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  • So let’s talk about moving. It’s a real challenge to get all of your stuff from one

  • place to another. The thing is, even if you decide to leave lots of junk behind, one thing

  • youre always stuck with is your old language. It might clutter up the brain space you want

  • for your fresh new language, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Some things, you can’t leave

  • behind. I’m Moti Lieberman, and this is The Ling Space.

  • So the biggest difference between learning your first language and any other one is also the most

  • obvious: when youre learning a second or third language, you already have a whole linguistic

  • system inside your head. And as much as we’d like to forget everything we know about our native

  • language, when we learn a new one, we just can’t. Once your system’s been wired

  • with the grammar of your first language, that knowledge is very sticky. It’s like caramel,

  • except inside your brain.

  • But people still learn new languages, right? It’s not like there’s a sign that says,

  • if youre over two years old, you can’t ride the new language roller coaster. The

  • difference, though, is this: if you already have a grammar in your head, and you start

  • learning a new one, your first guess about whatever your new language will do is based on

  • however your old language did it. In other words, you transfer knowledge over from your first

  • language, or L1, into your second language, or L2. As you get more information about your

  • L2, youll revise all those ideas and make a new grammar, but transfer happens first.

  • So how do we know there has to be transfer? Well, if everyone started from scratch for

  • their L2, they would all follow the same path, right? All people would pick up their new

  • language in the same way, no matter where they were coming from. Use the same language

  • recipe, get the same language cake. But that’s not even close to what happens! We see different

  • patterns in what mistakes people make depending on what their first language was. And we know

  • they can’t be getting it from speakers of whatever it is theyre learning, because

  • native speakers would never say those things.

  • For example, take an English word likehave.” French doesn’t have that [h] sound at the

  • beginning, but it's totally fine with a sound like [v] coming at the end of

  • a word, so a French learner of English will usually say something like [æv]. A German

  • speaker, on the other hand, comes equipped with a language that already has [h], but doesn’t

  • let sounds like [v] show up at the end of a word, so theyll usually say something like [hæf].

  • We even see changes in how youll pronounce things depending on what dialect of a language

  • you speak! So no version of

  • French has that [ð] sound that you get in English in words like [ði] (the) or [ðɛɹ] (there).

  • It’s a really hard sound for L2 speakers to learn, and so theyll often switch

  • it up for a different consonant. But European French speakers will fix it by saying [z],

  • likeGo over zere.” Quebec French speakers on the other hand will get around it by using [d], like

  • Go over dere.” Even though it’s the same language! But theyre not the same dialect,

  • and that change is enough to make the English pronunciations they end up with different, too.

  • So how much do you transfer from your native language? Wellpretty much everything!

  • Yeah. Everything. You fully transfer over that whole native grammar. You leave the words

  • behind, mostly, but you take everything else. Were able to say this because we can find

  • evidence of transfer in every part of the L2 grammar, from the phonemes all the

  • way up through semantics.

  • Weve already talked about some phonological examples, but only for single sounds. We can

  • also find plenty of cases where whole words are affected by transfer. Like, take groups

  • of consonants. Some languages are totally fine with bunches of consonants clumping

  • together in a word, and others firmly disapprove of it. But even if you disapprove, there are

  • lots of different ways to fix it.

  • Take a word likesparkle.” If youre a Spanish speaker, you don’t like that [sp]

  • at the beginning of the word. Spanish fixes this by putting an [ɛ] at the beginning of the word,

  • so that [s] and [p] belong to different syllables. So a Spanish learner of English

  • would probably say something likespɑɹkəl].

  • But Japanese, which also hates consonant clusters, takes a different tack. Between the pairs

  • of consonants, Japanese shoehorns in this extra vowel, [ɯ]. If there’s a vowel in between,

  • no more bunch of consonants, so problem solved! That’s why a Japanese speaker wouldn’t

  • saysparkleoresparkel”. They’d say [sɯpɑ:kɯɾɯ] (スパークル). So

  • from this, you can tell that non-native accents are a result of transfer. Your accent is

  • different based on what the phonology of your native language was, because it got moved

  • over with everything else. This can be some of the toughest stuff to fix, but it IS doable.

  • But transfer goes beyond phonology. We can see it in syntax, too. So, no surprise, sentences

  • get built differently in different languages. For example, in English, adverbs come before

  • the verb, so likeBarney frequently wears suits,” but in French, it comes after the

  • verb. “Barney porte fréquemment des costumes.” And sure enough, the word order here transfers.

  • In English, L1 French speakers will sayBarney wears frequently suits”. Similarly, in French,

  • English speakers will sayBarney fréquemment porte des costumes.” You just get what your

  • native language would have done.

  • Or maybe youre a Greek learner of English, and you want to sayTed married the woman

  • that he met at the wedding.” Well, in Greek, you’d put the equivalent of her in that

  • lower sentence, like this: Ο Θοδωρής παντρεύτηκε κάποια γυναίκα

  • που τη γνώρισε στον γάμο. So in English, you wouldn’t leave thather

  • out, right? No, you’d probably sayTed married the woman that he met her at the wedding.”

  • And transfer strikes again.

  • We can even see this in the way that L2 learners interpret sentences. So consider the sentence

  • Lily didn’t drink the beer or the whiskey.” In English, this sentence means that Lily

  • couldn’t have drank either of the alcoholic beverages. But in Japanese, the exact same

  • sentence would mean that Lily drank either the beer, or the whiskey, but not both of

  • them. So the same sentence, with the same structure, but a different interpretation.

  • So what happens when you ask a Japanese learner of English whether Lily had either

  • of the drinks? Theyll tell you that she drank one or the other of them, but not both. So even the

  • way you want to interpret a sentence gets transferred over.

  • That’s because L2 transfer is everywhere. It’s helpful in a way, because you don’t

  • have to start from scratch with each new language. That’d take way longer! But

  • it’s so pervasive, it colors everything you do in your L2. You can work at

  • getting beyond it, but sometimes youre just stuck with what you have. If you look

  • at your first language, you can find what sorts of mistakes youll probably make in

  • your new one. For better or for worse, it’s the linguistic baggage you carry around with you.

  • So weve reached the end of the Ling Space for this week. If my word order seemed natural

  • to you, you learned that when we learn a new language, we transfer over our whole native

  • grammar; that depending on what language youre starting from, the mistakes youll make

  • in the L2 will be different; and that transfer effects can be found all over linguistics,

  • from phonology to syntax to semantics.

  • The Ling Space is produced by me, Moti Lieberman. It’s directed by Adèle-Elise Prévost,

  • and it’s written by both of us. Our production assistant is Georges Coulombe, our music and

  • sound design is by Shane Turner, and our graphics team is AtelierMuse. Write down in the comments

  • below, or you can bring the discussion back over to our website, where we have some extra material

  • on this topic. Check us out on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, and if you want to keep expanding

  • your own personal Ling Space, please subscribe. And well see you next Wednesday.

  • Ekosi maka Kawi asamēna kapimitin!

So let’s talk about moving. It’s a real challenge to get all of your stuff from one

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A2 US language transfer native french grammar barney

Transfer in Second Language Acquisition

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    Sh, Gang (Aaron) posted on 2016/01/22
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