How does language transfer occur from French to English within native french speakers' mind? Can we observe this phenomenon ?

  • No. People's minds are unobservable. And there is no reason to believe that everyone learns a second language the same way, with the same parts of their mind. If this were the case, everybody would have the same success in learning second languages, which is clearly false.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 17:28
  • but I've read some works on this language transfer and it was observed via selecting few English learners (beginners) & asked them to write a short composition about a given topic .
    – luna
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 19:31
  • Experimental psychology and cognitive science do have techniques to reveal what's going on in peoples' minds though, but they are devised bit by bit over time. I don't know which parts, if any, of language transfer have been studied or are possible to study. There is even a specific field called "cognitive linguistics". Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 10:34

1 Answer 1


L2 acquisition is studied, and there are many theories which attempt to explain how the L2 is acquired. If this question is for a class you would have to consider what the material is saying to properly answer the question.

Otherwise, the basic way that L2 acquisition differs from L1 acquisition is that L2 acquisition is a generally conscious process (using metalinguistics awareness), the level of ultimate attainment will be less and less perfect as the learner ages, the L1 will influence the L2 permanently, this is known as fossilization, and the time which it will take to learn will differ from user to user unlike L1 acquisition which tends to be on a fairly fixed schedule.

L2 acquisition will hypothetically be structured in such a way that starts with the individual's initial hypotheses (what the person unconsciously thinks about the task) that the L2 is structured like the L1. The L2 code (grammar) will be built from the L2 in such a way that bit by bit the rules of the L1 are modified to accommodate this new language.

Simultaneously bilinguals seem to be neurologically structured like bilinguals, suggesting that two independent codes are constructed using the UG during the critical learning period (using the LAD), this does not seem to be the case for later L2 learners. For later L2 learners the L2 code seems to be relatively dependent on the L1 code.

Actually, L2 acquisition from French to English is studied a lot here (Montreal). My psycholinguistics teacher studies L2 acquisition. I could ask him if I did not properly answer your question.

It's important to know that like jlawler pointed out, we cannot observe the mind, we only have various (and conflicting) theories positing and predicting underlying cognitive structures and processes.

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