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Second Language Acquisition - Language Transfer

SLA: Internal Factors - Language Transfer

Nicole Dao

on 6 March 2013

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Transcript of Second Language Acquisition - Language Transfer

What's next? Stay tuned to discuss other interesting
aspects of
Language Transfer... Genesis of LT - In the Beginning... Second Language Acquisition: Internal Factors
Language Transfer (LT) Much of earlier research was directed at testing the rival claims of behaviourist and mentalist theories of L2 acquisition (Introduction - page 345).

Mentalist or Innate Theory - Chomsky (1959) - Language is not a set of habits, but it is rule-governed.
Language Acquisition Device - LAD which consists of UG

Behaviourist theories of L2 learning emphasized the idea of 'difficulty' - defined as the amount of effort to learn an L2 pattern. The main impediment was INTERFERENCE from prior knowledge. Terminological Differences The terminologies 'Interference' and 'transfers' are closely related with behaviourist theories of L2 learning (page 350)

Sharwood Smith & Kellerman (1986) suggested a more neutral term 'Crosslinguistic influence' to facilitate the discussion of the similarities and differences in the following phenomena: 'Transfer', 'interference', 'avoidance', 'borrowing, and L2-related aspects of language loss (page 350-351).

Based on Odlin's (1989) often cited term, 'working definition', Ellis proposed the term 'Bidirectional Transfer' to describe the influence of previously acquired 'second' languages (page 351).

.Jarvis' (2000) critique of 'Bidirectional Transfer': failed to acknowledge crosslinguistic influences i.e. significant correlation existed between some feature of the target language and any other language that have been previously acquired. The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis in its early days Lado (1957) formulated the CAH based on the assumption (pg 359):
...L2 features that are similar to a learner's native language will be simple for him, and those elements that are different will be difficult, i.e. 'difference = difficulty'
The analysis was based on surface 'structuralist' descriptions of the two languages concerned. Technical procedure for the analysis involved:
1) description, 2) selection, 3) comparison, 4) prediction (determined which areas were likely to cause errors.)

In its strongest form, the CAH claimed that all L2 errors could be predicted by identifying the differences between the learner's native language and the target language (pg 360).

Criticism of CAH (page 360):
•Wardhaugh (1970) – Only some errors were traceable to transfer, and contrastive analysis can be used to explain rather than predict.
•Dulay and Burt (1974a) - Many errors predicted by CA did not actually occur.
•The weaker form of CA is also problematic - only some errors were traceable to transfer. James (1980) argued that contrastive analysis was only worthwhile if it was predictive. The methodology of transfer studies Pages 351 - 359
1. Transfer as a communication and learning process
2. Choice of data for the study of transfer (pg 352)
3. Identify instances of transfer (pg 352 - table 8.1 shows five different methods for investigating L1 transfers. Each has its own limitations.)
4. Measuring crosslinguistic effects
(1) Errors (pg 354)
(2) Facilitation (positive transfer) (pg 355)
(3) Avoidance (pg 357) **
(4) Over-use (pg 358) Reappraisal of Transfer Reappraisal of the role of transfer in L2 learning began in the late 1960s and was well established by the time the conference “Language Transfer in Language Learning’ at University of Michigan in 1981 (pg 364-366).

1. Theoretical challenges to CAH (the claim that difference = difficulty)
2. A rejection of Dulay, Burt, and Krashen’s minimalist position. The study showed that < 5% of the total errors in the corpus was of the ‘interference’ type.

• Learning difficulty could not be defined solely in terms of L1-target-language differences
• Researchers continue to use contrastive analysis as a tool for identifying potential
areas of difficulty.
• L1 transfer was just one of many possible explanations of L2 acquisition (page 364)
• Wode and Andersen claimed that L1 transfer would only take place if the features transferred
accorded with universal developmental principles.
• CAH was partly correct (difference can equal difficulty) but also acknowledges that L1 transfer
works in tandem with other factors. A Key Distinction between 'Knowledge' and 'Control' Bialystok and Sharwood Smith (1985) - (page 346):

1. Knowledge: The way in which the language system is represented in the mind of the learner

2. Control: The processing system for controlling knowledge during actual performance.

* Two types of knowledge – Linguistic and Pragmatic. Psycholinguistic explores the relationship between the human mind and language. A number of psycholinguistic accounts of L2 acquisition are based on a clear-cut distinction between 'knowledge' and 'control'. This has led researchers to examine L2 productions and how learners develop fluency in an L2.

