The term ‘first’ or ‘own language’ (L1) in second/foreign language (L2) acquisition, learning and teaching (SLA) refers to languages students (and teachers) may speak with varying levels of proficiency and ‘through which (if allowed) they will approach the new language’ (Cook, 2010: xxii). Many teaching methods originating in communicative and immersive paradigms and recognized as mainstream trends in SLA – such as Natural, Content-, Task- and Project-based Language Learning, and the neurolinguistic approach (Richards and Rodgers, 2001; R. Ellis, 2003; Beckett and Miller, 2006; Germain, 2017) – have promoted an ‘authenticity claim’ (Buendgens- Kosten, 2014: 457; Mishan, 2005: 1-10) while simultaneously challenging the usage of the L1 (Hall and Cook, 2013: 8). The latter is accepted as a last resort (Littlewood and Yu, 2011: 64) or is restricted to specific areas, such as explicit grammar instruction (particularly with beginners), conveying and checking the meaning of words, and classroom management (Cook, 2001: 410-211; Kerr, 2016). Despite the near-consensus about ‘monolingual imperatives’ (Hall and Cook, 2013: 177), many L2 instructors make extensive use of L1 (Kerr, 2016: 517; Marsella, 2020: 22) and the interest in L1 use has been steadily increasing in SLA literature.
On the other hand, recent research on authenticity in SLA comes very close to the issue of L1 use when it reveals a deep connection between so-called ‘native-speakerism’ (Pinner, 2016: 44) and the dominant representation of authenticity (Lowe and Pinner, 2016), and suggests an innovative understanding of authenticity that covers not only traditional native-speaker- oriented textual authenticity, but also what Will (2018: chap. 3) encodes as the authenticity of individual behaviour.
However, the issue of L1 use has been rarely addressed in connection with authenticity. Studying a corpus of more than 80 publications in English from the late 1990s – 2020, I was able to find a few noteworthy instances of authentic/authenticity being used in discussions on L1 use. They can be divided into the following three groups.
(1) The first type of co-occurrences relates authenticity to cognitive mechanism of L2 acquisition which inherently involves L1. It can be traced back to Lindsay Clanfield’s and Duncan Foord’s publication in a free online journal in 2000. In a short note presenting their ‘practical ideas kit’, the authors encourage teachers to use L1: ‘If you can do this, your classroom is likely to be more authentic in the sense that it reflects the natural interplay of L1 and L2 which is inherent in second language acquisition’ (Clanfield and Foord, 2000). Independently of Clanfield and Foord (2000), in the summary of her 2001 paper examining the theoretical cognitive premises of L1 use, Vivian Cook notes that L1 is ‘a useful element in creating authentic L2 users’ (Cook, 2001: 402). Thurbull and Arnett (2002: 207) explain Cook’s position by asserting that usage of L1 ‘creates particularly authentic learning environments as it acknowledges the influence of the L1 on the L2’. In the same vain, Wolfgang Butzkamm (2003) and later Butzkamm and Caldwell (2009) put forward a method for teaching grammar, which is based on systemic usage of L1 and respects the cognitive mechanism of L2 acquisition: learners ‘build upon existing skills and knowledge acquired in and through the mother tongue’ (Butzkamm, 2003; 31). The L1 use reduces learners’ dependence on L1, promotes ‘authentic communication’ and ‘a genuine foreign language atmosphere’ as it allows to not interrupt the flow of the classroom conversation and keeps it focused on message (Butzkamm and Caldwell, 2009: 33, 40, 80).
(2) The second type co-occurrence is represented by Leo van Lier (2011) who considers ‘translanguaging’ to be an important factor in ‘authenticating learning’ (van Lier, 2011: 14).
(3) Finally, Claire Kramsch (2012: 116) questions the established category of ‘authenticity’ as being incompatible with ‘multilingual SLA’.
These co-occurrences, while not significant in volume terms, demonstrate that the issue of L1 in SLA is deeply connected to inquiries about authenticity.
In this chapter, we try to situate the found co-occurences in the context of current trends in SLA (related to reseach both on authenticity and on L2 use). In addition, a cross-analysis of these two core concepts can reveal some emerging tendencies in the understanding of authenticity in SLA. We argue that consolidating the conceptual nexus around two core notions of SLA – L1 and authenticity – as parts of the larger conceptual framework of an emerging students/teachers-as-people paradigm would help to reinforce theoretical arguments in favor of systematic use of L1 in the L2 classroom. The proposed approach also enables us to bring together data from two fields in SLA – poststructuralist and neurocognitive – and to put forward an inclusive socio-cognitive model of L1 use, which could be a foundation for a L1-as-pedagogy approach.