Table of Contents
II- Literature Review
Mother tongue interference in L2
The case of writing in English within Syria
English as a foreign language
Language Transfer in EFL writings
Language Transfer at the level of Syntax
Subject- Verb agreement
Language Transfer at the level of Semantics
The Syntactic level
Subject- Verb agreement
In this research paper, I am going to investigate the reasons related to mother tongue interference behind most of the Syrian students' mistakes of the B1 level of English learning while writing at the syntactic and the semantic level.
II- Literature Review:
1- Mother tongue interference in L2:
Lado V- Bibliography, R. (1957) in his book Linguistics across Cultures: Applied Linguistics for language teachers talks about students trying to acquire a foreign language, they found some features of it that are "quite easy and others extremely difficult". He considers the elements similar to their mother tongue will be "easy" for them, while those elements which are different will be "difficult". This is similar to the idea of the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis which regards errors in the second language as a result of the differences between the first and the second language structures. Gass and Selinker's book Language Transfer in Language Learning V- Bibliography (1992) states that comparative studies between the first and the second languages are one important preliminary step to understanding language transfer.
"Transfer is the influence of the first language (L1) on the second one (L2)". More specifically, "learners may retain something from their L1 […] to aid in coping with new challenges (Jarvis and Odlin 2000: 573). In the process of learning any second language, "learners regularly produce utterances in […] writing which judged by the rules of the second language are erroneous, or ill-formed". Such attitude "to errors was that they were an indication of the difficulties" meaning that the learners had V- Bibliography "certain aspects of the language, which could be explained by the persistence of the habits of the mother tongue and their transfer to the new language" (Lado, 1957). The results of this interference were errors that most of the learners commit in their first stage of learning and this is clearly evident in their writings. Lado emphasizes this point when he states: “we can predict and describe the patterns that will cause difficulty by comparing systematically the language […] to be learned with the native language […] of the student” (Lado, 1957, p. vii).
2- The case of writing in English within Syria:
2.1 English V- Bibliography as a foreign language:
Writing is a very complex activity that foreign learners (including Syrian learners) tend to acquire and they spend a lot of time trying to become proficient enough to perform it correctly conforming to the English syntactical and semantical rules. EFL teachers (English Foreign Language teachers) tend to observe that mother tongue interference as the main reason behind most of the mistakes that students commit while writing their assigned topics. Having English only as a foreign language without any authentic input where the students might use their language in real life situations and acquire the language naturally V- Bibliography makes it a problem for EFL teachers to teach their students how to write a grammatically correct sentences based on the limited input of the English language students have while using their English in class.
2.2 Language Transfer in EFL writings:
In recent years, a great focus was centered on the writing skills among many others due to the fact that it is very important in academic studies inside and outside our national educational institutions. One of the main problems found in writing is the use of their mother tongue expressions and structures while writing in English V- Bibliography.
In 1966, Kaplan stated in his Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV that "speakers of Arabic employ rhetorical organizations based on their respective languages when they compose in English" (p: 156). This means that Arabic speakers integrate "rhetoric" patterns from their mother tongue into their English writing. This interrelatedness of L1 and L2 is not specific to Arab students, many studies which had been previously done in this field, showed that EFL learners commit some interlingual errors because they depend heavily on their L1 in the sense that they think in their native language and that they translate their ideas into V- Bibliography the L2 or the foreign language they are using. As Richards & Renandya (2002:303) claim in their book Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice; “there is no doubt that writing is the most difficult skill for L2 learners to master. The difficulty lies not only in generating and organizing ideas, but also in translating these notions into legible text”. Writing includes many elements such as the choice of appropriate vocabulary items and grammatical structures and due to the lack of proficiency in the use of L2 structures and words in context of their free text writings, most intermediate B1 students fail V- Bibliography at writing error-free texts and they join some L2 writing or grammar courses with the expectations of becoming more proficient writers in the L2.
2.3 Language Transfer at the level of Syntax:
Richards, Platt & Platt (1992) in his book Dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics considers learner’s errors as an act of borrowing or using specific patterns or structures from their mother tongue while expressing meanings using the vocabulary and the limited structures they already knew about the L2 or FL especially at an early stage of their learning process. The influence of learners’ mother V- Bibliography tongue interference leads to many errors.