In cognitive accounts, 'knowledge' is not seen as distinct from 'control'. There is no clear dividing line between what learners know and what they can do with their knowledge.

Learners can display knowledge of a linguistic feature in a controlled test but can they access it in communicative language use? Psycholinguistic Theories vs. Cognitive Theories Another Important Distinction
'Acquisition of Language' and 'Language Use' 1. Acquisition is to be seen as something arising out of use but
distinct from it, or
2. as something that actually takes place in the course of attempts
to use the L2.

These two distinctive viewpoints imply the need for a different methodology for investigating L2 acquisition (page 347).

Group Discussion (page 347):
Discuss the differences between cognitive theories and sociocultural theories in view of the distinction mentioned above.
How do the roles of input and interaction play in cognitive theories? What about in sociocultural theories? What does Ellis mean by sequences of acquisition in different linguistic theories and what type of linguistic features (Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, English L1 learner of English) may be applicable in this sequencing? http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/cognitive-theory

A cognitive theory of learning sees second language acquisition as a conscious and reasoned thinking process, involving the deliberate use of learning strategies. Learning strategies are special ways of processing information that enhance comprehension, learning or retention of information.

This explanation of language learning contrasts strongly with the behaviourist account of language learning, which sees language learning as an unconscious, automatic process.

Discussion topic: Applying Cognitive theory in the classroom

Viewing learners as an 'information-processor', with limitations as to how much new information can be retained, what type of learning strategies and classroom activities can you use to help learners to be more successful in their L2 acquisition? Cognitive Theory in Teaching English (BBC - British Council) Choice of data for the study of transfer 1. Reception (listening and reading)
2. Production (speaking and writing) - Most studies utilized this type of data which can be naturalistic.

Samples of spontaneous speech provides best evidence of L1 forms that have become part of a learner's Interlanguage system.
Odlin's (2003) critique: Using spontaneous speech as data would underestimate the influenced of the L1 as some structure may simply not be needed in this type of language use.

Kellerman (2001) proposed that narratives may best serve the purpose because they constitute a context for examining both linguistic and conceptual aspects of transfer. Avoidance (or underproduction) is one of the areas researchers focus on to measure crosslinguistic effects in L2 Acquisition

Keller (1992) - Distinguished three types of avoidance (page 357-358) ...
1. Occurs when learners know or anticipate a problem and have some sketchy idea of what the target form is like.
2. Arises when learners know what the target is but find it difficult to use in a particular circumstances.
3. Is evident when learners know what to say and how to say it but are willing to actually say it because it will contradict their own norms of behavior.

Group Discussion: Avoidance in L1 Learners of Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic.

Discuss what type of language structures in addition to the ones listed in the textbook L1 learners have difficulty with and what type of avoidance would they tend to fall into? (page 357-358)

In order to reduce avoidance of these language structures in their L2 English production, what types of classroom activities would you use to help them to overcome and increase L2 production in those structures? Measuring crosslinguistic effects The Minimalist position • Sought to play down the importance of the L1 and to emphasize the contribution of universal processes of language learning, such as hypothesis testing.

• Expressed in two major ways: 1) conducting empirical studies designed to test the CAH; 2) development of alternative theoretical arguments.

Dulay and Burt (1974b) – examined six structures in the L2 speech of Spanish learners of English. The study showed that < 5% of the total errors in the corpus was of the ‘interference’ type.

Felix (1980b) – examined three syntactic structures in English-speaking children’s acquisition of L2 German – concluded that ‘interference’ does not constitute a major strategy.

Klein (1986); Clahsen and Muysken (1986) suggested that the learner’s L1 has little influence on basic word order and that, even when transfer is apparent, it can be better explained in term of a discourse strategy.

Minimalist theoretical positions on transfer (page 362) – Emphasize the similarity between L2 and L1 acquisition.

Newmark and Reibel (1968) – Ignorance Hypothesis: Learner attempts to fill in his gaps of training he refers for help to what he already knows.

Krashen (1983) – drawing from Newmark’s idea – he viewed transfer as ‘padding’, the result of falling back on old knowledge when new knowledge is lacking. Nicole Dao - Ling 5060
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