Mother Tongue (MT) Influence

MT Influence or Mother Tongue Influence is when the grammar‏‎ or vocabulary‏‎ of a student’s Mother Tongue‏‎ influence the way in which they use their Target Language‏‎ or TL.

For example, in Greek‏‎ (and a number of other languages) people say open or close a light instead of turn on and turn off. Thus a Greek learner may well say:

* I closed the light and went to sleep.

* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence denotes it to be ungrammatical

What they have done here is use a Greek expression and simply converted it to English. This is an example of their MT influencing the TL.

Similarly in Italian‏‎ (and some other languages) hair and spaghetti are always plural, whereas in English‏‎ they are singular non-countable nouns. An Italian student might say:

* My hair are wet.

* The spaghetti are ready.

It is sometimes useful to have a working knowledge of the students’ MT in order to be able to understand why certain mistakes are being made.

Useful Links

What is Mother Tongue? – a look at your mother tongue

Do I need to speak the Local Language to Teach Abroad? – an interesting question!

Posted in How To Teach English, Linguistics, Teaching Around The World.

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