Comparing Data Analysis of a Monolingual and a Bilingual Child

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2003

26 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Background

III. Methodology

IV. Results
IV.1. Interview
IV.2. Yes/ No Questions
IV.3. Appropiate Question to a Given Statement
IV.4. Conditional Sentences
IV.5. Relative Clauses
IV.6. Total Results

V. Conclusion


I. Introduction

Have you ever read a newspaper article about bilingual children? Well, I guess everybody has come across at least one of them. Is it not an interesting matter of fact that bilingual children apparently learn a second language easier than monolingual?

But after reading those texts have you ever asked yourself where exactly the differences between monolingual and bilingual children in second language acquisition (SLA) are?

I did and therefore I investigated in comparing data of a monolingual and a bilingual child. Consequently in my analysis I will not focus on one particular error but I will take in account all errors made by my subjects.

I will start my paper with giving you some background information about the subjects´ native languages. The monolingual child´s native language (NL) is German, the bilingual child´s mother tongues are German and Arabic. I will show you the most important differences between English, German and Arabic. Because I did not find a useful Arabic grammar (in fact the problem was that I can not read Arabic letters) I asked a friend of mine to translate some sentences. Therefore you will find a comparative table of English, German and Arabic in Appendix I.

In the next part I will tell you something more about my subjects and about the requirements they had to fulfil. Then I will discribe how I collected the data. The complete data will be found in Appendix II.

The next step will be a presentation of my results. First I will tell you how the data was scored. Afterwards there will be a detailed description of each error made by my subjects and I will try to analize why they occured.

Finally I will draw a conclusion out of my results.

II. Background

The monolingual child was born in Germany and both his mother and his father are German, too. The bilingual child was born in Germany as well but his parents are Jordanian. They came to Germany in the late 60s. With his father, who knows German perfectly, he usually speaks German, with his mother most of the time Arabic.

All languages, i.e. English, German and Arabic have a definite article. In English it is always the and in Arabic al. German has three definite articles. It depends on the gender if you have to use der, die or das.

A difference in all languages can be found in the case of the indefinite article. In English it is a or an (an is used if the initial letter of the following word is a vocal, i.e. a, e, i, o or u), in German the indefinte articles are ein or eine (depends on the gender as well), in Arabic there is no indefinite article at all, i.e. the noun is used without an article.

Sometimes in English and in German you need a form of to be, e.g. “That is Daniel” (English) or “Das ist Daniel” (German). We speak of a so called copula. The corresponding Arabic phrase is “Hatha Daniel.” (* ”That Daniel.”). As we can see a copula is not used in the Arabic language. In those cases the verb is always left out.

Apart from that the use of verbs in the Arabic language is more distinctive. In the conjugation system there is not only a distinction made between the persons but also between male and female. Furtheron personal pronouns are not used because the verb form already shows who you are talking about. In German the verb is also conjugated but differences are only made between the persons. The personal pronoun is, as it is in English, obligatory. In English there is just a distinction in the present tense made between the 3rd person singular and the other persons, e.g. I get, you get, he/she/it get s, we get, etc. But the exception proves the rule: E.g. the verb to be is conjugated completely (I am, you are, he/she/it is, etc .) whereas there is no conjugation in the case of the auxiliary can (I can, you can, he/she/it can, etc. ).

There is also a difference in the tenses. For example both English and German have present perfect. In Arabic there is no present perfect at all. On the other hand there is no progressive tense in German whereas progressive tenses occur in English and in Arabic.

Now I will switch over to the sentence structure. In all languages the basic word order in declarative sentences is Subject-Verb-Objekt. In English we speak of a canonical word order, i.e. the sentence structure is obligatory. This word order is necessary because the nouns are not declined. The German language consists of a declining system. It is always the article that is declined. Arabic has a declining system, too. The case is marked by a suffix. Therefore in both languages the word order can vary. E.g. in German relative clauses the word order is Subject-Object-Verb. [IN GERMAN ADJECTIVES ARE DECLINED ALSO, THOUGH THE AFFIX MAY DEPEND ON THE ARTICLE]

Differences in the sentence structure can also be seen if we have a further look at the syntax of questions. English questions without an interrogative pronoun usually need a do-support, e.g. “Does Daniel like french fries?” This occurs for two reasons: In questions we have subject-verb inversion on the one hand, on the other hand we have to stick to the basic word order. The exception is if in the corresponding declarative sentence an auxiliary is already used, e.g. “Stefanie is driving a car.” -> “Is Stefanie driving a car?”

In German and in Arabic the subject and the verb are inverted as well but something like a do-support does not exist in either of the languages, e.g. “Liest Stefanie?” (German) or “Takkra´u Stefanie?” (Arabic). The word for word translation would be * ”Reads Stefanie?” The correct question in English is “Does Stefanie read?” or “Is Stefanie reading?”

