Beyond the L2: How Is Transfer Affected by Multilingualism?

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Ingrid Heidrick


As if learning a foreign language were not hard enough, those who have studied more than one might have noticed that it is tough keeping all those languages straight in your head! In the process of foreign language learning, we often mix things around. The question of language transfer, a fundamental issue in second language acquisition, has recently been examined from a new perspective, namely that of multilingualism, or third language acquisition (TLA), as it is commonly referred to. The emerging interest in TLA seems to have sprung in large part from Cook’s (1992) multicompetence model. Cook calls attention to the “monolingual bias to research” (p. 577) and points out the very obvious fact that multi- – not monolingualism – is the reality for the great majority of the world’s population. He presents a powerful argument that multilingualism is the existence in the mind of one system, which functions as a whole, rather than the coexistence of separately functioning linguistic systems.

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