2.3.1 Subject- Verb agreement:
In many languages there is an agreement between the verb and the subject. So, if the subject is singular, the verb must be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. Diane Nicholls suggests in her online article "Stringing Words Together: Language interference at sentence level" that "although agreement between the subject and verb of a sentence might seem as if it should follow a very simple rule", make learners tend to make agreement errors very often. The way English, for example, conforms to the subject verb V- Bibliography agreement in plural differs from the way the subject verb agreement in plural is implied in other languages. As the students acquire new rules in the target language commit many errors before actually acquire the rule efficiently.
Different languages have different word-orders. In German, for example, infinitives and past participles usually come at the end of the sentence:
'Ich habe meine Reisepasse vergessen'
This sentence can be translated literally as 'I have my passport forgotten'. Such a word order would be difficult for learners of the L2 to overcome and they will commit many errors in V- Bibliography their writings before they are finally able to use it efficiently.
According to Shaw, H. (1986 :20) McGraw-Hill Handbook of English, "A preposition is a linking word used to show the relationship of a noun or pronoun to some other word in the sentence. However, the appropriate use of prepositions within EFL writings is not a simple task to achieve. Alexander, L.G.( 1994) in his book Right Word Wrong Word: Words and Structures Confused and Misused by Learners of English talks about the contextual differences between "about" and "around". He gives the following examples:
· We waited at the door.
"In V- Bibliography" and "on" cannot be used here as "at" in this case refers to a certain point (place)
· He's at school/his aunt's house/a wedding.
"at" refers to a certain location for events or an address
· There was an unpleasant atmosphere in the dentist's waiting room. (Not *at* *on*)
We cannot use "at" or "on" because "in" refers to the area or volume
The inexistence of the same contextual features of prepositions among languages create a gap for students when they try to express their ideas in a foreign or a second language. The learners in this case V- Bibliography use their knowledge of their L1 to fill in the gaps within the acquired L2. This happens when the learner has not acquired enough of the L2 yet. Kavaliauskienė(2009:4) suggests that cross-linguistic differences can produce negative transfer such as "underproduction, overproduction, production errors, and misinterpretation".
2.4 Language Transfer at the level of Semantics:
Lennon defines Error: Some Problems of Definition, Identification, and Distinction. “error” generally speaking as “a linguistic form or combination of forms which, in the same context and under similar conditions of production, would, in all likelihood, not be produced by the native speaker” (1991:182) When the students lack V- Bibliography the semantic knowledge of the foreign or the second language, they resort to word-for- word translation depending on their knowledge of the L1. Instead of creating a meaningful sentence, they create ambiguous meaningless sentences in the target language. Llach and Pilar’s definition of a lexical error is “the wrong word use of a lexical item in a particular context by comparison with what a native speaker of similar characteristics as the L2 learner (age, educational level, professional and social status) would have produced in the same circumstances.”" (2005: 49). B1 level of students tend to use expressions used within their V- Bibliography L1 and extend it to the L2.
Your sound is nice like that of singers. (voice)
The words "sound" and "voice" may seem similar to nonnative speakers of English but are actually used to mean very different things. The word "sound" refers to a sensation caused in the ear by the vibration of the surrounding air or other medium. However, the word ‘voice’ refers to the faculty of speech in the humans. They cannot be used interchangeably in English but the students commit mistakes by using them interchangeably based on their knowledge of the L1.
III V- Bibliography- Report:
I've done a small research on my Linguaphone students to justify my opinion that most of the B1 Syrian students' mistakes while they are in their B1 stage of learning stage of learning is due to their Arabic interference within their English writings at the level of syntax and semantics.
1- The Syntactic level:
Syntactically speaking, Syrian students tend to make errors when they use certain structures in the L2.
1. 1 Passive Voice:
After checking the student's writings of some sentences in English, I have noticed a lot of problems with the use of the passive voice. Here are some examples V- Bibliography of the use of some errors found in the use of the passive voice:
*Smoking can be caused many serious illnesses.
يُسبِبُ التدخين العديد من الامراض
This student used the passive tense mistakenly due to the inflections found in Arabic and their absence in the English structure.
Other students committed a different mistake while using this structure which is the absence of the auxiliary verb before the past participle in the passive voice structure just like the following example:
*The habit which called smoking
العادة التي تُدعى التدخين
In the Arabic structure we don't have any auxiliary verb used and for the students who didn't remember the V- Bibliography formula for making the passive voice, they resorted to the Arabic structure and translated it word for word.
