Varieties as the Starting Point of Second Language Acquisition: Focus on Irish English in Teaching and Learning German


Boettner, Markus (2013) Varieties as the Starting Point of Second Language Acquisition: Focus on Irish English in Teaching and Learning German. In: Corpuslinguistische Untersuchungen: Analysen einzelsprachlicher Phänomene. Frank & timme Verlag, Berlin, pp. 175-185. ISBN 3865965199

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Abstract

The subject matter of the present paper is Irish English as the starting point of teaching and learning German as a second language. This symbiosis of the study of the varieties of English and the study of second language acquisition (SLA) adds an aspect to the latter which has been widely neglected. Second language teaching usually starts with a look at the unfamiliar features in the target language (L2) and then focuses on their dissimilarities with familiar features in the mother tongue (L1). Moulton (1968) states: When a Student sets out to learn a new language, he is willing – intellectually – to accept the fact that it is different and that he must learn some new and unfamiliar sounds to speak it properly. At the same time, he is so imprisoned within the world of his native English that learning these new sounds can be a very formidable task indeed (Moulton 1968: 2). With this statement Moulton complies with the common view at the time which originated in the contrastive analysis hypothesis (Lado 1957). Foreign sounds were claimed to be difficult to acquire due to their dissimilarity with L1 sounds. However, as will be discussed in the course of the present paper, this view changed over time. Flege (1995) postulates that L2 sounds are fitted into L1 categories through equivalence classifications and that L2 sounds which are similar but not identical with L1 sounds actually pose more difficulties to learners than totally different ones (Flege 1995: 239; Siegel 2010: 141). Irish English and Irish as the starting point of the acquisition of German will serve as an example to put these approaches into a real-life perspective. Why is Irish English highlighted here? Usually, the subject matter of the process of SLA are the mother tongue (L1) and the target language (L2), which would be English and German in this case. Nonetheless, if we take into account that there are over 350 million native speakers of English in over 40 countries in the world, we arrive at a wide range of national and even regional dialects with their individual L1 sound categories. In other words, native speakers from Australia or England will find the German vocalic realisation of /r/ after vowels rather unproblematic as this feature exists in their own varieties. Learners from Ireland or the USA, by contrast, have to overcome their muscular habit of pronouncing a retroflex sound instead. Another example are the allophones of /l/. People from Ireland sound a nuance more German by nature as Irish English knows the German-like alveolar /l/ in all positions, whereas English English shows strong velarisation after long vowels in Scottish and American English show it in all positions. With these examples the present author aimed to introduce the concept of native varieties as the starting point of SLA. The coming section will accommodate a contrastive description of selected phonemes in Irish1, Irish English2 and German. This will be followed in section 2 by an overview of relevant theoretical approaches in SLA taking into account the previously listed sound features. The paper will come full circle in section 3, as these approaches will help us to position the linguistic framework of Ireland in teaching German as an L2.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: phonetics, phonology, language, dialect, accent, variety, second language acquisition; SLA; L2 phonology; second language; learning; teaching; Irish English; Hiberno-English; Irish; German; language contact;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures > German
Item ID: 4963
Depositing User: IR Editor
Date Deposited: 19 May 2014 11:23
Publisher: Frank & timme Verlag
Refereed: Yes
URI:

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