Academic journal article English Language Teaching

The Effect of Colloquial Jordanian Arabic on Learning the English Definite Article and Negation

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

The Effect of Colloquial Jordanian Arabic on Learning the English Definite Article and Negation

Article excerpt


This study was conducted to investigate the influence of Colloquial Jordanian Arabic upon the use of negation and the definite article in English. The sample of the study consisted of 100 male and 100 female Jordanian 10th graders in the academic year 2011-2012. The students were randomly selected from public schools in the region of Karak-Jordan. A translation test as well as a gap-fill test were constructed to arrive at the objectives of the study. The study concluded that the students committed more transfer errors in their use of English negation and the definite article than other types of errors in the same syntactic areas as a result of the effect of CJA.

Keywords: language transfer, Colloquial Jordanian Arabic, English definiteness, English negation, Arabic definiteness, Arabic negation

1. Introduction

In Jordanian schools, teaching structures of language is a fundamental part of most English classes. It is worth mentioning that eight years ago, Jordanian government schools began to teach English as a foreign language from the first grade onward. Nevertheless, the students' proficiency in English is far below the desired standards. Students are found to encounter several problems in learning English, especially in the area of syntax. Two areas of syntax in which students face difficulty are the use of the definite article and negation. Fisiak (1981: 207) stated that " the errors or mistakes that students make in the process of learning a second or a foreign language have always been a cause of much concern to the teachers and textbook writers alike". These errors have been found to plague the speech and writing of students learning English as a second language.

Jordanian students, like many other Arab students, learn English alongside their mother tongue. They start learning modern standard Arabic (MSA) as an official language at the school level. In this respect, Cowan (1968) and Ringbom (1987) believe that Arabs are native speakers of non-Standard Arabic (NSA) not Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

Antony (1987) highlighted that many ESL/EFL practitioners realize that the article system (a- an- the- zero article) is a very difficult aspect of English syntax to learn and acquire. Bataineh (2005) supported this idea by stating that the article system is one of the most difficult structural elements for ESL/EFL learners, especially when their native languages employ different articles. In this respect, Master (1997) and Parrish (1987) explained that for learners whose first languages (Lis) lack articles [- ART], the zero article dominates in all environments for articles in the early stages of L2 learning.

Kharma and Hajjaj (1989) pointed out that some of the errors committed by Arab students learning English as a foreign language are due to Arabic interference but they did not specify which form of Arabic is responsible for the committing of these errors.

Several linguists like Ellis (1985), Lado (1964) and Mahmoud (2000) mostly agreed with the assumption that the LI plays a pivotal role on L2 learning. According to these linguists the errors committed in L2 learning which are the result of the differences between LI and L2 are called transfer or interference errors. James (1980) explained that what leads to the emergence of the hypothesis of transfer is the observation that previous learning has its own effect on subsequent learning. Faerch and Kasper (1987) believed that transfer is a psycholinguistic process in which L2 learners activate their previous linguistic knowledge to develop and use their interlanguage.

McLaughlin (1987) defined transfer as either a learning strategy or communication strategy. Transfer may be used as a learning strategy for the purpose of formulating hypotheses about the target language or as a communication strategy for the purpose of testing these hypotheses.

2. Theoretical Framework

2.1 Studies on the Role of LI in Learning L2

Sharwood-Smith (1979) stated that there are three eras which can be clearly defined with respect to the attitudes towards the role the first language plays in L2 learning. …

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