Exposure to English as a Foreign Language amongst Croatians

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‘International Journal of Bilingualism’ • Volume 14and L1 and • 2010, 303–314| 303 Djigunovic: Starting age • Number 3 L2 interaction | ´

Starting age and L1 and L2 interaction
Jelena Mihaljevic Djigunovic ´ ´
University of Zagreb, Croatia

The study looks into the multi-competence of early and late beginners by studying the interaction of achievement in their L1 and L2. In the context of this study L1 was Croatian and L2 English. Early beginners are defined as learners who started learning English before age 10 and late beginners as learners who started at 10 or later. The findings of this study show that the multi-competence of early and later beginners differs in terms of interaction between their L1 and L2. It is suggested that early beginners, through their longer exposure to L2, reach the necessary competence levels in their two languages sooner to allow transfer in both directions. Before these levels are reached, L1–L2 interactions are either non-existent or weak.

Key words
early FL beginner L1–L2 interaction language exposure multi-competence

Second language acquisition can be considered a highly dynamic research field from different perspectives. One of these perspectives refers to the changing views on the interaction of the first (L1) and the second (L2) language. The interaction has attracted a lot of attention throughout the history of studying second language learning and teaching (e.g. Kellerman, 1984; Lado, 1957; Weinreich, 1953). Recently new approaches have also emerged to conceptualizing both the process and product of this interaction (Cook, 2002, 2003; Ringbom, 2007). In this introduction we find it useful to consider L1–L2 interaction from the three perspectives that have, in our opinion, dominated research to date. The first starts from the premise that L2 acquisition is characterized by L1 transfer. The second looks at the interaction from the opposite end and considers transfer of L2 into L1. Finally, the third perspective looks at the L1–L2 interaction phenomenon by considering the dual-language system. In the empirical part of this article we will be looking into interaction of L1 and L2 of early and later L2 beginners. By comparing their achievements in L1 and L2 we will try to find out about their developing dual-language system.

Address for correspondence

Jelena Mihaljevic Djigunovic, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of ´ ´ Zagreb, Ivana Lucica 3, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia. [email: jdjigunovic@gmail.com] The International Journal of Bilingualism

Copyright © 2010 the Author/s 2010, Vol 14 (3): 303–314; ID no 367847; DOI; 10.1177/1367006910367847 http://Ijb.sagepub.com

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Role of the first language in acquiring the second
The early interest in L1–L2 interaction was centered around the role of L1 in L2 acquisition. The key concept was language transfer. Back in 1957 Lado claimed that L2 learners tend to transfer their L1 and culture to L2 and culture during both production and reception (Lado, 1957: 2). Negative transfer was seen as a hindering factor in L2 learning and, in order to minimize or abolish its effect altogether, contrastive analysis was introduced: the differences found through a close comparison between the learners’ L1 and the L2 they were trying to master was to be considered when designing teaching materials. Different approaches developed with time, each reflecting current theoretical positions. They were voiced in two versions of the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH). According to the strong version of CAH, L2 achievement can be predicted on the basis of similarities and differences between L1 and L2. Since the theoretical basis of contrastive analysis—behaviorism—was challenged essentially in the 1960s, the strong version was abandoned. The so-called weak version...
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