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The Role of Transfer in Language Acquisition

The Role of Transfer in Language Acquisition



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Published by ablanguages

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Published by: ablanguages on Feb 13, 2009
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B. A. in English – University of BelgranoAcquisition of first and second language
Pampillo, Soledad - Duarte, Analía
Group members: Bozzani, Ana LauraCruells, Nancy C.Gómez Dova, ValeriaMoix, Jorgelina
University of BelgranoAcquisition of first and secondlanguageB. A. in English
Bozzani-Cruells-Gómez Dova-Moix2
University of BelgranoAcquisition of first and secondlanguageB. A. in English
 TOPIC: TRANSFERHardly anyone will argue that the more related a language is to anypreviously acquired language, the less time it takes learners to be able tounderstand a spoken or written message in that language. At the initialstage of learning, the foreign language learner largely depends onestablishing equivalence between new items and the ones already existingin his memory store. Crosslinguistic equivalence between L1 and L2/L3, asthe learner perceives it, provides the basis for his learning of new items,and where such equivalence can be easily and naturally established,transfer will be inevitable. In the following pages, we will deal with twomajor factors that interact in the determination of transfer: 1) the learner’sperception of L1-L2/L3 distance and 2) the degree of markedness amongdifferent language parameters. Through the analysis of the learningexperience of Japanese students of L2 English and L3 Spanish, it is thepurpose of this paper to show that the more similar linguistic structures inlanguages are, the greater the likelihood of transfer there will be.Historically, language transfer has been defined differently indifferent theories of L2 acquisition. On the one hand, Behaviourist viewsand the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) considered transfer interms of habit formation. On the other hand, the minimalist position, whichappeared as a rejection to the CAH, tried to diminish the importance of theL1 and to emphasize the contribution of universal processes of languagelearning, such as hypothesis-testing. However, it is now widely acceptedthat the influence of the learner’s L1 cannot adequately be accounted forin terms of habit formation. Nor is transfer simply a matter of interferenceor of falling back on native language. Nor is it just a question of theinfluence of the learner’s L1, as other previously acquired languages canalso have effect. Odlin offers this definition of transfer:
“Transfer is theinfluence resulting from the similarities and differences between the TL
Bozzani-Cruells-Gómez Dova-Moix3

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