Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 12. Number4   December 2021                                 Pp.349 -365

Full Paper PDF   


Mother Tongue Use in Beginner EFL Grammar Classes in Saudi Arabia: A Case Study 

Khulud Ali Tubayqi
Female Art and Humanity College, Jazan University, Saudi Arabia

Mazeegha Ahmed Al Tale’
Faculty of Languages and Translation, King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia
Corresponding author:


Received: 8/23/2021               Accepted: 11/22/2021            Published: 12/15/2021


Using the mother tongue (MT) in English as a foreign or second language (EFL/ESL) classrooms is indispensable, especially in beginner classes. This paper aims to add to the present literature on this issue by highlighting the attitudes of both students and teachers towards MT use in English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom, the justifications for its use, and some of the actual interaction practices in grammar classes. It investigates the attitudes of 110 Saudi EFL female beginners and their two teachers toward using the Arabic language in EFL grammar classes at Jazan University. It also investigates the students’ reasons for using or avoiding their MT. Moreover, it presents some of the functions that MT serves in EFL grammar classes.  To collect the data, the researchers used two questionnaires and classroom observations. For data analysis, they used Microsoft Excel and thematic content analysis. The results indicated that, although both students and teachers generally have positive attitudes toward using the MT in EFL classes, they are also aware of the adverse effects of its overuse. The results also revealed that the teachers and students use MT in EFL classes to serve different classroom functions that ease the teaching and learning processes. Based on these findings, the study provided recommendations for teachers, curriculum designers, and future researchers.
Keywords: Arabic, attitudes, English as a foreign language (EFL), functions, grammar, mother tongue (MT), reasons, Saudi Arabia context

Cite as: Tubayqi, K. A., & Al Tale’, M. A. (2021). Mother Tongue Use in Beginner EFL Grammar Classes in Saudi Arabia: A Case Study.
Arab World English Journal, 12 (4) 349 -365.


Adil, M. (2019). Practical Application of Learners’ First Language to Teaching Meaning in EFL  Classes: A Case Study Conducted in the Department of English at King Khalid University. Arab World English Journal, (1), 170-187. DOI:

Al-Enezi, M. (2018). Investigating Saudi Medical Students’ Attitudes Towards English-Arabic Code-Switching in Classroom Instruction. The Asian ESP Journal, 14(1), 142–160.

Al-Katheery, E. (2014). Functions of Teacher Code-Switching in a Saudi EFL Classroom: A Case Study. TESOL Arabia Perspectives, 22(3), 18–24. Available at

Al-Mohaimeed, M. S., & Al-Murshed, H. M. (2018). Foreign Language Learners’ Attitudes and Perceptions of L1 Use in L2 Classroom. Arab World English Journal, 9(4), 433–446. DOI:

Al-Nofaie, H. (2010). The Attitudes of Teachers and Students Towards Using Arabic in EFL Classrooms in Saudi Public Schools: A Case Study. Novitas-ROYAL (Research on Youth and Language), 4(1), 64–95.

Al-Shammari, M. M. (2011). The Use of the Mother Tongue in Saudi EFL Classrooms. Journal of International Education Research (JIER), 7(4), 95–102. DOI:

Al-Zayed, N., N. (2019). Using Arabic as the Mother Tongue in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Dirasat, Human and Social Sciences, 46(4).

Aoyama, R. (2020). Exploring Japanese High School Students’ L1 Use in Translanguaging in the Communicative EFL Classroom. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 23(4), 1–19. Available at

Binmahboob, T. (2020). Code-Switching and Attitudes Towards in EFL Classes from English Teachers’ Perspective. Multi-Knowledge Electronic Comprehensive Journal for Education and Science Publications, 32, 1–38.

Brooks-Lewis, K. A. (2009). Adult Learners’ Perceptions of the Incorporation of their L1 in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning. Applied Linguistics, 30(2), 216–235. DOI:

Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy (2nd ed.). New-York: Longman.

Canale, M. (1983). From Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy. In J. C. Richard, & R. W. Schmidt (eds.), Language and Communication (pp. 2-27).  Longman.

Debreli, E., & Oyman, N. (2015). Students’ Preferences on the Use of Mother Tongue in English as a Foreign Language Classrooms: Is it the Time to Re-examine English-Only policies? English Language Teaching, 9(1), 148. DOI:

Demir, H. (2012). The Role of Native Language in the Teaching of the FL Grammar. Journal of Education, 1(2), 21–28.

