Friday, October 12, 2007

Interlanguage Disfluencies

Don't be scared; I'm only using those big words to sound cool. Interlanguage is a stage of language learning during which the learner is building his or her own conception of the L2, but which is in fact a system distinct from both the L1 and the L2. It's kind of like making your own map of a new city -- you can get some of it right, but until you've been there for quite a while, you'll have to constantly revise the map as you discover new information ("Oh, OK, this road intersects the highway...") "Disfluencies" are little words that break up the meaningful parts of utterances -- words like uh and um in English.

In Chinese, the most common disfluencies -- the closest analogues to English's uh and um -- are nei ge and zhi ge (they sound like nei-guh and juh-guh). (Another popular one is en, though it's not as frequent, to my knowledge.)

I've noticed that some of my students, when speaking in English, use English disfluencies(uh, um), some use Chinese disfluencies (mostly nei ge), and some seem to create new ones all together. My favorite sounds roughly like "bluh-blup-blup!"

Similarly, we had an American friend visiting a month or so ago who made a phone call for us, mostly in Chinese, but peppered with English disfluencies and conjunctions. He'd say things like " [Chinesechinesechinesechinese]....OK, so, like, [Chinesechinesechinese]?"

The point is, I guess, that, especially in the case of "bluh-blup-blup," interlanguage is at work.

Not a very exciting point, I guess. I just think it's interesting.

Next up (which is a sure sign I won't write about it): Is the term "imagined communities" insulting to language learners?

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