Teach English in Changchi Zhen - Bazhong Shi

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“Does the first language influence second language acquisition?” This question is often raised by the people who study the second language, and the answer is obviously yes. Take the example of the accent when a non-native speaker speaks English, the pronunciation and intonation of the mother tongue can be easily brought into the new language with no intention, other linguistic aspects such as grammar and vocabulary can also influence the second language acquisition while in a less noticeable way. Thus, the question is dissected into two parts: the positive and the negative influence of the first language. Undoubtedly, the impact of the first language is inevitable for the second language, so the question becomes “does the positive impact over-weigh the negative impact?” Generally speaking, the first language has negative impact on new language study; it is because the features of the first language such as sentence structure, grammar or pronunciation might be totally different from the second language and it will confuse or hinder the understanding of the second language; the effect of the first language on second language learning is called language transfer. One language may possess certain phonemes that another language does not have, and places of articulation are different from one language to another, all these factors contribute to the language transfer. Moreover, Karim and Nassaji (2013) discovered that when people perform writing tasks, the first language transfer is more obvious towards the second language. Therefore, the process of learning the second language is usually regarded as overcoming the negative impact of the first language, the learner is expected to replace the features of the first language with the second language, which is a long and difficult procedure. Usually, it takes several years of continues study to complete the transfer and express oneself like a native speaker. The interference of the first language varies according to the language family, and there are positive impacts too; for example, it is relatively easy for an Italian to study Spanish, Portuguese, or French because they all belong to Romance Language, namely, when the pattern and the habit of two languages are similar, the positive transfer takes place and the study becomes easier. To some extent, it does not matter if the interference is positive or negative; it facilitates second language learning anyway. For someone who has absolutely no knowledge in English, the first language is usually used to help him understand the meaning of the words or sentences, although it is not encouraged for a teacher to speak student’s native language in classroom, it is necessary for a students to have a dictionary with his language, it is also acceptable for a student to ask help from his classmate in his mother tongue while he does not understand the words. In fact, it is proven to be an effective way of memorizing vocabularies. It is because the frustration of not understanding the content while others are interacting with the teacher smoothly will stimulate his brain to memorize the word instantly so that he could follow the whole class without feeling been left over, especially if he is the only one in the classroom who does not understand it. Furthermore, the first language might be better when explaining very difficult grammar. To minimize the negative impact of the first language, it is recommended to compare the two languages and find its differences, and then predict the possible mistakes that the students may make or the points that may confuse the students. The teacher can refer to the researches that has done by others and design an effective method to tackle it accordingly. For the teacher who knows the student’s native language, it is much easier to predict some mistakes that the student might make. For example, the sentence structure of Chinese is different from English, the sentence “I love you so much” is produced as “I so much love you” in Chinese, thus the teacher has a prediction about the problem that the students may encounter and highlight the differences during the class. This kind of problem-oriented exercise will improve the overall teaching quality and may save more time for other activities. Lastly, we can conclude that the first language is a vital factor in learning of the second language, but it is not the decisive factor of whether or not the second language can be well acquired. If we see the second language study as a development process, the first language plays an important role in this process; the positive effect of the first languages should be promoted in new language learning while the negative effect should be minimized. References 1. Karim, K., & Nassaji, H. (2013). First language transfer in second language writing: An examination of current research. Iranian Journals of Language Teaching Research, 1(1), 117-134.