I attended the 86th Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) in Portland, Oregon, in January 2012. I presented my research about multilingualism. While teaching Korean at Berkeley, I found an interesting pattern among native English-speaking students who were learning Korean after learning Japanese. They demonstrated a distinctive pattern; when speaking Korean in class, they had a strong Japanese accent and used Japanese gestures, even though their native language (L1) is English, not Japanese. This phenomenon reminded me of my third language (L3) experience. My first second language (L2) is English. When I learned French as another L2 (or L3), I had no problem because French word order and vocabulary are considerably similar to those of English. When I learned Japanese, however, I had a difficult time acquiring the sentence structure and vocabulary because they were completely different from English, even though Japanese syntax and lexicon are quite similar to those of Korean. I sensed that my L2, English, interfered with the natural transition from Korean to Japanese.
Therefore, I tried to answer the question of whether the L2 overrides L1 in the L3 acquisition (especially with regard to accent) in my research, “The influence of the second language in third language acquisition.” As a means to assess the degree of influence of the L1 accent and L2 accent in L3 production, an experiment involving the perceptual judgment of a foreign accent was developed. Two groups of native English speakers [(i) five who had not learned any languages other than Korean, and (ii) five who had learned Japanese before learning Korean] produced Korean sentences, and 15 native Korean speakers ranked each production according to the speaker’s dominant accent, either English or Japanese. Based on the results of the quantitative analysis, it is argued that L2 exerts an influence on L3 accent; however, this interference is reduced with an increase in L3 proficiency.
I’m always deeply grateful to the BLC for providing funding for me to attend conferences. Thank you again for your financial support, BLC!