Negative transfer, in the form of word order by EFL3 by first-year students.
To analyze negative transfer, in the form of word order, when learning English as a third foreign language by first-year students of English bachelor's degree.
Learning a third foreign language implies several cognitive processes that eventually can only be seen throughout error analysis. But how many studies about error analysis have been conducted on Ngäbere-native speaking students learning English as a third language in Panama? Almost none. There is indeed significant literature on Interlanguage and transfer in second language acquisition produced from global languages that have been studied enough, but not too much with minority indigenous languages. Ngäbere speakers who enrolled in the career of English at the University of Panama come with recurrent errors, particularly in syntax, that professors in this institution are not too familiar with the source of the problem and how to handle them. There are cultural presumptions that these students are disadvantaged compared to Panamanian Spanish speakers who are not indigenous. Therefore, there is a need to study these types of errors to increase the understanding of the language and its speakers since grammar classes have become a long journey and some instructors question the nature of this legitimate error that frustrates learners and challenges the curriculum in the teaching of English, particularly in these indigenous areas.
This project is situated within the subfields of second language acquisition, Interlanguage, and transfer. Selinker (1972 &1974) introduced Interlanguage as a set of norms for abstract linguistics that support L2 output and understanding. Interlanguage occurs when a native speaker is learning a second language and combines rules from the mother tongue and the second language, resulting in new rules that are not mere linguistic features from L1 or L2. Interestingly, this same author and Gass (2008) also distinguished a type of interlanguage transfer that goes beyond L2, explicitly mentioning how an L2 influences a third, fourth, or fifth language. Based on these definitions, it is assumed that the participants of this study have one Interlanguage already, the one they got when they learned Spanish as a second language. The third Interlanguage will be from Ngäbere-Spanish and English. However, it is essential to mention that Spanish shares word order with Ngäbere and English, but it seems not that strong because the Ngäbere speakers strongly produced an SOV order that specifically comes from the mother tongue, Ngäbere. Therefore, this research will pay more attention to Interlanguage in general and transfer as a particular linguistic feature.
On the other hand, the transfer comes from the behavioristic school of psychology, where habits and cumulative learning play an important role in learning a new task (Gass & Selinker, 2008). Based on these authors, they can be a positive transfer that facilitates learning and a negative transfer that interferes with learning. This study applies to negative transfer since the syntax structure of the mother tongue strongly interferes with the production of the target language. This notion agrees with Lado's (1957) Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis, hypothesis where he emphasized that a significant source of error in the production of a second language is the native language. In this case, it is assumed that this same notion applies to third language acquisition. Krashen introduced a hypothesis to connect the previous concepts in ¨the Natural order Hypothesis¨ (1975) which tells that the grammatical structures are predictable by natural order.
One of the most prominent rules of this system is fixed word order. O'Grady mentioned that "word order refers to the conventional arrangement of words in a phrase, or sentence … English grammar word order is fixed to subject, verb, object sequence" (2010). As already implied, very few studies are related to the Ngäbere language. In the academic literature, one study documented that Ngäbere has a fixed SOV word order Quesada (2007), but he conducted the study with few Ngäbere speakers living in Costa Rica. Another critical aspect is language contact as Selinker and Lakshmanan, in their Multiple Effect Principle, stated: "when two or more Second Language Acquisition factors work in tandem, there is a greater chance of stabilization of interlanguage forms leading to possible fossilization" (p. 198), which means if the participants of this study kept erring the SOV in Spanish (their L2), there are very high chances they keep erring ending up in fossilization. Pica mentioned that "all language learners progressed through a fixed series of stages, known as developmental sequences working as linguistic subsystems, such as word order. In English word-order, for instance, both foreign and second language learners progressed through the same four-stage sequence" (1983); it is expected that some of this negative transfer, in the form of errors, as stated by Richard's and Pica, is making an influence as Interlanguageand is systematic, It would be remarkable to determine the developmental stages of Interlanguage from Ngabere to English.
The relationship of these two languages with two distinctive word orders could denote that the predominant word order transfer is the first mother language. This transfer is a concern because the language contact these participants have with L3 is minimal since they are in their first year and receive classes only on weekends. This is why this scenario makes it ideal for identifying the origin of the problem to later analyze it and provide strategies to reduce it in teaching English in the indigenous