Turkish-German Bilinguals and Third Language Acquisition

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2015

14 Pages, Grade: 1,7




1. Turkish Immigrants in Germany

2. Review of Literature

3. Third Language Acquisition in Turkish-German Bilinguals
3.1. Analysis of Written Language
3.2 Analysis of Spoken Language




Cultural diversity in different societies around the world, in the 21st century, places a great emphasis on the value of language acquisition. Whether it is in business, politics or other international interactions, and further aspects of life, in particular education, language acquisition has become more and more important. As a result, bilingualism is seen as a norm rather than an exception in many societies around the globe. Although considered fairly recent, linguistics have studied the acquisition of a first language by infants and second language acquisition in children and adults with varying approaches in the past decades. However, people are not only increasingly exposed to numerous languages in multilingual settings but they are also learning them. This is ascribed to the movement of people from one society to another resulting in an increased contact with different cultures.

Due to that fact, researchers have begun to put an emphasis on studies about multilingualism and the distinct acquisition of languages past a second non-native language. While many researchers classified any non-native language acquisition as second language acquisition in the past, recent studies discuss the phenomenon of third language acquisition. In this day and age it has become common that migrants who are proficient in their native language and have moved to or are born in a multicultural country will not only learn the official language of that same country but also an additional foreign language. Because of this growing phenomenon bilingualism and its effects on third language acquisition have also gained more attention by researchers in linguistic studies.

According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany and a microcensus which has been conducted in the year 2013, 16.5 million out of the total population of roughly 81 million people in Germany had a migrant background. The largest ethnic group of immigrants, who either migrated to Germany or were born in Germany as second generation immigrants, is comprised of Turks. On this account language acquisition of Turks living in multicultural Germany and their integration in terms of language is significant to the study of third language acquisition.

The process of third language acquisition by Turkish immigrants in Germany is unique, distinct from their first and second language acquisition, and influenced by first and second language acquisition.

1. Turkish Immigrants in Germany

Germany is a multicultural country with a substantial number of a foreign population. Along with the vast number of people of different cultural backgrounds coexisting in Germany there is an existence of multilingualism among the population. A brief look at the history of Turkish immigrants, the largest ethnic group living in Germany, reveals that this group came to Germany in the early seventies for temporary work (cf. Şimşek 25). Because these Turkish immigrants had not intended to stay in Germany for a long period of time, they were only proficient in one language. Turkish was the first and only language which was acquired during infancy. The subsequent generation of immigrants who either came to Germany or were even born in Germany actually had the need to learn German. After acquiring their first language (L1) Turkish in their home settings, German was acquired as a second language (L2) making the immigrants bilinguals. The acquirement of the German language allowed for an integration into the German society and even more importantly the school system. Since foreign language education is a crucial part of the German educational system Turkish-German bilinguals were exposed to learning another foreign language besides German. As a result of that Turkish- Germans acquired a third language (L3) mostly English while going to school. For a clear examination of the process of third language acquisition in Turkish-German bilinguals, the book Turkish-German Bilingual Student's Acquisition of English Word Order in a German Educational Setting by Sağin Şimşek (2005) will serve as the main source of information. In her study, Şimşek studies the syntactic influence of Turkish and German on the third language acquisition of English in fourteen Turkish- German bilingual students of a comprehensive secondary school or "Gesamtschule" in Hamburg, Germany and twenty-five Turkish monolinguals.

2. Review of Literature

Reviewing literature concerning third language acquisition reveals many similarities with claims that are made in Şimşek's work. In the introduction to her study Şimşek highlights the importance of distinguishing second language acquisition from third language acquisition but also the influence of L1 and L2 acquisition on third language acquisition. By doing this she follows many linguistic researchers who stress the distinction between L1, L2, and especially L3 acquisition to emphasize the uniqueness of third language acquisition such as in her Turkish-German subjects.

In the book Third Language Acquisition in Adulthood (2012), Amaro, Flynn, and Rotham immediately stress the idea that it is essential to draw a distinction between L2 and L3 due to their qualitative differences. Further arguments are given in support of the specific study of third language acquisition because of its benefits. The research of third language acquisition in bilingual adults provides a wide overview on the study of bilingualism and multilingualism. This gives new insights into the learning process of multilingual speakers ( cf. Amaro, Flynn, and Rotham 3). With new findings gained by a more complex insight into the language learning process, unlike any others which you can find in first and second language acquisition, linguistic studies can majorly be changed. These findings can thereafter be applied to multilingual language teaching and learning giving linguistics a broader and more complex perspective.

In the year 1990 a case study was performed to study the process of third language acquisition on the bilingual subject Sarah Williams. The British woman who not only studied languages at a university level had also spent a number of years in Germany, making British English her L1 and German her L2. Williams moved to Sweden for a job at the University of Stockholm and therefore she found herself needing to learn Swedish, making it her L3. To study her progress in third language acquisition Williams was observed in her language learning process. She was spoken to in Swedish and she also provided much data about her own perception of her language learning process and progress. Another method used in obtaining data for this project was audio recordings which yielded to a great amount of analyzable data. The recorded data not only made possible specific insights into William’s language speaking competency but they can also be used retrospectively for future studies.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Turkish-German Bilinguals and Third Language Acquisition
University of Hamburg
The Structure of English- Linguistik Vertiefung
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
520 KB
third language acquisition, Turkish, immigrants, Germany, language acquisition, spracherwerb, migranten, deutschland, bilingualism, trilingualism, mehrsprachigkeit, zweisprachigkeit
Quote paper
Mariam Ahmadi (Author), 2015, Turkish-German Bilinguals and Third Language Acquisition, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/309160


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