One special thing in the arabic language is that you sometimes need a question marker which is always hal. If you do not use it the question will have a different meaning. For example: If you say “Hal jassuuku Daniel al bascaleit?” you want to know if he is riding a bicycle right now. Compared to that “Jassuuku Daniel al bascaleit?” means if he is able to ride a bicycle. In the question “Takkra´u Stefanie?” hal is not needed because (in the eyes of Arabic speakers) reading is an ability everybody has. [HOW ARE QUESTIONS DISTINGUISHED FROM STATEMENTS?]

Furthermore the object in German and in Arabic questions consequently follows the subject whereas in English you have to stick to the canonical word order S-V-O, e.g. “Does Daniel have a bicycle?” (English) versus “Hat Daniel ein Fahrrad?“ (German) versus “Endaho Daniel bascaleit?“ (Arabic) . [YOU NEED TO GIVE MORPHEME-BY-MORPHEME TRANSLATIONS FOR THE ARABIC SENTENCES. IN SAYING THAT 'DOES DANIEL HAVE A BICYCLE?' IS S V O, HOW DO YOU COUNT THE 'DO' IN THE ORDERING OF WORDS? ISN'T IT A VERB?]

There are also differences in questions with interrogative pronouns. I will show you the similarities and the differences in the following table.

illustration not visible in this excerpt


III. Methodology

To have a convincing data set I was looking for two children who have more or less the same background, i.e. who attend the same school, who are in the same class and who have the same English teacher. My subjects fulfilled these requirements. They attend my former school, are both in the 8th grade and in the same class community. Besides, both belong to the same social background (upper middle class). As I already mentioned before my first subject is monolingual, i.e. his mother tongue is German and my second subject is bilingual, i.e. his native languages are German and Arabic. Both subjects are male and both are learning English for four years. There are only two differences: My first subject is 13 years old, i.e. he is one and a half years younger than my second subject who is 15 years old. The other difference is that my first subject is the only child whereas the second one has three older brothers.

For two reasons I started the session with an interview. First I wanted to find something out about the boys´ background and secondly I just wanted the boys to talk. Afterwards I gave them two youth magazines. They were instructed to choose a picture in one of the magazines and ask questions about it. The answer to that question had to be either yes or no. In the next step they had to ask a question for which a statement given beforehand would be an appropiate answer.

To make it a bit more interesting for the boys I then started to ask them some questions about how their lives would differ if the circumstances were different, e.g. if they were a girl. To give a correct answer they had to build conditional sentences.

Afterwards we came back to the youth magazines. Again they had to choose a picture and give a statement. In this statement they had to use a relative clause.

IV. Results

As you have seen before the collected data consists of five sections. Each section is scored indepently from the others. For the total result the five sections are counted together. Although the level of difficulty was different each part counts 20%.

In the first section I counted all words which were produced by my subjects. In relation to that I also counted the errors to calculate a comparative percentage.

The second section was scored differently. For each correct question the subject got one point. If there was only a vocabulary problem the subject still got 0.5 points. Afterwards I calculated a percentage as well.

The third section was scored like the second one. For each correct question the subject got one point. This time the kind of error did not matter.

In the fourth section I again counted all words that were produced by my subjects and than I subtracted the errors. If the tense of the conditional sentence was wrong I subtracted two points, for any other error I subtracted one point.

In the last part I first had a look if the relative clause was correct. Because there were no problems with this part I counted the other errors which occurred. For each error I subtracted 5%.

To let you know which errors I have scored they will be set off in bold letters. If words are missing and if therefore they made an error I will insert the following sign “Ø” so that you can see what I counted.

IV.1. Interview

In the first part subject 1 (S1) produced 78 words. All in all he made 5 errors. It follows that 93.6% was correct and 6.4% was incorrect.

The first error was that he said “* That´s was.” instead of “That´s it”. That means that he used the verb to be twice * That is was”. The equivalent German sentence is: “Das war´s” (“Das war es”). In both languages clitics are used. In English the verb is cliticized, in German the pronoun. Therefore I suppose that he was not aware that clitics are used differently and that the error happened because of language transfer.


Excerpt out of 26 pages


Comparing Data Analysis of a Monolingual and a Bilingual Child
University of Dusseldorf "Heinrich Heine"  (Anglistik III)
Error Analysis
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Comparing, Data, Analysis, Monolingual, Bilingual, Child, Error, Analysis
Quote paper
Melanie Janet Göbel (Author), 2003, Comparing Data Analysis of a Monolingual and a Bilingual Child, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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