The use of first language scaffolding to teach English as a foreign language to pre-school children during dramatic play in West Sumatera, Indonesia
The Indonesian community generally perceives that English language teaching should require phonology, vocabulary, grammar, discourse, and pragmatics. As a result, this often demands that pre-school teachers use English all the time. Code switching between English, Indonesian, and Minang – the local language of the region – is perceived negatively, and teachers are often criticized for using a multilingual approach that is “part snake and part eel” [sakarek ula sakarek baluik]. This refers to a negative perception of mixing languages in educational settings. In fact, code switching between Minang (first language), Indonesian (second language), and English (foreign language) is the norm of language use in this part of Indonesia. However, in this community, there is a lack of respect for pre-school teachers' professionalism as well as scepticism towards the effectiveness of a multilingual teaching approach, which is used widely at the pre-school level. Vygotsky , the Russian psychologist, presents a different perspective on this phenomenon, noting that children learn languages by playing. Their first language can be the main tool to help them understand new words and utterances in context. By using code switching, teachers help pre-school children to link their prior knowledge and experience to the new forms of expression that enable them to derive the meaning of new words from the social context of language use. For this reason, scaffolding techniques should be used by pre-school teachers, particularly in ways which support children's cognitive development in constructing new meanings based on their first language experience. This paper, based on a research study-in-progress at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, explores patterns of interaction between pre-school teachers and their students as teachers scaffold the development of EFL through dramatic play in West Sumatera, Indonesia. This interaction is systemic in nature and demonstrates consistent patterns of language use. The data described here is derived from a collaborative Action Research project with pre-school teachers in this community. The results are presented in the form of a narrative inquiry. These results challenge local perceptions of teachers' effectiveness in language education. Children, who have been taught English language through scaffolding, demonstrate physical, social, and cognitive development as a result of learning in and through playing in a multilingual context. This shows the positive role of code switching in EFL teaching at pre-school level in West Sumatera, and suggests a need to challenge existing community perceptions, thereby prompting a more serious consideration of this approach to EFL teaching in complex multilingual learning contexts.
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