The the native language (L1) and the acquisition

The difference between learning a
closely related language and a totally unrelated one

can be likened to the situation of
two friends, a good tennis player and a good soccer

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player, who both take up squash
while still continuing to have tennis and soccer

respectively as their main games (Ringbom,



       The past two decades
have witnessed a clear interest in the field of third language acquisition(TLA),
after 1987 when Ringbom published the first book about TLA, this field has
established as a new research area on its own. Traditionally second language
acquisition (SLA) was the dominant field of foreign language learning and
teaching. According to Crystal (1997), the majority of the world’s population is
multilingual, and the most of the present researchers are focused on the
process generally on multilingual communities and/or among multilingual
individuals. Many different factors influence third language acquisition
processes, 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 the
order of acquisition, the age of the language learners and the degree of their
language awareness. Several studies have been published discussing and describing
the language learning situation of learners studying more than one foreign
language in the international context, although research in TLA is very recent
in general. Generally speaking, there is an agreement about the significant
difference between the acquisition of the native language (L1) and the
acquisition of a second language (L2), there seem to be two opposing views as
regards the acquisition of second and third (and further) languages. Singh and
Carroll (1979) clarify it, ‘there is no reason to assume that L3 learning is
any different from L2 learning. Learning a third language is … learning just
another second language’.

 Researchers studying third
and additional language acquisition such as ( Dolinskaya 1993, Groseva 1998,
Köberle 1998, Hufeisen 1998 and 2004, Agafonova 1997, Güler 2000, Lindemann
2000, Pál 2000, Hammarberg 2001, Ringbom 2001 and 2005, Winters-Ohle and Seipp
2001, Gibson and Hufeisen 2003, Meißner 2004, Neuner 2004, Hammarberg and
Hammarberg 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 between
the different types of acquisition, since both prior language knowledge and the
experience gained through learning a previous language or previous languages
have a significant impact on the acquisition of a further language.

 Palestine considers as a monolingual
country, with different dialects and accents, Standard Arabic is the first official
language and English is the second one. In all primary schools in the Palestinian
territories,  both languages are taught
from the first grade. Recently French is added as an
optional language in the preparatory schools at the 7th grade. Most
of 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 breakthrough
and communication as we mentioned above, the world’s majority population is
multilingual. Since French and English are the foreign languages most
frequently chosen by Palestinian learners we concern with exploring the learning
process and the effects of the knowledge of one foreign language on a further

The target group of my research is Palestinian school learners of
English and French at different stages of their foreign language studies. My
ambition is not only to understand L1 Palestinian learners’ L3 learning
processes better but to go one step beyond it and suggest that the results of
my study can be used for making practical suggestions regarding the comparative
teaching of two languages.

By understanding of the typological relationship of the two
languages, English and French that plays the most crucial role in the L3
learning processes of L1 Palestinian learners. In agreement with the findings
of several researchers based on a variety of language combinations (e.g.
Garrison 1990, Dolinskaya 1993, Granger 1993, Gabry?-Barker 2006, Caplan-Carbin
2006) and other studies, that while some similarities may easily be noticeable
for learners, others are less salient and therefore a chance is missed to
utilize already existing, cross-linguistic knowledge for the facilitation of L3
learning if these differences are not focused on in the classroom.

My idea aims at understanding Palestinian learners’ third language
learning processes with a long-term aim to contribute to creating an
appropriate curriculum that acknowledges the differences between learning (and
teaching) a foreign language as a second or as a third (or fourth, etc.)
language, and thus possibly facilitates and makes more effective the complex
task of language learning.  





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