Editor's note: Here's a definition taken from the ESL Glossary at BogglesWorld.com:
Interlanguage : In the process of acquiring a second language, a language learner may acquire forms of language that are in between their first language and their target language. This can happen when, for example, they incorrectly apply rules of their native language to the target language, or they have not completely learned the full extent or limitations of a rule's use and so misapply it systemically.
Interlanguage may seem completely logical and correct in the mind of a language learner. It may also be a part of a natural learning process where rules get more refined as more input is received. However, if learners fail to receive corrective feedback, these interlanguage forms may fossilize .
World Englishes | Jake Kimball | April 19th, 2001
How do you handle the interlanguage that crops up in learners speech? Is it worth correcting or should we let it stand as a valid language variety? I mean, even though what is said may be unintelligible to native English speakers, it is perfectly understood by other L2 speakers within the same community.
Reply to Jake | Pinkie | April 19th, 2001
I'm no expert on this sort of stuff, but I'm in a posting mood today. My view, which I imagine is pretty conventional, is that that there's no simple answer to these questions. Whether or not mistakes/errors should be corrected at a given moment (and how) surely depends on a wide range of factors relating to each particular student's needs and "level", classroom context, task type, etc. etc. On this sort of thing, I personally find Ellis's "Instructed Second Language Acquisition" very useful. Other books, anybody?
You also say "...even though what is said may be unintelligible to native English speakers, it is perfectly understood by other L2 speakers within the same community." I can't imagine many contexts in which the aim of language learning is as minimalist as this! Or am I not understanding you right?
Re: interlanguage | Francesca Michalski | April 19th, 2001
Jake and Tinkerbell Mansfield are discussing interlanguage- to correct or not to correct being the question. Personally, I've started stopping myself (as a teacher I have this irresistible urge to correct) from making certain corrections such as the third person S in lower levels, as I know it is acquired later on. Also, due to reading an article in the CSD module, (unit 4 Ellis, Second Language Learning Acquisition in Context 1987 Contextual Variability in Second Language Acquisition and The Relevancy of Language Teaching) I've realised that students will produce a language item correctly in some situations but not in others and have come to accept this process of gradually acquiring the correct form.
However, we need to bear in mind two points: firstly, how does one know when the error is a form of interlanguage that will naturally correct itself and when it's a genuine error, which, if not corrected, could become fossilized? Secondly, students have expectations about being corrected, so, if one is not going to correct, such a policy should be discussed (or better still negotiated) and its rationale explained.
Regarding the other issue of how intelligible we should expect our students to be, I think that depends on who they are going to be interacting with in English (the target language community). I can't think why speakers of the same language, as Jake gave as his example, would want to speak to each other in an L2 (except, obviously, for the language classroom), doesn't there have to be a foreigner involved somewhere in the equation? Certainly my students frequently mention that they much prefer speaking English with other non-native speakers (of different nationalities) to native speakers as they are easier to understand and less intimidating (they are in the same boat). This brings us into the realms of International English, what it is, or is becoming, and whether we should be teaching it.
Another fascinating topic.
Take a Japanese-English Interlanguage test | Jake Kimball | April 19th, 2001
Here are some pseudo English words that are creative and unique lexical units. It's quite fashionable in Asia to borrow English (sometimes European) words and incorporate them into L1 because it's trendy. However, these loanwords also become truncated due to pronunciation difficulties. These words are commonly used in both L1 and L2.
The notion of correcting these Asian idiosyncrasies goes far beyond that of, say, 3 rd person singular. Used in context, prefixes and suffixes are removed, verbs mysteriously become nouns, prepositions and conjunctions disappear, as do articles. Combine these phonological and syntactic productions and what you get is an unintelligible conversation or a humorous misunderstanding which is perfectly understandable to those speaking either in their own L1 or English.
Anyway, for the uninitiated English native speaker, communication is problematic. But it can't be all that bad. What about the possibility of positive transfer and the role it plays in acquisition?
Test your knowledge!
What is the English equivalent?
(Sound out the word. I did the best I could transcribing phonetically)
1. ae con
2. de pa teu
3. re mo con
4. bee nee ru
5. pan ta
6. cola tek
7. a pa teu
8. bu pae
9. o ba
12. 1 piece
14. ballume up
15. sun ting
16. sha peu (sharp)
17. love hotel
18. al bei teu
Stay tuned. Tomorrow I'll post the answers.
Does anybody else have probelms like this you'd like to share? I know Japanese and Chinese borrow words the same way. What about those of you in Europe or the Middle East?
