In 1965 group of prominent scientists, Stockwell and Bowen, conducted a constructive analysis of Spanish and English, and created elaborate and detailed hierarchy of difficulties, students have to face while learning either Spanish, or English pronunciation as a foreign one. However, all the predictions of errors of the researchers did not contain exceptions. It caused a strong criticism in their address in the late 1960s. In 1970 Wardhaugh introduces a new theory, which accepts the idea, that some percent of gifted learners would not have any difficulties in learning foreign pronunciation (from Roy 2001, p.33).
Some researchers in later years, for example, Ausubel, Novak, and Hanesian (1978), Wode (1978), Young-Scholten (1985), offer the theory that “similar phenomena are harder to learn than dissimilar phenomena. ” (from Roy 2001, p. 35) The reason to think so is that gross dissimilarity is clearly seen by a student, and, consequently, more paid attention and better learnt. Whereas, minimal differences remain unnoticed, and result in non-learning.
Thus, scientists have worked out classifications and divided the sounds into similar and dissimilar ones by using the articulatory, perceptual, acoustic, and structural descriptions of two languages, – a native and a foreign one. If has been found out, for example, that French /p/ was more similar to German /p/ than to German /b/, though both languages have voiceless and voiced stops. But, as the phonetic details showed, an initial position of German /b/ in a word “can actually be a devoiced stop [? ] (i. e. , more like [p]). (from Roy 2001, p. 35)
The problem of language interference in students’ expression is related with broader context of the socio-linguistic environment and some cultural aspects of language functioning. In his socio-linguistic research, B. Kachru (1983) studies functional characteristics of non-native English context and their influence on non-native varieties of English and on its native varieties (for example, American English or British English). B. Kachru finds out that due to different social environment and thus different communicative needs non-native varieties of English acquire new linguistic features.
These features reflect socio-cultural needs of the given nation, which are not present (or at least developed) in the nations, where English is mother tongue. Kachru generalizes socio cultural needs non-native varieties of English and proposes the following three types developments (from Kecskes and Papp 2000, p. 6-7): language features which satisfy certain conventions of linguistic interactions; language features which fit specific strategies of communication; language features which reflect particular socio-cultural environment
For example, the English language has developed in India into lingua franca, because it fits the variety of purposes this language was used. In particular, the scientists point out, that English in India “is used for national purposes and is also the medium of Instruction in educational institutions, but the social-cultural-historical background that is mapped on the English system of signs does not even resemble the British English or the American English social–cultural–historical background. ” (Kecskes Papp 2000, p. 7) As a result, the unique conceptual base is mapped on the English system of signs.
Kachru concludes that non-native varieties of English differ from the British English or the American English in all the three aspects of the acquisition process: tasks, input, and output. It is important to note that while acquiring a foreign language, a student learns not only the new forms, but also the conceptual structures, which are associated with these forms. In the case of second language learning the student receives a simultaneous representation of learning forms and conceptual structures, whereas the student who learns a foreign language deals with the forms and knows little or even nothing their conceptual structures.
As a result, the foreign language produced lacks idioms and expression characterizing a native speaker speech. In order to fill the gaps created by the lack of idiomacity of the foreign language, according to Gass ( 1990), learners use the conceptual base of their mother tongue. (from Kecskes and Papp 2000, p. 8) Learners map target language forms on mother language conceptualizations (from Kecskes and Papp 2000, p. 8) Gass concludes that initially the problem of foreign language learners is not grammatical but conceptual.
“Grammatical and lexical problems usually derive from conceptual failures. Acquiring a L2 or FL requires re-conceptualization (i. e. , changing at least a part of the existing L1-based conceptual base), which involves not only lexical and cultural concepts but also grammatical categories. ” (from Kecskes I. , Papp T. , 2000, p. 8) The problem the lack of idiomacity of the foreign language is closely connected with another one, as Gass puts it, with a learner’s poor “ability to put grammatical knowledge to use”. (from Kecskes I., Papp T. , 2000, p. 8)
The ability to use grammatical knowledge in communication must be specially developed in learners to avoid mistakes caused by language interference. As Swan pointes out, “when learners set out to learn a new language, they automatically assume (until they have evidence to the contrary) that meanings and structures will be somewhat similar to those in their own language. ” (from Kecskes I. , Papp T. , 2000, p. 8) In this way, conceptualization constitutes a real obstacle for a native like expression of learners.
If a student can brilliantly learn the grammar of the foreign language and acquire all communicative skills, he/she can not start thinking like a native speaker does or perceive the world and then express his/her thoughts metaphorically, similar to the way of native speakers. Danesi (1992) suggests that since the conceptual fluency is the basis of linguistic acts, learner’s mistakes in grammar and his/her wrong communication in a foreign language are the results of inadequate conceptual fluency. (from Kecskes I. , Papp T. , 2000, p. 8)