Greggio, S., & Gil, G. (2007). Teacher’s and Learner’s Use of Code-Switching in the EFL Classroom: A Qualitative Study. Linguagem and Ensino, 10(2), 371–393.

Harmer, J. (1991). The Practice of English Language Teaching (2nd ed.). London: Longman.

Jenkins, S. (2010). Monolingualism: An Uncongenial Policy for Saudi Arabia’s Low-level Learners. ELT Journal, 64(4), 459–461. DOI:

Jingxia, L. (2010). Teachers’ Code-Switching to the L1 in EFL Classroom. The Open Applied Linguistics Journal, 2(1). DOI:

Khati, A. (2011). When and Why of Mother Tongue Use in English Classrooms. Journal of NELTA, 16(1–2), 42–51.

Khresheh, A. (2012). Exploring When and Why to Use Arabic in the Saudi Arabian EFL Classroom: Viewing L1 Use as Eclectic Technique.  English Language Teaching, 5(6). DOI:

Krashen, S. D. (1982). Child-Adult Differences in Second Language Acquisition: Series on Issues in Second Language Research (1st ed.). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Kocaman, O, & Aslan, E. (2018). The Students’ Perceptions of the Use of L1 in EFL Classes: A Private Anatolian High School Sample. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 14(4), 179–189.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Levine, G. S. (2014). Principles for Code Choice in the Foreign Language Classroom: A Focus on Grammaring. Language Teaching, 47(3), 332–348. DOI:

Mahmoud, S. S. (2012). The Effect of L1 (Arabic language) in the L2 (English language) Classroom on the Achievement in General English of Foundation Year Students in King Abdulaziz University. David Publishing, 9(12), 1733–1738.

Masrahi, N. (2016). Causes of Code-Switching by Low Level EFL Learners at Jazan University, Saudi Arabia: A Teachers’ Perspective. Journal of Language, Linguistics and Literature, 2(4), 24–31.

Murad, T. (2013). Arab Practicum Guides Code-Switch to Hebrew: Attitudes, Factors and Reasons. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 4(6), 1160–1166. DOI:

Murphy, R. (2012). English Grammar in Use: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English (3rd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press

Narayan, R. (2019). Code-Switching as a Linguistic Resource in the Fijian ESL Elassrooms: Bane or Boon? Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 10(3), 427. DOI:

Nazary, M. (2008). The Role of L1 in L2 Acquisition: Attitudes of Iranian University Students. Novitas-Royal, 2(2), 138–153. Available at

Paradowski, M. B. (2007). Foreign-Language Grammar Instruction via the Mother Tongue. In B. Frank, J. Darquennes, & R. Temmerman (eds.), Multilingualism and Applied Comparative Linguistics, 1: Comparative Considerations in Second and Foreign Language Instruction (pp.151-167).  Cambridge Scholars Press.

Romli, N. H., & Abd Aziz, M. S. (2015). The Use of Bahasa Melayu in the English Language Classroom by ‘Non-Optionist’ English Teachers. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 172, 770–777. DOI:

Shabir, M. (2017). Student-Teachers’ Beliefs on the Use of L1 in EFL Classroom: A Global Perspective. English Language Teaching, 10(4), 45-52. DOI:

Turnbull, B., & Evans, M. S. (2017). The Effect of L1 and L2 Group Discussions on L2 Reading Comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 29(1), 133–154.

Uyar, Y. (2012). Using L1 to Enhance the Grammar Learning and Having Only English Policy in EFL Classes. Available at

Wijaya, K. F., Mety, M., & Bram, B. (2020). English education Master’s program students’ perceptions on the use of code-switching in EFL classroom context. Journal of English Teaching, 6(1), 1–11. DOI:



Received: 8/23/2021 
Accepted: 11/22/2021  
Published: 12/15/2021 

Khulud Ali Tubayqi is a lecturer at Jazan University, English department. She holds a master’s degree from King Khalid University, majoring in Applied Linguistics. She has rich experience in teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) to Saudi students. Her research interests are EFL teaching, language planning and discourse analysis. ORCid ID:

Mazeegha Ahmed Al-Tale’ is an associate professor of Applied Linguistics in the Faculty of Languages and Translation-King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia. She has taught several English Language courses for graduate and postgraduate students. She has also published articles in local, Arabic, and international journals. Her research interests are English as a foreign language (EFL)learning and teaching, e. Learning, and critical discourse analysis. ORCid ID: