First Languages and Its´ Impact on the (English) Language Competency of Students. A Statistical Analysis

Academic Paper 2019 85 Pages

Communications - Language



Language use, be it in reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension, requires knowledge of linguistic competence, and, this knowledge should be tacit and implicit especially among the second language learners. This means that students should have conscious access to the principles and rules that govern the principles used on this particular language. Such idea is akin to the current study. Hence, the purpose of this study was to find out the First Language Influence on the Linguistic Competence of the respondents. This was carried out among the one hundred sixty three (163) Grade 10 students. The Linguistic Competence, Acculturation, and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency theories served as the theoretical backbone. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Using the purposive sampling procedure, data were collected via adopted survey questionnaire on First language influence and an IELTS-based test. Mean and Standard Deviation were observed. These were carried out further using the Spearman – Rho Correlation to measure the strength of association or correlation between the cited variables. Likewise, this test was used to measure the influence of the first language to the linguistic competence in relation to the sampling population as described by the correlation coefficients. Results revealed that the respondents’ linguistic competence was slightly correlated to the influence of first language. To address the gap, an instructional module was proposed in order to improve the linguistic competence of the respondents.

No. of words: 221

Key words: F i rst Language Influence, Linguistic Competence, Instructional M od u le

Chapter 1



Language competence is a system of linguistic knowledge possessed by the speakers of a specific language. The relationship between how students learn their first language and how they learn their second language and subsequent languages has concerned language researchers all over the world after it became an independent discipline in the late 1960s. Such is the driving force that led to the conceptualization of this study.

A senior official of Gulf News (2018) shared that “The Philippines has 170 languages, considered one of the world’s richest source of ethno linguistic diversity, a surprising heritage despite the growth of English as a dominant second language”. Ricardo Nolasco, current chairman of the National Language Commission (NLC) points out that Philipines celebrated the presence of 170 languages in the country’s 7,100 islands when the month of Filipino languages was launched last August. He stressed out his point about diversity when he said, “that if an Ilokano (resident of Ilocos in northern Luzon) speaks Ilokano (his language) to a Cebuano (resident of Visayas, in central Philippines), they won’t understand each other.” This simply means that Ilokano and Cebuano are two different languages who don’t have mutual intelligibility. The Philippines possesses a great wealth of indigenous languages, and while these languages are related, the difference among them are also extensive. Even the relatively closely – related lowland languages are very diverse, exhibiting differences in all linguistic aspects: lexicon, phonology and syntax (McFarland, 2008).

In the study of Gaerlan (2016), she argued that Filipinos despite being bilingual in Filipino and English (being the medium of instruction)not all Filipino learners are successful I learning in English which is their second language (L2).

First language was preferred for verbal communication especially in rural areas, while English and Filipino were preferred for education from lower primary to the university. Filipino was especially favored in Education for reasons of national and regional unity. However, first languages were not anchored into the school curriculum. Then came a shift in language policy in the Philippine education system with the emergence of mother tongue approach or First Language Policy of the Department of Education. Various studies (e.g. Benson, 2002; Dutcher, 2003) have identified that children’s overall educational attainment can be enhanced if they are taught in their first language in early grades.

While the new language policy promotes the use of first language as a subject and for instruction, linguistic competence of students in English is dwindling. This should raise a lot of questions to respective stakeholders because English is a crucial subject in terms of its functional value, thus, there is a need to consider whether use of First Language influences linguistic competence in English. Wilson (as cited by Danaoto 2017) conveyed Andrew King of IDP education’s country director of the Philippines stressed that “The standard of English in the Philippines, a country which prides itself on its English proficiency is declining”. He added that the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) figures showed that the Philippines had fallen behind Malaysia in proficiency in listening, speaking, writing and conversing in English.

This waning record is also predominant among the students of Acelo Badelles Sr. Memorial High School in Tipanoy, Iligan City with an Annex school in Panul – iran, Abuno in the same city. The researcher, being a language teacher, detected many students to have difficulty in the 4 macro skills in English. Linguistic competence in English is therefore dismal.

