated a number of comments.
Well, here’s the English-using-Cantonese article:
How To Have A Guilt-Free Life Using Cantonese In The English Class
By Merrill Swain, Andy Kirkpatrick, and Jim Cummins
In Hong Kong, English language teachers are urged to use English “in all English lessons and beyond: teachers should teach English through English and encourage learners to interact with one another in English” (Curriculum Development Council, 2004, p. 109).
So, it is not surprising that teachers of English in Hong Kong feel a sense of guilt every time they use Cantonese in their English classes. How many times have English teachers (particularly teachers-in-training) been warned that Cantonese must not be used in English classes? How many times have English teachers been told that every time Cantonese is used, an opportunity for students to learn English is lost? And how often do English teachers (guiltily) use Cantonese in spite of these warnings?Our goal in writing this brief “guidebook” for the use of Cantonese (L1) when teaching English (L2) is to rid English teachers of their guilt! Students’ L1 is not an enemy to the development of high levels of English. Cantonese, used judiciously in the English classroom, can serve to scaffold English language learning.