Observing the interlanguage of Russian speakers learning French in an academic setting enabled us to note that it is subject to a double influence from the mother tongue (LM langue maternelle) and the first foreign language (LE1 langue étrangère1), which in most cases is English.
Teaching methods traditionally practiced in Russia have always emphasized the comparison with LM in order to eliminate the negative effects of interference. In contrast, very few attempts have been made to assess the impact of LE1. The challenge is therefore twofold, to understand the mechanisms of interaction of different languages in the learner’s mind and to develop a more effective pedagogical approach to neutralize the negative influence of plurilingualism and mobilize its constructive potential.
The mature linguistic awareness of a multilingual speaking subject establishes fairly clear boundaries between the different language systems that are part of it. While in the consciousness of learners, the partitions that separate different languages are permeable. Sometimes students are not able to attribute a particular term (or word) to a particular system. The problem apparently is attributable to the deficiency (due to lack of language experience) of the discrimination mechanism which would make it possible to detect the “intruder” and to eliminate it.
The survey carried out among 54 students who had reached level B1 in French aimed to assess their ability to identify foreign words in a text that included words that did not exist in normative French with Russian or English roots, as well as words of Franglais already adopted by French.
The results showed that in 45% of cases, learners have difficulty locating and discriminating a lexeme belonging to another language, which testifies to the absence of clear boundaries between different language systems that make up a learner’s multicompetence. The interpenetration of different systems is facilitated by the existence of a common lexical background due to mutual borrowing. Also, the results support our hypothesis that at the intermediate level (B1) the influence of LE1 is stronger than that of LM, because false anglicisms have been found to be more difficult to detect than words with Slavic roots. It also turned out that the Russian-speaking interlanguage fully adheres to the “Franglais” of native French-speakers.
In moving from theoretical research to French as a Foreign Language (FFL) didactics, it should be taken into account that the learner’s vocabulary only partly results from memorizing the studied content (from the “input”). There always remains a part of personal production resulting from the transfer. If the results of the languages transfer are sometimes inadequate, this should not cause the teacher to fight the mechanism itself. Rather, teaching practices should be put in place that would optimize this mechanism.
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