The prevailing first language used in these two schools is Cebuano. In the study of Mwangi (2009), the use of mother tongue or first language during conversation contributes to poor performance in English. Mwangi (2009) then suggests that parents should encourage their children to speak English while at home and in school. Moreover, Mwangi (2009) quotes mother tongue or first language as one of the challenges that influences performance in English.

Overall outcome of this study revealed a deeper understanding of the influence of First Language in English Linguistic Competence. With this, an instructional module was proposed which provides intervention activities to augment linguistic competence of the students. This proposed instructional module is a month long program that could be implemented starting 1st or 2nd semester of academic year, 2018 – 2019. This module would help students lessen or remove the influence of first language to their linguistic competence to become proficient in English language someday.

Theoretical Framework

Theories are set of concepts that help people understand, predict and master phenomena thereby allowing readers to go beyond basic account to a thorough description, interpretation and generalization of the new idea presented. On this premise, this study was anchored on three major theories which are: Linguistic Competence of Noam Chomsky (1981), Acculturation theory of John Schumann in 1978 and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) of Cummins (1979).

In Noam Chomsky’s (1981) theory, he postulated linguistic competence is part of an individual’s unconscious knowledge of languages and is similar in some ways to (Ferdinand de) Saussure’s concept of langue, the organizing principles of a language. What we actually produce as utterances is similar to Saussure’s parole and is called linguistic performance. He points out that linguistic performance refers to the way native speakers use the language system. Linguistic competence is the knowledge of ideal native speakers’ language system that enables them to produce and interpret an infinite number of sentences in their language, and to distinguish grammatical sentences from ungrammatical ones. This knowledge of the native speakers’ language system is characterized by being intuitive, creative and productive. Native speakers are able to intuitively judge whether a sentence is grammatically correct or not, and they can creatively produce an infinite number of grammatically correct sentences, including novel ones, with a limited set of grammatical rules.

As mentioned by Atetwe, 2013 linguistic performance was used in 1980 in the field of Linguistics, precisely, Second Language Acquisition. It states that Second Language Acquisition is the result of acculturation, which he defines as “the social and psychological integration of the learner with the target language (TL) group” (Schumann, 1978, p.29). The major claim of the theory is that acculturation, which is a cluster of social – psychological factors, is the major cause of Second Language Acquisition (Schumann, 1990). Schumann posits that any learner can be placed along a continuum ranging from social – psychological proximity with the speakers of the target language. The degree of language acquisition then, would correlate with the degree of the learner’s proximity to the target group. Thus, the acculturation theory argues that learners will be successful in Second Language Acquisition if there are fewer social and psychological distances between them and the speakers of the second language.

According to Cummins, 2008, CALP refers to student’s ability to understand and express, in both oral and written modes, concepts and ideas that are relevant to success in school. The theory on CALP provided the researcher a reason to study and investigate First Language Influence to the linguistic Competence of the students of Acelo Badelles Sr. Memorial High School in Iligan City.

Deena Boraie as cited in the article of Parab, highlights that there are eight (8) trends in teaching English. “Change is the Goal of Teaching English” says Boraie “In my opinion there are two key changes in the purpose of teaching English. Firstly, as Penny Ur (2009) noted, the goal is to produce fully competent English knowing bilinguals rather than imitation of native speakers. The purpose is not to aspire to become native speakers of English because we are already native speakers of our own but to focus on English as a means of communication. Secondly, English is not viewed as an end in itself but as a means to learn content such as science and mathematics”.

Conceptual Framework

This study focused on unveiling the first language influence and the linguistic competence of the students of Acelo Badelles Sr. Memorial High School (Main and Annex Campus) in academic year 2017 – 2018. The relationship of the respondents’ demographic profile and the level of influence of their first language were recognized to determine as to how it made a significant association with the rest of the other underpinned variables in the study. The students’ linguistic competence thru the IELTS based test was measured and evaluated to find out whether first language influence their performance in English. The variables utilized in the study are presented in a schematic paradigm showing the interrelationship of the factors, as Figure 1.

Respondent’s profile to be examined includes age, sex, school graduated in elementary, ethnicity, and English grade in third quarter. Experts agree that age is one of the most important factors in students ‘language learning which influence an individual ability to learn a new language. They pointed out that young children learn English language easily and quickly in comparison to older children. However, to which extent age is an important factor remains an open question. Students of different age and gender may have different language interest and so might have different linguistic and formal schema. It is a widely accepted notion that females have an advantage over males, they seem to be more successful. The other independent variable utilized in this paper was the type of high school the respondents graduated from. It was observed that students coming from private school perform well than those who came from the public school. Private institutions have better facilities such as good collection of reading materials and availability of speech laboratory.

The findings were used to formulate and conceptualized an English instructional module which aims to develop and enhance the respondents’ linguistic competence by engaging them to meaningful discussions and some interactive activities that would help in overcoming their first language influence.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure1. Research Paradigm of the Study

Statement of the Problem

Secondary school education is a crucial stage as it is the interim level, by which students with age ranging from 14 – 18 years old are geared to step up higher education, training and thereafter the realm of work. The value attached to this stage of education is reflected in the attention it receives from the government, parents and the general public. English is one of the core subject and is considered during the selection of courses in colleges and universities, so it needs to be given a lot of attention. The main objective of this study is to investigate the First Language Influence to the Linguistic Competence in English. Specifically, it sought to answer the following questions.

1.) What is the profile of the respondents in terms of:

1.1 Age;
1.2 sex;
1.3 school graduated
1.4 Ethnicity;
1.5 Grade in third quarter;

2.) What is the level of influence of the First Language to the respondents?
3.) Is there a significant difference on the respondent’s level of influence of the first language when grouped according to their profile?
4.) What is the linguistic competence of the respondents in terms of:

4.1 speaking;
4.2 writing;
4.3 listening;
4.4 reading;

5.) Is there a significant difference on the linguistic competence of the respondents when grouped according to their profile?
6.) Is there a significant influence on the first language to the linguistic competence of the respondents?
7.) What instructional program can be drawn based on the findings of the study?

Null Hypothesis:

From the preceding statement of the problem, the following null hypotheses were tested:

Ho1: There is no significant difference on the respondent’s level of influence of the first language when grouped according to their profile.
Ho2: There is no significant difference on the linguistic competence of the respondents when grouped according to their profile.
Ho3: There is no significant influence on the first language to the linguistic competence of the respondents.

Significance of the Study

This study provides beneficial information to all education stakeholders who includes the following:

School Heads and Administrators, who will be able to gather information that will be helpful in their endeavor to address school’s language policy issues in terms of focus on use of First Language in school and how it influences linguistic competence in English and by extension academic performance. Thus, school principals can utilize the information, findings, and recommendations to look for ways and means of coming up with informed language policies.

English Teachers. The findings of this study also benefit teachers by providing them with information to re – examine their personal and professional practices in terms of use of language, with an aim of improving student’s Linguistic Competence in English.

Future Researchers. The findings as well help future researchers in identifying priority areas in which to carry out more research in terms of use of language in the context of secondary schools.

Scope and Delimitation

The study primarily focused on how use of first language of students in school influences the linguistic competence in English in Acelo Badelles Sr. Memorial High School Main campus and Abuno High School Annex and how to evaluate them to improve and develop instructional program to improve their linguistic competence in English language. The scope of this study will be delimited only to the grade 10 students of Acelo Badelles Sr. Memorial High School Main in Tipanoy, Iligan City and Abuno High School Annex, Panul – iran, Abuno, Iligan City for the school year 2017 - 2018. Likewise, this study also focused on the profiles of the respondents in terms of age, gender, elementary school graduated, ethnicity, and their grades in 3rd Quarter for the S.Y. 2017 -2018.

Definition of terms

Defining important terms is essential to ensure a common understanding of key concepts and terminology to be shared between the thesis author and the audience, particularly if the term is unusual or not widely known. Hence, for the sake of clarity and better understanding, the following terms are operationally and conceptually defined.

