Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages

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Phonological transfer

Read and Reflect

Transfer refers to the influence of one language on another, and many studies have shown the influence of a first language on the perception or production in a second language.  Phonological transfer is of particular interest to researchers, because while some adults are able to acquire a second language to nativelike levels in terms of grammatical accuracy, the vast majority retain a discernible "foreign accent," showing a first language influence on phonology.

Cutler has shown cross-linguistic effects in phonology, when L1 structures handicap later L2 perception:

Non-native listening, however, is […] hindered by the efficiency with which the native procedures operate; even when native procedures are ill-suited to the structure of a non-native language, their application is difficult to inhibit. […] The baby's hard work in the first year of life pays off handsomely in native listening efficiency; drawbacks only become apparent when adults also engage in non-native listening.

(Cutler, 2002, p. 40)

Read the original paper:

Cutler, A. (2002). Native listeners. European Review, 10(1), 27-41. PDF

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