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 »  Articles Overview  »  Language Specific  »  English Grammar  »  Common Errors Made by Macedonian Learners of English Due to L1 Interference

Common Errors Made by Macedonian Learners of English Due to L1 Interference

By Natasha Stojanovska-Ilievska | Published  01/16/2007 | English Grammar | Recommendation:
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Natasha Stojanovska-Ilievska
מקדוניה (הרפובליקה היוגוסלבית לשעבר של מקדוניה)
מאנגלית למקדונית translator
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The phenomenon of the source language influencing the learning of the target language is frequently labeled as L1 interference or transfer. If this transfer facilitates the learning of the target language, then we are dealing with positive transfer. On the other hand, when L1 is perceived as the cause for common mistakes in the target language, the preferred term is negative transfer. The following paragraphs will focus on the areas where the negative transfer is most frequently manifested.

The errors in this category generally result from the morphological and syntactic differences in the structure of both languages. On a morphological level, for example, Macedonian makes no formal distinction between the present continuous and the present simple tenses, which is why students have difficulties understanding when to use each of them. As far as syntax is concerned, the distinction between the flexible world order in Macedonian and the fixed word order in English should be mentioned. In Macedonian, it is not uncommon to place the object in sentence-initial position, which is not the case in English. In addition, in Macedonian the subject is often omitted, as the verb suffix invariably includes information about person and number.

In this category, common mistakes as a result of L1 interference include false friends and inappropriate use of translation equivalents in cases where there is not one-to-one correspondence between them. The existence of false friends in these two languages is evident in the examples such as: prospect (изглед, перспектива) vs. проспект (brochure, prospectus), and evidence (доказ, доказен материјал) vs. евиденција (records, files). In the case of nonexistence of one-to-one correspondence between translation equivalents, several English words can be supplied as translation equivalents for the same term in Macedonian. For example, Macedonian uses only one word (висок) for both tall and high. Hence, students occasionally make mistakes of the following type: a high man, or a tall mountain.

Macedonian does not differentiate between long and short vowels. In addition, some English consonants and vowels are practically nonexistent in Macedonian and vice versa. In this case, students are often tempted to use the Macedonian sound that, in their opinion, closely reflects the English sound. Thus, in the early stages of language learning, we frequently hear /t/ or /f/ instead of /θ/ in ‘thank you’.

In the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet one letter corresponds to one sound. This is why Macedonian students experience difficulties when faced with the various spellings of the same sounds in English. For example, the English vowel /i:/ can be represented with eve, meet, honey, heat, believe, conceive, etc. Students find it difficult to understand that, unlike their native language, English can use several letters to symbolize one sound. The situation is further complicated by the lack of differentiation between long and short vowels in Macedonian. Hence students oftentimes use only the letter i to denote the sound in the above-mentioned words. This is also the case with the alternative spellings of the other consonants, vowels and diphthongs in English.

Based on what has been said so far, it becomes clear that although the source and the target language may share some structural and lexical similarities, there may also appear some common errors as a result of L1 interference. We should therefore teach our students to appreciate and acknowledge these differences if they are to become successful communicators and proficient speakers of the target language.

Natasha Stojanovska-Ilievska
Skopje, Macedonia

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