The difference between learning aclosely related language and a totally unrelated onecan be likened to the situation oftwo friends, a good tennis player and a good soccerplayer, who both take up squashwhile still continuing to have tennis and soccerrespectively as their main games (Ringbom,1987).
The past two decadeshave witnessed a clear interest in the field of third language acquisition(TLA),after 1987 when Ringbom published the first book about TLA, this field hasestablished as a new research area on its own. Traditionally second languageacquisition (SLA) was the dominant field of foreign language learning andteaching. According to Crystal (1997), the majority of the world’s population ismultilingual, and the most of the present researchers are focused on theprocess generally on multilingual communities and/or among multilingualindividuals. Many different factors influence third language acquisitionprocesses, Odlin (1989), Cenoz (2001), De Angelis (2007), Jarvis and Pavlenko(2007) and Hall and Ecke (2003) stated lists of factors affecting TLA and additional languages in different degrees of detail.Some of the factors seem to emerge as categorical ones, such as the cross-linguistic influence between,and the language proficiency in each of the languages involved, as well as theorder of acquisition, the age of the language learners and the degree of theirlanguage awareness. Several studies have been published discussing and describingthe language learning situation of learners studying more than one foreignlanguage in the international context, although research in TLA is very recentin general. Generally speaking, there is an agreement about the significantdifference between the acquisition of the native language (L1) and theacquisition of a second language (L2), there seem to be two opposing views asregards the acquisition of second and third (and further) languages.
Singh andCarroll (1979) clarify it, ‘there is no reason to assume that L3 learning isany different from L2 learning. Learning a third language is … learning justanother second language’. Researchers studying thirdand additional language acquisition such as ( Dolinskaya 1993, Groseva 1998,Köberle 1998, Hufeisen 1998 and 2004, Agafonova 1997, Güler 2000, Lindemann2000, Pál 2000, Hammarberg 2001, Ringbom 2001 and 2005, Winters-Ohle and Seipp2001, Gibson and Hufeisen 2003, Meißner 2004, Neuner 2004, Hammarberg andHammarberg 2005, Hedquist 2005, Singleton and Little 2005, De Angelis 2007,Hufeisen and Marx 2007, Oebel 2007, Kacjan 2010, Tápainé Balla 2007, 2008a,2008b, 2009a, 2009b, 2011) argue that it is essential to differentiate betweenthe different types of acquisition, since both prior language knowledge and theexperience gained through learning a previous language or previous languageshave a significant impact on the acquisition of a further language. Palestine considers as a monolingualcountry, with different dialects and accents, Standard Arabic is the first officiallanguage and English is the second one. In all primary schools in the Palestinianterritories, both languages are taughtfrom the first grade. Recently French is added as anoptional language in the preparatory schools at the 7th grade. Mostof the students choose to learn it because both languages are related to each other,so it will be easier to learn it, also in order to follow the great breakthroughand communication as we mentioned above, the world’s majority population ismultilingual.
Since French and English are the foreign languages mostfrequently chosen by Palestinian learners we concern with exploring the learningprocess and the effects of the knowledge of one foreign language on a furtherone.The target group of my research is Palestinian school learners ofEnglish and French at different stages of their foreign language studies. Myambition is not only to understand L1 Palestinian learners’ L3 learningprocesses better but to go one step beyond it and suggest that the results ofmy study can be used for making practical suggestions regarding the comparativeteaching of two languages.By understanding of the typological relationship of the twolanguages, English and French that plays the most crucial role in the L3learning processes of L1 Palestinian learners. In agreement with the findingsof several researchers based on a variety of language combinations (e.
g.Garrison 1990, Dolinskaya 1993, Granger 1993, Gabry?-Barker 2006, Caplan-Carbin2006) and other studies, that while some similarities may easily be noticeablefor learners, others are less salient and therefore a chance is missed toutilize already existing, cross-linguistic knowledge for the facilitation of L3learning if these differences are not focused on in the classroom.My idea aims at understanding Palestinian learners’ third languagelearning processes with a long-term aim to contribute to creating anappropriate curriculum that acknowledges the differences between learning (andteaching) a foreign language as a second or as a third (or fourth, etc.)language, and thus possibly facilitates and makes more effective the complextask of language learning.