Language Learning Principle: The Native Language Effect

It almost goes without saying that the native language of every learner is an extremely significant factor in the acquisition of a new language. Most of the time, we think of the native language as excercising an interfering effect on the target language, and indeed the most salient, observable effect does appear-to be one of interference (see PLLT, Chapter 8). The majority of a learner’s errors in producing the second language, especially in the beginning levels, stem from the learner’s assumption that the target language operates like the native language.
But what we observe may, like an iceberg, be only part of the reality. The facilitating effects of the native language are surely as powerful in the process, or more so, even though they are less observable. When the native French speaker who is learning English says “I am here since january”, there is one salient native language effect, averb tense error stemming from French. But the learner’s native French may also have facilitated the production of that sentence’s subject-verb-complement word order, the placement of the locative (here), the one-to-one grammatical correspondence of the other words in the sentence, rules governing preposotional pharese, and the cognate word (January).
The principle of the Native Language Effect stresses the importance of that native system in hte linguistic attempts of the second language learner.
The native language of learners exerts a strong influence on the acquisition of hte target languge system. While that native system will exxercise both facilitating and interfering effects on hte production and comprehension of hte new language, hte interfering effects are likely to be the most salient.
In your dealing with the Native Language Effect in the classroom, your feedback will most often focus on interference. That’s perfectly sound pedagogy. Learners’ errors stand out like the tips of icebergs, giving us salient signals of an underlying system at work. Wrrors are, in fact, windows to a learner’s internalized understanding of the second language, and therefore they give teachers something observable to react to. Student non-errors-the facilitating effects-certainly do not need to be treated. Don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken.
Some classroom sugestions stemming from the Native Language Effect:
1.    Regard learners’ errors as important windows to their underlying systerm and provide appropriate feedback on them (see Principle 11 and Chapter 17 for more information on feedback). Errors of native language interference may be repaired by acquainting the learner with the native language cause of the error.
2.    Ideally, every successful learner will hold on to the facilitafing effects of the native language and discard the interference. Help your students to under stand that not everything about their native language system will cause error.
3.    Thinking directly in the target language usually helps to minimize interference errors. Try to coax students into thinking in the second language instead of resorting to translation as they comprehend and produce language. An occasional translation of  a word or phrase can actually be helpful, especially for adults, but direct use of the second language will help to avoid the first language “crutch”syndrome.

2 Response to "Language Learning Principle: The Native Language Effect"

  1. Anonymous says:

    good! it's a big explanation to help me! thanks!

    Anonymous says:


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