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MOTHER TONGUE INTERFERENCE IN THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS

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MOTHER TONGUE INTERFERENCE IN THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

  • Introduction of the Background

 

Learning a second language has been important to human beings from earliest historical times. The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics states that “the Sumerians of the third millennium BC used bilingual tablets in Sumerian and Akkadian to educate their children, and compiled the world’s oldest known bilingual dictionaries. Bilingual tablets were used in ancient Egypt, and, in the Ptolemaic period, the upper classes in Egypt received their education in Greek. In the Hellenistic period, the majority of people in Asia Minor who could read and write did so in Greek, their second language. Until the fourth century BC, bilingual education in Greek and Latin was an important part of the curriculum for Roman children” (3742).

In line with this, Otagburuagu states that “second language learning could arise from a social or political factor. For instance, colonization, trade and commerce could create a conducive atmosphere for the development of a second language” (1). He continued by saying that “the colonization of Nigeria, Ghana etc by Britain must be seen as the primary factor that gives rise to the adoption of the English language as the second language in these countries. Multilingualism as well as the desire for social integration could give rise to second language learning too” (Otagburuagu 1). In support of this view, Verghese also states that “it is a historical accident that led to English taking deep roots in Canada, Australia and the United States” (Verghese 1). He further states that “history again has played a part in English being used widely in other countries in Africa and Asia. Those countries were the colonies of Great Britain, and since the day they came under Britain rule, English has been taught and used as a medium of communication there” (Verghese 1).

 

 

 

 

Apart from colonization, other possible reason(s) why English is mostly used as a second language is that it “is spoken around the globe and has wider dispersion than any other language. From its earlier home within what is now called the united kingdom (with 56 million speakers), English has spread to nearby Ireland (three and a half million), across the Atlantic for America (where some 232 million people speak in the united states, with perhaps as many as 24 million additional speakers in (Canada), and across the world to Australia and New Zealand (with about 17 million English speakers between them)” (Finegan 77-78).

Hence, English language is “is the sole official language in more than two dozen other countries: Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe in Africa; Jamaica, the Bohamas, Dominica and Barbados in the Caribbean; and Vanuatu’s, Fiji and the Solomon Island in the pacific, to a sample” (Finegan 77–78) etc .Supporting this view, The Encyclopedia Americana , states that more than half of the world’s scientific research and technical journals, as well as newspapers are printed in English. Three fourths of the world’s  mail  is written in English, and English is the language of three fifths of the worlds radio station” (417). To take German as an example between 1762 and 1968 alone the proportion of articles published in English in Physikalische Zeitschrift rose from 2 percent to 50 percent” (Quirk et al 5). Beyond its uses as first and second language in ordinary intercourse, Finegan states that English is now established as the lingua Franca of much scholarship, particular of a scientific and technical nature” ( 78). He further states that ‘reflective of the wide spread dissemination of English and perhaps of an extraordinary adaptability is the fact that noble prizes in literature have been awarded to more writers using English than any other language, and that these laureates have been citizens of Australia, Ireland and India, as well as the United States and Britain (Finegan 79). Campbell also

 

 

 

 

asserts that English is the acceptable medium in the travel industry and in international communication” (Campbell 145). There is no doubt that, the English language is a language of communication between the people with different cultures. It is also the language of computers that help people to communicate with the people around the world through internet technology and e-mail. All these reasons given above could result to the learning of a second language.

Several factors affect the learning and proficiency of a second language. Among them are the nature and structure of the first language, culture environment, age, method of acquisition and the amount of efforts invested. The degree of differences and similarity between the mother-tongue and the target language are important factors in the learning of a second language. One crucial feature of L2 learning is that the learner has had experience of another language. An experience which enables him to master, assimilate and internalize the system of learning of the first language. As they learn the new language, second language learner incorporates the new linguistic input into their model of the language. To buttress this point, Lado states that “Individuals tend to transfer the forms and meanings, and the distribution of forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture (2). A second language learner thinks in his language, tires to express himself in the second language which results to conflicts, and this conflict is as a result of mother- tongue interference.

On exposure to a new and different language, i.e. English, the individual is now faced with the problem of communicating effectively in his new language as a result of this influence of his native language. The degree of differences and similarities between the mother tongue and the target language are important factors in the learning of second language. As mention earlier,

 

 

 

 

other factors could also affect the learning and proficiency of the target language. In agreement with the above, Gardner and Maclntyre states that “in the language learning situation, many such factors have been identified” (1). But in their own article, they focused “on two broad classifications  of  affective factors, namely, language attitude and motivation, and language anxiety and self confidence” (1). In support of this opinion, Vergherse opines that “one of the important conditions of learning a second language is abundant exposure to the language” (20).  He further states that  “a very significant  factor in language learning is motivation” and he pointed out other factors like “the duration of exposure to the language”, “availability of the right type of teaching materials and aids” (22, 23).

Base on this reason, the theoretical framework of this study is based on two theories of second language learning, the behaviourist theory which states that “properties of the L1 are thought to exercise an influence on the course of L2 learning: learners ‘transfer’ sounds, structures, and usages from one language to the other. Contrastive analysis is the name given to the study of the similarities and differences in the morphology and syntax between two languages” (Marco 23). The contrastive analysis hypothesis (CAH) was proposed to account for the role of the L1 in L2 learning. (International Encyclopedia of Language 300). When put to test CAH was not fully supported, it failed to predict errors that learners were observed to make, and it predicted some errors that did not occur (Spada et al 19).

