L1 use during L2 writing : an empirical study of a complex phenomenon
Faculty of Applied Economics
Journal of second language writing. - Place of publication unknown
, p. 235-250
This study examined writers use of their first language (L1) while writing in their second language (L2). Twenty students each wrote four short argumentative essays in their L1 (Dutch) and four in their L2 (English) under think-aloud conditions. We analysed whether L1 use varied between writers and tasks, and whether it was related to general writing proficiency, L2 proficiency, and L2 text quality. The analysis focused on the occurrence of a number of conceptual activities, including Generating ideas, Planning, and Metacomments. Results indicate that all participants used their L1 while writing in their L2 to some extent, although this varied among conceptual activities. In addition, L2 proficiency was directly related to L2 text quality but was not related to the occurrence of conceptual activities either in L1 or L2. General writing proficiency, on the other hand, has a negative influence on L1 use during L2 writing and a positive effect on L2 use during L2 writing. L1 use during L2 writing is negatively related to L2 text quality, at least for Metacomments. Finally, L2 use appears to be positively related to L2 text quality for Goal setting, Generating ideas, and Structuring, but negatively related to L2 text quality for Self-instructions and Metacomments. The theoretical relevance of these findings is also discussed.