Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

The Positive Role of L1 in the Acquisition of a Second Language

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

The Positive Role of L1 in the Acquisition of a Second Language

Article excerpt


L1 not only plays a negative role in SLA, but also a positive role, it will be helpful if we make use of the positive effect, for the reason that there are some common characteristic among all languages, and L1 and L2 may be have similar syntax, vocabulary, and phonetics. Besides, the thinking model developed in L1 is also helpful in learn a foreign language.

Key words: Ll; SLA

(ProQuest: Foreign text omitted.)


People's language ability is combined with thinking ability, it develops as thinking develops. L1 is the first language reaction system in people's thinking system, it is formed in the condition that no other language system was set up before. Anyone who begins learning new knowledge or skills tends to make use of their original cognitive structure, include of the L1 knowledge and abstract thinking ability learned through the L1, which constitute the original cognitive structure of SLA; this is the source of information processing. Therefore, when learners learning the L2, they will consciously or unconsciously make use of their former information to think, analysis, comparison and comprehend, so they will use the experience gained in the process of learning their L1 to direct them to master a new language. Therefore, a correct understanding of the the role of L1 in the acquisition of a second language is of great significances.

Almost everyone who learns English could have experienced the effect of SLA from L1. The most common phenomenon is the affect of pronunciation of foreign language from their native language. In other words, when a German speaks English, he may somehow speak with a German accent. In addition to the accent, in actual situations, L1 could also affect a student's method to express a second language, which gives rise to the "one country English". Take a Chinese student as an example, when he using English, "run car" and "family computer" would appear, instead of "sports car" and "personal computer". The Chinese way to express English is called "Chinese English". It is apparent out of the ordinary exercise of English and accurately the result from the affect of thinking patten in native language.

For the above stated, traditional linguists said that L1 only have negative influence on second language acquisition (SLA). Does L1 interfere second language learning? Actually, the "Theory of L1 interference" is somewhat single-faceted. It neither mirrors the nature of foreign language learning nor discloses the inner relationships of L1 and L2. In the long process of foreign language learning, especially at the early stages, the learner will certainly make use of the knowledge or abilities of L1 to satisfy the learning needs or to reach the communication goal because of the existence of a great inconformity between the level of native language and second language. It is tactics of the learner and a approach in the procedure of SLA. So the influence of L1 in SLA is not only "interfering", but also "helpful" to a large extent. Since a lot of work has been done about the study of the negative role of L1 to SLA, this thesis will mainly focus the positive role that L1 plays in SLA. And for we are Chinese English learners, most of the examples are between Chinese and English. It can be explained in the following aspects:


Language is a symbol system for human beings. The relationship among the inner rules of this system is not arbitrary, but abide by some objective laws. Although there may be some differences, but in nature, language is the conjunct speciality of all human beings: it frequently related with the thinking patten of human beings, it is the most effective way for human beings to express themself. Human beings' thinking patten has some similarities, so do languages, which are used to express thinking may also have some similarities. Fromkin and Rodman (1998, p.28) suggested: "the more investigations on different kinds of languages and more descriptions about their differences, the more discoveries about the limited differences. …

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