The main alternative to the behaviourist approach (which is cognitive theory) sees as central the role of cognitive factors in language learning. And this theory makes use of Error analysis. Crystal states that “error analysis plays a central role in this approach. Errors are likely to emerge when learners make the wrong deductions about the nature of the L2, such as assuming that a pattern

 

 

 

 

is general, when into fact there are exceptions” ( 372). Error analysis showed that contrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors. (e.State Master – Encyclopedia: second language acquisition. Master Nation .com.).

However, the analysis of errors turns out to be a highly complex matter, involving other factors than at the cognitive. According to crystal, “some errors are due to the influence of the mother-tongue, as contrastive analysis claims. Some come from external link influences, such as inadequate teaching or materials” (372). The researcher believes that the best way to investigate this research is by combining the two theories of second language learning: behaviourist and cognitive theories. Since, the influence of mother-tongue seems inevitable in the learning of a second language, the aim of this research is to highlight this influences (its nature, causes and extent)  by  analyzing  the errors made by the JSSI and JSS 2 students of some schools in Emohua local Government of Rivers State (where Ikwerre is an indigenous language and the sole medium of communication outside the classroom) so as to recommend necessary solution for eliminating them.

 

 

1.2            Statement of the Problem

 

Interference is the influence of one language, dialect or other linguistic features upon another’s phonology, grammar and vocabulary. In the course of using English as a second language, there is inter-lingual interference. That is, the influence of one language upon another’s phonology, grammar and vocabulary. The language which a group of people considered to be inhabitants of an area acquire in their early years and which normally becomes their natural instrument of thought and communication may interfere with the second language, and these interferences may manifest itself in any aspect of the language such  as phonology, morphology, syntax  and semantics. When an

 

 

 

 

Igbo man for instance says; “I hear a smell” to mean “I perceive an odour” or when the Hausa man says “I am coming here yesterday” to mean “I came here yesterday; or also when the Ikwerre man says “did you hear me” to mean “did you understand me?”; they transliterate the syntax of their respective mother- tongue into English Language. It is also a well known fact that Igbo learners’ interference problem is different from that of the Hausa and Yoruba learners’ and vice versa.

A lot of views have arisen with respect to what causes mother-tongue interference. Mother-tongue interference is the linguistic interference of a child’s first language. The controversy is that a child has a biological ability that enables him to acquire a language and depend on factors of his environment during the process of language development that affects the learner-users of English as a second language because he transfers some of the features of his language into his second language  which in this  study is  English language. These features as earlier mentioned are found in the way he pronounces English words and the way he constructs sentences.

Although some researchers have carried out investigation on this problem of mother-tongue interference in Nigeria, their main focus has been on the three major Nigerian languages: Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. Based on this, the researcher seeks to carry out a similar research on the Ikwerre language which is one of the minority languages in Nigeria, and which an investigation of this nature has not been done.

This research work, therefore, seeks to identify the ways in which the mother-tongue ‘Ikwerre’ influences the learning and proficiency of the target language which in this study is the English language.

 

 

 

 

 

1.3            Purpose of the Study

 

The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of the mother- tongue ‘Ikwerre’ on the learning and proficiency of English among the junior secondary school students of Emohua local government area of Rivers State, where Ikwerre is an indigenous language and is mostly used in communication.

This research will be carried out under the following sub leadings. The phonological impact of the L1 on the L2 and

The syntactical impact of the L1 on the L2.

 

 

 

1.4            Significance of the Study

 

This study will help individuals and groups of people or learner – users of English in Ikwerre land to identify the lexical, and speech problems they encounter while learning the second language. This study will urge at least some Ikwerre learner – users of English language to be conscious of the way they speak English and how they pronounce words and construct sentences in English language. It will make them to correct and subdue negative influences of their mother tongue on English and it will also help teachers of English language in Ikwerre land to be aware of the problems facing the  Ikwerre learners of English.

 

 

1.5                Research Questions

 

This study seeks to investigate and provide answers to the following questions:

 

  • Does the  phonology  of  the  Ikwerre  language  affect  the  learning  and proficiency of the English Language? And
  • Does the syntax of the Ikwerre Language affect the learning and proficiency of the English Language?

 

 

 

 

 

1.6            Research Design and Methodology

 

The design in this research work will be a case study conducted at some secondary schools in Emohua local government area of Rivers State. “A case study is an intensive investigation of  the  previous life,  current position and environment of a person or group of people. It is the intensive investigation of the background, current status, the social, economic, political and other environmental interaction of the individual or group. The focal point of a Case Study is the unit or single case” (Iwuama et al 12).

The data for this research will be generated from the student’s

 

  • Utterances

 

  • Reading passages (from JSS 1 and JSS 2 English text books), and

 

  • Written composition (which will be used in finding out the impact or influence of the mother-tongue on the second Language). It will be a descriptive research which “entails the systematic collection and presentation of data to give a clear picture of a particular situation” (Eboh 25).

 

 

 

1.7            Scope of the Study

 

The study will focus only on the Ikwerres’ people’s experience. It will focus on learner-users of English as an L2 in Ikwerre taking note of its phonological,and lexical impact on English language. The study covers some secondary schools located in Emohua local government area where Ikwerre is their indigenous language and the English language is usually learnt in school.

The population will be made up of junior secondary school students of JSS 1 and 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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