Learning English language as second language (L2) is a big challenge for second language learners (Darus & Subramaniam, 2009). It is because most of the learners will face problems with the lack of vocabulary, structure and syntactic rules. Learners make errors in learning L2 because they get interference by their L1 habits. They will use their L1 while learning L2 and this cause error in their learning. This could also explain why learners still have problems with grammatical functions most of the time, although they have eleven years of English language exposure.
In Malaysia, there are numerous learners who have Chinese language as their L1. Most of them have problems in learning English language especially the English grammar. Learners are more or less likely to be influenced either positively or negatively by their first language. According to Hassan (2002), learners L1 background knowledge will affect them in learning English language especially in speaking and writing. As a result, the interference of L1 has become the major problem for Chinese ESL learners in the process of learning English especially in writing.
Chinese ESL learners will transfer their L1's habit when they write. It is because thinking in English and writing in English is very hard for learners to achieve. They will get influence by their L1 grammatical structure. Besides, the differences of syntactic rules between L1 and L2 also will affect them in writing. A few studies have reported that Chinese ESL learners will use their mother tongue to plan an outline before writing (Cumming, 1989; Jones & Tetroe, 1987), transfer the writing context to English language by using their mother tongue (Edelsky, 1982; Friedlander, 1990; Lay, 1982). Second language learners will use their mother tongue in such circumstances and the interferences from L1 to L2 can be negative.
Chinese ESL learners will get interference in learning English due to the differences of syntax, lexical usage and discourse patterns. First, Chinese syntax is different with English. There are not article (a/the /an) in Chinese language but in English language. For example:
Chinese Language: æ˜Ÿæ˜Ÿå¾ˆäº® (xing xing hen liang) / star is bright.
English Language: The star is bright.
Second, Chinese lexical translate to English cause errors. It is because learners will direct translate the word to English and it might turn to other meaning. For example:
Chinese Language: æˆ‘åœ¨å®½ä¸è¯»ä¹¦ (wo zai kuan zhong du shu) / I read in Foon Yew High School.
English Language: I study in Foon Yew High School.
Last but not least, the discourse rules between Chinese and English are difference. For example:
Chinese language: æˆ‘å¾ˆçˆ±æˆ‘çš„å®¶äºº (wo hen ai wo de jia ren) / I so likes my family
English language: I like my family very much.
So, in this study, the researcher will examines interference of Chinese learner's mother tongue in learning English as their second language.
1.2 Statement of Problem
To learn English as second language, learners at least have to master four basic skills which are listening, reading, speaking and writing. However, Chinese ESL learners seldom master the skills especially in writing (Darus & Subramaniam, 2009). It is because the L1 interference with English Language causes grammatical errors in the writing process. According to Darus & Subramaniam (2009), who cited a study by Nik Safiah (1978), this kind of grammatical error can be obviously found in Chinese ESL learner's essay writing such as tenses, subject-verb agreement, and possessive noun. Leaners will made this kind of errors due to the inteference of their L1.
A few study have proved that learner's L1 will inteference in their L2 writing process. Lim (1990) examine that how learner's L1 influence in their writing process. He invite fifty Chinese ESL learner's to participate. Lim compare the results by using free writing and guide writing task. He found out that most of the learner will make grammatical errors in tenses, subject-verb-agreement, pronoun and etc.
Another researcher, Chan (2004) also provides evidence in his article. He found out that Chinese learners will use their L1 syntactic rules related with their L2. 710 Hong Kong ESL learners were participant in the survey. After analyze the result, he found out Chinese learners will think in their L1 before they write. The direct transfer causes grammatical errors occur in their writing.
Chinese ESL learner will make grammatical errors in their writing process because they do not fully utilize the language even though they are able to use it. They will get interference by their L1most of the time. This is because it has became a habit for them and hard to change. As the saying goes, "practise makes perfect" if the learners do not polish their English language even with years of exposure to the language, it will make no difference.
1.3 Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study is to find out if L1 interference has a significant effect on Chinese ESL learners English essay writing. Besides, this study is also to identify types of errors that Chinese ESL learners commonly make with English grammatical functions in the English essay writing.
1.4 Research Questions
Based on the problems and purpose mentioned in the earlier sections, this study will focus on two research questions which are:
Does L1 interference have a significant effect on Chinese Learners English essay writing?
What types of errors do Chinese ESL learners commonly make with English grammatical functions in the English essay writing?
1.5 Significance of Study
This significance of study can help teachers understand the grammar problems caused by L1that learners face in their writing. Besides, this study would create awareness among teachers the importance of learning grammar as the fundamental of mastering English language. This will help teachers to find useful strategies to strengthen up Chinese ESL learners' writing.
1.6 Scope of Study
The aims of this study is to identify the inteference of learner's L1 in learning English language. 25 Chinese learner who study in S.M. PEI YUAN (P) KPR would be chosen as participate in the writing test. This study is using purposive sampling because only one class of Chinese ESL learners will be selected as participants.
1.7 Definition of key words
Inteference learner's make an error in their L2 which influnced by their L1 (Lott,1983:256).
Grammar "a set of rules and example dealing with the syntax and word structure (morphology) of a language (Nordquist & Guide)".
ESL learner A person learn English language as second language or target lnguage and it is not their mother tongue.