1. 2 Subject- Verb agreement:
* It encourage smokers to smoke.
تشجع المدخنون للتدخين
Students don't have in their mother tongue any change in the verb form except the one that denotes the subject pronoun they are using for each sentence and that's probably the reason behind their mistakes concerning deleting the s that goes with the third-person singular subjects.
1. 3 Word Order:
* How we can stop smoking?
كيف يمكننا ايقاف التدخين؟
Syrian students don't have any subject- verb inversion in their Arabic language while making the V- Bibliography question form and such interlingual gaps cause serious problems that Syrian students largely encounter while writing.
1. 4 Prepositions:
Many people die from smoking.
الكثير من الناس يموتون من التدخين
Arabic and English use prepositions differently. Due to translation, many students revert back to Arabic and translate most prepositions word for word. Instead of using "of" as they should have in the previous example, they translated "من" to from.
2- Semantic level:
Semantically speaking, due to the lack of the English input the Syrian students are exposed to, they tend to use certain kinds of phrases or words mistakenly just because they are trying to translate their thoughts and ideas V- Bibliography word for word without considering the cultural and the contextual differences between Arabic (L1) and English (L2). There are many examples that demonstrate this idea.
Since many years ago
منذ عدة سنين مضت
The student used the word "since" because he translated the idea of "منذ" into English without thinking of the English grammar rules about "since" expressing a state that started in the past and continues in the present which contradicts the grammar rule suggested by "ago" which says that the situation started and ended in the past. However, the student's lack of knowledge of the semantic connotation of the V- Bibliography word "ago" made him commit such mistake.
Hiba has a white heart
تملك هبة قلبا أبيض
The student in this example translated the surface meaning of her ideas coming from her L1 word for word without considering the differences between the Arabic and the English cultures. Her lack of cultural and contextual use of the word "white" in English made her use the word confusingly to mean a tender kind heart.
She doesn't have enough culture.
لا تملك من الثقافة ما يكفي
The student used the word "culture" meaning general knowledge when it really means the beliefs, values, attitudes, religion, and traditions of a certain community or a group of people which V- Bibliography is totally different from the intended meaning but due to his lack of contextual knowledge of the use of the word "culture", he thought it would be just the same.
Such examples are typical to B1 Syrian students while writing and trying to convey their ideas in English. Such errors happen due to their mother tongue interference in the sense of syntax and semantics.
B1 learners of English in Syria evidently transfer structures and lexical items of their mother tongue while they are trying to fill in the gaps of their limited knowledge of their EFL V- Bibliography. Hence, they commit many errors until they try to enhance their syntactic and semantic competence of their L2.
Alexander, L.G Right Word Wrong Word: Words and Structures Confused and Misused by Learners of English ( 1994).
Gass, S.M., & Selinker,L. Language Transfer in Language Learning (1992)
Jarvis, S. & Odlin, T. "Morphological type, Spatial Reference and Language Transfer" (2000)
Kaplan, Robert Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV (1966)
Kavaliauskiene, Galina (2009). Role of the Mother Tongue in Learning English for Specific Purposes. ESP World, Issue 1(22), Vol.8. Retrieved from:http://www.esp- world.info/Articles_22/PDF/ROLE%20OF%20MOTHER%20TONGUE%20IN V- Bibliography%20LEAR NING%20ENGLISH%20FOR%20SPECIFIC%20PURPOSES.pdf in 3/13/2015.
Lado, R Linguistics across Cultures: Applied Linguistics for language teachers (1957).
Lennon, P. "Errors: Some Problems of Definition, Identification, and Distinction" (1991).
Llach, M. P. The Relationship of Lexical Error and their Types to the Quality of ESL Compositions: An Empirical Study.
Nicholls, Diane Stringing Words Together:Language interference at sentence level. Retrieved from http://www.macmillandictionaries.com/MED-Magazine/October2003/12-language- interference.htm in 3/13/2015.
Richards, Jack C., Platt, J., & Platt, H. Dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics (1992)
Richards, Jack C., and Renandya, Willy A. Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice V- Bibliography; (2002)
Shaw, H. McGraw-Hill Handbook of English (1986)