First Language Influence. As used in the study, it refers to certain things acquired from native tongue (the first language learned) that is hard to leave behind in learning a new language.

Linguistic Competence. As used in this study, this refers to the system of rules that governs an individual’s tacit understanding of what is acceptable and what is not the language they speak.

Instructional Program. As used in this study, this refers to a discipline and an organized sequence or grouping of courses leading to a defined objective such as major, degree, certificate, license, the acquisition of selected knowledge or skills, specifically language or transfer to another institution of higher education.

Chapter 2


A review of existing literature related to the research is an important part of any research paper, and essential to put the research work in overall perspective, connect it with earlier research work and build upon the collective intelligence and wisdom already accumulated by other researchers. It significantly enhances the value of any research paper. In this chapter, the review of international, regional, and local literature is presented. It discusses arguments in support of use of first language and those against use of first language. It further converses literature on the relationship of first language, Binisaya/Sebuano in this case, on English linguistic competence. Moreover, the concept of instructional program is discussed. Perception of how first language influences linguistic competence in English and the concept of contrastive analysis are equally deliberated.

Related Literature

Learning English language and factors that may affect this process have attracted language researchers’ focus for many years. Studies about English proficiency and the influence of mother tongue (first language) have brought the attention of research worldwide. According to Odlin (1989) as mentioned in the study of Atetwe, 2013, transfer in language learning is “the influence resulting from similarities and differences between the target language and any other language that has been previously acquired” (p.27). Transfer is a psychological term that is used to describe a situation where one learned event influences the learning of a subsequent learning event. The influence in this case has two facets; commonly known as interference or negative transfer and positive transfer. Positive transfer or facilitation entails transfer of skill or part of the native language which facilitates the learning of the target language. In contrast, negative command of transfer or interference of a skill which impedes the learning or has negative influence on the command of a skill in the target language.

On the other hand, as cited in the article by Parab (2015), English language teaching has undergone tremendous changes over the years, especially the last ten years. Students are burdened with studying, learning and grasping the materials, and of course, lectures with the collection of relevant information from prescribed texts. Many career alternatives once regarded insignificant are gaining importance at present such as communication skills, soft skills, technical skills, interpersonal skills, ICT literacy, etc. The need of chiseled graduates to merge successfully in the tough competition of survival in the global market is in great demand nowadays. For this, a change in the trend especially the teaching learning process of English language has to undergo a transition for the betterment. Seasons change, fashion changes, attitude of human beings change but it is disheartening that in the century English curriculum has hardly undergone any change.

When learners of second language want to write or speak in the target language, they tend to rely on their first language structures. If the structures are different then a lot of errors occur in L1 thus this indicates an interference of first language on second language (Decherts &Dllis, as cited in Derakshan & Karimi, 2015, p.22). A learner has difficulties in second language such as in phonology, vocabulary and grammar due to the interference of habits from L1 and L2 (Beardsmore, as mentioned by Derakshan & Karimi, 2015). This research then primarily aimed to find out whether use of first language in the context under study influences (interferes or transfers) acquisition of linguistic skills in English and if so provides instructional program to promote the success of Linguistic competence in English.

The term transfer, according to Wardhaugh, as cited by Atetwe (2013) is a tool used to account for or explains the errors which actually occur. He added that transfer is the basis for predicting which patterns in second language (L2) will be learnt more readily and which will prove more troublesome. The expectations seized under this view includes: the chance of second language learning problems occurring will increment proportionally to the linguistic differences between first language (L1) and L2 - linguistic differences gives rise to negative transfer or interference; the second expectation is that the chance of L2 learning problems occurring declines proportionally to the absence of linguistic between L1 and L2 – absence of linguistic differences gives rise to positive transfer or facilitation. Therefore, this is helpful to the researcher in finding out whether the difference in first language influences the linguistic competence in English.

