My confusion with these two terms comes from the following text:

So, when the required target language item is unknown and the learner borrows an L1 substitute, the consequence is an L1 transfer error, but when the learner knows the target language item but fails to access it, and instead accesses an L1 substitute, we have a case of an L1 interference mistake.

I then searched online and found that "borrow" implies that a L1 item will be used in a target language situation without any change to the item.

But I still feel confused with the text.

1 Answer 1


As with most terminology, these terms are used in different ways by different authors. But judging from this particular passage, I gather that this author uses borrow for when the speaker only has an L1 version of a word and deliberately uses it as a suboptimal substitute for the target word. The author uses access when the speaker knows the target language (L2) version of the word but inadvertently uses the L1 word instead (presumably because L1 "rolls off the tongue" more easily).

An analogy: The borrow case would be if you needed to hammer a nail but all you had in your toolbox was a screwdriver, so you deliberately grabbed the screwdriver and used it to bang on the nail (not its intended purpose). The access case would be if you had both a screwdriver and a hammer in your toolbox but you were working too quickly and so you accidentally grabbed the screwdriver.

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