Re: Test | Pinkie | April 20th, 2001
Haven't got a clue about any of these, I'm afraid, though I see what you mean. In modern Spanish there are thousands of English loanwords, which of course cause problems for Spanish people speaking English and English people speaking Spanish (e.g. it's no use me saying "las Spice Girls", in Spanish it's "las Espice"). This pattern (Spice Girls -> Spice) is very common in Spanish, giving things like "chopped" (chop-ed) for "chopped pork" (i.e. the canned stuff), and "soft" for "software".
The answers | Jake Kimball | April 21st, 2001
Here are my answers to yesterday's English test if you're interested.
1. ae con = air conditioner, a/c, air/con
2. de pa teu = department store
3. re mo con = remote control
4. bee nee ru = (vinyl) plastic
5. fan ta = orange soda
6. cola tek = nightclub for teenagers
7. a pa teu = apartment
8. bu pae = buffet
9. o ba = over act, to do something with too much enthusiasm
10. NG = No Good, you've made a mistake, do it again
11. skinship = to touch another person
12. 1 piece = dress
13. VTR = VCR
14. ballume up = turn up the volume, please talk louder
15. sun ting = window tint (sun+coating)
16. sha peu (sharp) = mechanical pencil
17. love hotel = cheap inn to satisfy your passing carnal desires
18. al bei teu = part time job
I can see how many of the words are modified from their original form. Pretty creative, I think. Make sense to you?
Re: The answers | Darin Bicknell | April 21st, 2001
Here are a couple of additions:
VTR = Video Tape Recorder (often used in the early 1980's when VCR's had two sizes Beta and VHS. Beta died out and so did VTR or at least it did in Canada.)
Y-shirt = Dress shirt
And about a hundred more I can't remember from my days in Korea.
Just yesterday a few my students creatively added to this list try and decode these if you will:
"I'm in six leaves in PS"
"You can use it handily with the foreigner on business"
"The man bought a cup of cocacola, they drinken with two suckers, they were very happy."
Of course not all these have been entrenched in the language of my Chinese (PRC) students, but they may over time if they don't discover that native English speakers or Singlish users do not often use these words. Then "suckers" will take on a new meaning.
Japanese English | James Hobbs | April 21st, 2001
One of the many ongoing threads at the moment is, "How do you handle the interlanguage that crops up in learners speech? Is it worth correcting or should we let it stand as a valid language variety?" One observation was, "...even though what is said may be unintelligible to native English speakers, it is perfectly understood by other L2 speakers within the same community".
I think the issue of English being "adjusted" for use in other languages, and subsequently mistakenly used by learners in Japan, Spain or wherever, is pretty cut and dry. Words like "air con" and "depato" are simply not English, and it's my job as a teacher to point out to my students which words ARE English, as opposed to which words are JAPANESE WORDS DERIVED FROM English. I think I'd be doing my students a great disservice if I let such words pass as English.
Where I do have a problem, and where I think the issue is not at all cut and dry, is with wholly Japanese words used in English speech. Words like "sushi" and "karaoke" are now accepted English terms (although if you arrived in Tokyo without practicing your pronunciation/ intonation you'd struggle to order dinner or to get your hands on a microphone), but when you're living here you come across a whole mountain of words which simply don't have an English equivalent.
The problem in the classroom is with students who have trouble distinguishing between a translation and a definition. For instance, rather than asking me "Do you like KATSUDON?" a student might ask "Do you like fried pork cutlet on a bed of rice?", which sounds decidedly awkward (or at least to me it does).
The advice I usually give is "for uniquely Japanese things which don't have an obvious English equivalent, stick with the Japanese word, and offer the definition only if it's requested". But it's not so straightforward. For example, "Monbusho" translates accurately as "The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture", yet pick up any ELT journal/ magazine/ newspaper, and you'll find that the majority of references are to "Monbusho" (probably because that's much less of a mouthful).
Conversely, dictionaries that list little-known English terms, particularly for foods, without out pointing out that few native speakers are familiar with them confound matters. It's highly unlikely that any CPs outside Japan would recognize a "devil's tongue", my personal favourite (the word, that is, not the food), and I suspect that Japanese hosts inquiring as to whether their English-speaking guest would like some "sea squirt" are more than likely to be answered with a blank stare. I'd never seen or heard of a "persimmon" before I arrived in Japan, either (but maybe that's just a reflection of the cultural ignorance that comes with growing up in Yorkshire!). Also, a student recently mentioned in an email that he had gone fishing for "crucian", a revelation that sent me scrambling for a dictionary, which duly reassured me that this was "a yellow fish allied to the carp".
