Results and Discussion
2. Vocabulary Recognition, Morphology and Syntactic Structures
3. Communicative Performance
This case study analyzes the language errors of the Korean ESL learner Hu Jeong, who is currently attending the Calfornia State University of Long Beach as part of an exchange program. The case study and the analysis of Hu’s errors are based on his conversation with two students who speak English on a native-like level. For this purpose, it will be analyzed if Hu’s speech errors are due to a negative L1 tranfer. To come to a conclusion, his phonological and morpho-syntactic knowledge will be analyzed.
Most of the ESL learners’ errors are “substitutions […] and nonnative grammatical utterances”. These errors are thought to be representative of the speaker’s underlying system. Whereas for the acquisition of the L1, the underlying system is the Universal Grammar applicable to any language, when learning an L2, the learner’s underlying system is his L1. This is why it is seen as evidence that the nonnative characteristics of a language are often due to interference from the first language. In case of errors, this interference is called a negative transfer, however if the L1 and the L2 have similar characteristics and the L1 is helpful in learning the structures of the target language, then this interference is called a positive transfer. (Major, 2001) Accordingly, this case study aims to analyze if L1 interference really is the reason for the errors of an ESL learner. For this reason, a case study with a subject who speaks Korean as his first language and aims to learn English as his L2 was conducted. The analysis includes his error analysis based on a spontaneous and controlled speech part. The paper will address his errors in phonology, morphology, lexicon, syntax, and pragmatics. Lastly, his speech errors will be analyzed in relation to relevant research of L2 learning and his speech development will be reflected.
For the purpose of this paper, the developing skills of a university student from Korea who is learning English as his second language will be observed and analyzed. The observation took place on 26th November 2014 at the student’s natural surroundings, namely at his apartment on campus where he lives with other international students. The audio recording of the observation was done by two students involved in this project who took turns on asking him questions to analyze his skills in controlled and uncontrolled speech.
The subject Hu Jeong speaks Korean as his L1 and currently his English skills are on a lower intermediate level. English is the subject’s only L2 that he started to learn at middle school; additionally he learned how to read in Japanese at school but he cannot speak this language as another L2. Back in his home country, his teachers taught in Korean until he entered university, afterwards most of his classes were taught in English. Still, his knowledge in English is based on the English classes he took in Korea as a preparation for the entry requirement of the university in the States. Thus, he had to score a certain amount of points in the TOEFL test and practiced the language skills reading, speaking, listening and writing. Although he did well enough in the reading, speaking and writing part, he stated that he had had difficulties with the listening part.
The subject’s opinion is that his difficulties in English are due to the fact that the educational system in his home country does not focus on languages and does not provide enough opportunities to improve the students’ language skills.
Right now, the subject has been in the USA for four months and he noticed that his English skills are improving, but not as much as he wished they would. He does not like to read books and newspapers in English, and if he has the time for reading, he chooses his reading material in Korean language.
This paper is based on the transcription of a 15 minute audio recording of spontaneous conversation between an ESL learner and a student who speaks English on a native-like advanced level. After the spontaneous speech part, the student Hu Jeong had to complete morpho-syntactic, pronunciation, lexical and repetition tasks which are included in the appendix. Speech elements during the spontaneous speech that were pronounced incorrectly by the proband were transcribed into IPA. Also, the subject’s answers in the assessment part were transcribed into IPA where it was necessary.
Results and Discussion
In order to analyze if Hu Jeong’s pronunciation errors are due to L1 interference, it is important to have a look some important differences between Korean and English sounds.
The following table shows the sounds that exist in Korean language:
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Table 1: Korean Sound System (Song, 2005)
As it can be seen in the table, the /z/ sound that we have in English does not exist in Korean language. Also, the lateral /l/ is different from its English counterpart. It can either be pronounced “by tapping the tongue against the back of the upper front teeth or the alveolar ridge, very much like the so-called flap /r/ […] [;however,] it can also be produced by keeping the front of the tongue in contact with the alveolar ridge or the back of the upper front teeth” (Song, 2005). Given this brief background knowledge on the differences of English and Korean sound differences, an error pattern can be found in Hu Jeong’s speech units. So during the spontaneous speech, he could not pronounce the verb learn correctly. Instead he came up with the following pronunciation:
(1) *H: […] The order to speak or write is so similar with Korean so it’s more it’s more easier to [rɜːn] compared to English but English is a little bit hard for me.
So instead of pronouncing learn with the English /l/ sound, he referred to the Korean sound system and pronounced it incorrectly as [rɜːn]. The same error reoccurred when he was asked to pronounce the noun ruler in the controlled assessment part. Instead of the correct pronunciation [ˈruːlə], he mispronounced the word as [ruːrə]. Similar to his mistake with the /l/ sound, he also had difficulties pronouncing the /z/ as the name /zæk/ in the short story. Instead, he pronounced it as /dʒæk/, submitting the /z/ sound with a /dʒ/ sound. Additionally, there were other mistakes that contained sounds that do not exist in Korean. So, for example as there is no /d/ sound in Korean, he could not pronounce the noun dream and mispronounced it as /friːm/.