On the other hand, Faerch & Kasper, as cited by Derakshan & Karimi (2015) point out that transfer is a mental and communicative process through which L2 learners develop their inter language skills by activating and using their previous linguistic knowledge. This is important to this study since the researcher wants to know whether the unconscious system learnt by learners in their mother tongue influences their construction in the conscious system through learning English in school.

Adebayo (2008) particularly uses a survey design to examine the influence of mother tongue on performance of English language in Junior School Certificate Examination in Western Nigeria. He found that mother tongue influences the students’ performance in English language in Junior School Certificate Examination in Western Nigeria. He recommends that English language should be used as a medium of communication within and outside the classroom and both teachers and students should endeavor to improve their proficiency level of the language which will eventually lead to improved performance. Adebayo’s study does not explicitly indicate to what extent mother tongue influence the performance; this sought to establish what Adebayo (2008) failed to capture in his study by analyzing the extent to which mother tongue influences performance of English

Another researcher, Ellis (2001), refers to interference “as transfer which he says is 'the influence that the learner‘s L1 exerts over the acquisition of an L2” (p. 51). He argues that transfer is governed by learners’ perceptions about what is transferable in L2 learning. According to Ellis (2001) in learning a target language, learners construct their own interim rules with the use of their L1 knowledge, but only when they believe it will help them in the learning task or when they have become sufficiently proficient in the L2 for transfer to be possible. This study sought to find out the influence of mother tongue (L1) on acquisition of English (L2) thus performance. Perception of teachers and students on the influence of mother tongue on English were sought in terms of whether they thought mother tongue influenced the performance of English.

On the same view, Kaushanskaya and Marian (2009) found that early exposure to English and Mandarin yielded enhanced word-learning skills in adult English-Mandarin bilinguals compared to monolingual speakers of English. Clearly, then, further studies are necessary to delineate the possible differences in how exposure to two different L2s early in life can impact on subsequent vocabulary development. However, the correlation patterns obtained in the current study indicate that differences in L2s acquired in childhood can yield distinct influences on native-language vocabulary performance in adulthood. IL is the language that learners possess during SLA that is neither their L1 nor the TL. To put it in Crystal’s (2003) words, IL is the linguistic system created by someone in the course of learning a foreign language, different from either the speaker’s first language or the target language being acquired. It reflects the learner’s evolving system of rules, and results from a variety of processes, including the influence of the first language (‘transfer’), contrastive interference from the target language, and the overgeneralization of newly encountered rules. Overall, L2 learning (or acquisition) takes place in immersion – naturalistic – settings, while FL learning (or acquisition) occurs in formal – classroom – settings. A major difference between the two types of learning contexts has to do with the amount of input in the TL that learners are exposed to, which is by far greater in a naturalistic environment. The differences in how the age of L2 acquisition influenced L1 vocabulary performance in the two groups of bilinguals are in stark contrast to the similarities in how the extent of L2 immersion (past and present) influenced L1 vocabulary performance in English-Spanish and English-Mandarin bilinguals. For both groups, longer immersion in L2 was associated with decreased L1 vocabulary performance. Since increased exposure to L2 throughout the lifespan necessarily reduces exposure to L1, and since acquisition of vocabulary occurs through immersion (Gollan, Montoya, Cera, & Sandoval, 2008), this inverse relationship between L2 exposure and L1 vocabulary skills is inevitable. Interestingly, it does not appear to be modulated by the specifics of the L2 (Spanish vs. Mandarin), indicating that extended exposure to any L2 is likely to take a toll on native-language vocabulary skills. These findings are largely in line with prior literature on cross- linguistic transfer, where the breadth of vocabulary knowledge in bilinguals’ L1 was found to be inversely related to the breadth of vocabulary knowledge in their L2 (e.g., Ordonez, Carlo, Snow, & McLaughlin, 2002). These results also align with literature demonstrating that bilinguals perform less successfully than monolinguals on lexical retrieval tasks, even when these tasks are administered in their native language (e.g., Ivanova & Costa, 2008).



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Title: First Languages and Its´ Impact on the (English) Language Competency of Students. A Statistical Analysis