To summarize, we have an ironic situation whereby;
1. Many Japanese words/ phrases have become common currency among native English speakers here, even when they have perfectly comprehensible English counterparts.
2. English terms unknown to all but a few of the most traveled/educated native English speakers are common knowledge to, and regularly used by, many Japanese learners of English.
Konglish | David Cohen | April 29th, 2001
Found this tidbit in the Guardian online.
'Konglish' replaces good English
Friday April 27, 2001
How bad can bad English get? Very bad indeed, in the view of a commentary published in the Korea Herald, in which the writer laments the state of "Konglish", the hybrid of jazzy Korean and messy English that, "like heavy traffic is an unpleasant but tolerable side of life" in the East Asian capital.
Well, maybe not quite so tolerable these days. The recent opening of a bedazzling new multi-billion dollar airport in Seoul, where as many as 49 signs were subsequently discovered to have fallen prey to writers of Konglish, spoke "volumes about the state of the translation and proofreading industry in Korea," the paper said.
A few weeks previously, the vernacular newspaper Dong-a Ilbo had reported on a study conducted by Lee Ye Shik, a professor of English education at Kyungpook National University, that found hundreds of similar examples of Konglish in four first-year junior high school textbooks. "Bad English in textbooks is particularly troubling because it helps reproduce the passivity towards good English that has permitted bad English to prosper in Korea for so long," the Herald concluded. "If students are exposed to mistakes that many teachers will teach as good English, then how can English education in Korea improve?"
Perhaps it can do this by looking to the example of continental Europe. In a colourful piece published last week, the New York Times reported from Thalwil, in Switzerland, where English has become part of the daily routine in schools. Students as young as seven are learning multiplication or discussing the weather in English, and have even bypassed learning local German tunes in favour of "Old MacDonald" and "How Are You This Morning?" Parents are delighted, the article noted, but editorial writers elsewhere have demurred, asking why on earth, in a country with German, French, Italian and Romansch as national languages, children are should be learning English as their first foreign language.
Good age to learn languages | Jake Kimball | April 29th, 2001
Thanks David for the info. Today's topic: eradicating language variety (Konglish, Engrish, Spanglish, etc) by learning languages earlier.
I'm still unsure of my approach to stamping out Konglish. Right now I just take the 'educate them' approach by just informing students of the difference between 'genuine' English and Konglish. However, I do recognize that many of these words are indeed loanwords used legitimately in Korean.
I find it hard to tell people their entirely wrong when many borrowed words exist in English which, in my understanding, have also made the crossover from other languages and were subsequently butchered (pronunciation-wise). French and Japanese loanwords come to mind. After 1066, how did the French feel about the way their language was being incorporated into the English lexicon? I'm sure they must've had a few laughs at our expense.
As far as improving the state of English education, children are beginning to learn English earlier and earlier and it is quite common for kids to have private classes with native English speakers at home or in institutes. That will surely help the coming generations. But I just couldn't imagine public schools teaching English as a first language, though they do sometimes sing and chant songs, as David suggested happens in Europe (minus the math).
The biggest obstacle here would be national pride. Secondly, I doubt the feasibility of teaching English to children at 4 or 5 years old or younger. With the exception of a few precocious kiddies, most don't belong in the classroom. I read, I forget where (I was recently reading about critical period hypothesis), that children should have a grasp of their first language before jumping into a 2nd or 3rd language.
What's the best age to start learning other languages?
What about fatigue and apathy? How long will it take before learners give up because they've played every game and studied every grammar point?
Culture-specific words | Pinkie | May 3rd, 2001
Culture-specific words: I think you hit several nails right on the head, James.
Here's a related issue that occurred to me, though it's probably no news to you. In the course of LEX, I've been reading a nice book called "Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography" (Sidney Landau; CUP, 2001). Discussing bilingual dictionaries, he mentions something I must admit I'd never really latched on to: the different halves of a bilingual dictionary are not simply mirror images, in part because of culture specificity. For example: the Spanish->English half of a S-E/E-S dictionary should certainly include "nécora" (a little crab that's considered a delicacy here in Spain), whereas in the E->S half it's not likely to be worth including "velvet swimming crab" (the English-speaking biologist's term for this species; there's no gastronomic term since we don't eat 'em). Also, the most appropriate wording of the entry for "nécora" will depend on whether the dictionary is primarily designed to help E speakers understand S or to help S speakers produce E; though I guess in the real world editors are obliged to compromise between the two functions.
That's all. Best wishes from Galicia, where the cherry blossoms are rotting in the rain and the once-yellow dandelions struggle to survive in the ankle-deep mud!