Language acquisition

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In this chapter, we will discuss several key terms that will severely been used in the study. We will kick off with the definition of what is the first and second language acquisition. Then, we will move on to understand what is first language interference or rather popularly known as language transfer. Analyzing the types of language transfer will help us to differentiate and classifieds the samples collected into respective categories. Last but not least, we will look into the Error Analysis and draw conclusion on how this method will be used later in analyzing the findings.

Definition for First Language and Second Language acquisition

In order to understand what is first language interference, there should be clear interpretation on what is first and second language acquisition. According to Lighbown and Spada (2006), the acquisition of first language is somehow mesmerizing. It is because the nature of acquiring the language is similar with how children acquire their mother tongue.

Second language acquisition is somehow opposite of what is mention earlier about first language acquisition. According to Lighbown and Spada (2006) Second language acquisition or SLA is dissimilar with how the children 'acquire' their first language. Analyzing the trait of the second language learner will help us to get a better view on what is second language acquisition. Second language learner should already posses at least one language. The 'prior knowledge' that they have from their first language may give them the upper hand compared with the first language learner. Second language learners at least have been inspired with how the language works from the language that they have already mastered. Nevertheless, second language learner might also been mislead since the first language and the second language is totally different. The overgeneralization that the first language rules might work with the second language has created more difficult learning environment.

On the other hand, young learners embark on the first language acquisition without the 'cognitive maturity' or 'metalinguistic awareness'. Young second language learners might have begun on developing the 'cognitive maturity' and 'metalinguistic awareness' but not to extend where it have been mastered like their adult. The 'cognitive maturity' and 'metalinguistic awareness' is very precious to second language older learners because they can use this ability to resolve problems and take on conversation about language. Then again some reckon these 'cognitive skills' can interrupt the process of learning the second language.

First language Interference

Until now we have already discussed about first language and second language acquisition. It is now to apply these understanding into Malaysian context. With these understanding about first language and second language acquisition we will be able to recognize how first language acquisition occurs. Goh and Silver (2004) made a very good interpretation of language transfer by explaining it implicitly. Goh and Silver (2004) began the story of a second language learner from the primary school. They said that a second language learner who at their primary education posses' only knowledge of one language which is their mother tongue will be transferring the language the most. The exposure of second language acquisition had only begun at the school level make it very difficult for them. It is similar with how Malaysian students make a contact with the language. The existing knowledge of their mother tongue has influenced the students' pronunciation, intonation, syntax and morphology.

Lightbown and Spada (2008) defined the word interference as 'transfer'. It occurs when information from first language interrupt with the acquisition of the target language. These two researchers explained that some researcher might favor to use the term 'first language influence' in describing the transfer. It is because the complexity of the process can best be describe in term of how first language influence the target language. Language transfer or first language interference ( or first language influence) these terms will be used interchangeably because these three terms form similar meaning.

Lightbown and Spada ( 2008) admitted that mistakes that second language learners produce are because the influence from their mother tongue. Nonetheless, these two researcher compromise that information of one or more languages can lead to an encouraging progress for learning the second language. For the language which does not have big differences such as English and German, Spanish and French, and English and Spanish the learner might find it not that difficult since maybe the learner has already share the similar alphabet, cognate words and some basic principle of syntax.

Nonetheless, Lightbown and Spada (2008) also suggested that learners' habit of imitating blueprint of their first language is one of the reasons why error occurs. If the error occurs because the learners' conclusion that there are some similarity between their mother tongue and target language then it will be very hard to correct the mistakes. It will get even worse if the learners are in contact with the person who also believes the same thing. Learning the second language is not merely giving the words into first language sentence.

Nonetheless, Odlin (1989) has offered more meaningful definition of the word "transfer". Language transfer means 'cross-linguistic influence in language learning'.

Types of Language Transfer

It is very important to understand the various types of first language interference. Later in the finding section we will need to classify the writing into the respective parts concerned with the language transfer. We will discussed the four types of transfer which has been used repeatedly by the students resulted from pre analysis of the students writing.

The very common language transfer that the students made was to direct transfer their thought into English language. This is called negative transfer. According to Brown (2000) negative transfer is simply translating word by word or sentence by sentence directly from their first language into the target language. A very common usage of negative transfer in Malaysian context is the phrase "Don't play-play". This sentence is simply a valid translation from first language phrase " Jangan main-main". Other than negative transfer there is also positive transfer which complement the notion that first language had influenced the target language a way or another. As been observed above first language has influenced the target language in a negative way. Nonetheless, there is also evidence which show that positive transfer occurs but within the certain language interaction.

Interlanguage is another important term which closely related with language transfer. Interlanguage was coined by Larry Selinker in 1972. Interlanguage is similar with what Corder (1971) refers as 'idiosyncratic dialect'. According to Ellis and Barkhuizen ( 2005) the term Interlanguage means 'mental grammar that a learner constructs at a specific stage in the learning process'.

Overgeneralization is also types of language transfer. This error happens when second language learner does not yet develop full understanding of the grammatical aspect of the target language. However, with the limited sources of the grammar knowledge the learner tries to apply the concept and resulted misusing it. Common mistake that can be observed frequently is for irregular past tense. The word "buy" when being used in past tense will be "bought". Nonetheless some might overgeneralize it with other regular verb and add ed at the back of the word.

The last language transfer that will be evaluated in the finding section is the omission. Omission occurs when the learner could no longer direct translate the word and put in into the target language structure because correct words does not yet encountered by the learner.

Error Analysis

In this research it is very important to know what Error Analysis is. Majority of this research plays around the shadow of Error Analysis. Error analysis is a very popular tool to analyze learners' error. This method is popular in investigating the achievement of the second language learner. According to Ellis and Barkhuizen (2005) Error analysis is a set of rules that 'identify, describe and explain learner errors'.

According to Corder (1967) as quoted by Ellis and Barkhuizen (2005), learners' errors are important in three angle: 1) the errors is simply a message that send a signal to the teacher what learner has learned and what learner has not yet accomplish. 2) the errors also provide proof to the research about how language are mastered 3) the errors serve as 'acting device' which leads to learner able to discover the principle of the target language.