First Advisor

Susan Conrad

Date of Publication

Summer 7-26-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Language transfer (Language learning), Comparative and general grammar, English language -- Grammar -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, Arabic language



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 77 pages)


This study investigated the effect of first language (L1) transfer on Arabic ESL learners' acquisition of the relative clauses, the passive voice and the definite article. I used Contrastive Analysis (CA) and Error Analysis (EA) to analyze 50 papers written by Arabic ESL students at the ACTFL Advanced Mid proficiency level. The analysis was paired with interviews with five advanced students to help determine whether L1 transfer was, in fact, influencing students' errors predicted by CA.

Students in this study made L1 errors along with other errors. Although no statistical difference was found between the frequency of transfer and other (non-transfer) errors, L1 transfer errors were still common for many learners in this data. The frequency of the relative clause L1 transfer errors was slightly higher than other errors. However, passive voice L1 errors were as frequent as other errors whereas definite article L1 errors were slightly less frequent than other errors.

The analysis of the interviews suggested that L1 still played a crucial role in influencing learners errors. The analysis also suggested that the frequency of transfer errors in the papers used in this study might have been influenced by CA-informed instruction students received and students' language level. Specifically, learners reported that both factors helped them reduce the frequency of L1 transfer errors in their writing.

The teaching implications of this study include familiarizing language instructors with possible sources of errors for Arabic ESL learners. Language instructors should try to identify sources of errors by conducting their own analyses or consulting existing literature on CA paired with EA. Finally, I recommend adopting a CA-informed instruction to help students reduce and overcome errors that are influenced by their L1.


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