The influence of Kiswahili as L1 on the acquisition of ESL: a case study of phonological transfer

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The university of Dar es Salaam
The aim of this study was to address the influence of Kiswahili as L1 on the acquisition of English phonology by Kiswahili native speakers learning ESL. Three specific objectives guided the study in providing evidence of cross-linguistic influence involving phonological transfer both at segmental and suprasemental level. The study sought to determine the phonological transfer by Kiswahili learners of ESL at the levels of vowels, word stress and intonation involving interrogatives. The study employed purposive, snow ball and stratified sampling methods. The data for this study were collected from Kibasila and Perfect Vision Secondary Schools and UDSM - Mwalimu Nyerere Campus through oral proficiency test and participant observation methods of data collection. The data were analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The study was guided by the Integrated Approach to CA, CIA and typology. The findings revealed that, to a large extent, native Kiswahili speakers who learn ESL transferred their five already acquired Kiswahili vowels into English. As a result, the English complex vowels were avoided by the respondents by the unconscious use of such strategies as vowel substitution, vowel epenthesis, glide epenthesis vowel length reduction and monophthongization. Furthermore, because of the influence of Kiswahili, the learners tended to place word stress on the penultimate syllable in accordance with Kiswahili rules. Moreover, Kiswahili intonation system was found to influence the English intonation pattern in interrogatives by Kiswahili native speakers particularly the use of FT in English yes/no interrogatives in line with Kiswahili intonation pattern. It was concluded that English vowels, word stress placement and intonation are complex phonological phenomena and therefore hard to learn. It was then recommended that there should be effortful teaching of English pronunciation because; despite its complexity the phenomenon is learnable. Further studies are recommended to investigate the influence at wide range covering the entire country as well as focusing on aspects of L1 transfer involving other linguistic levels such as morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
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Second language acquisition, Swahili language, English language
Mwambapa, I.(2012). The influence of Kiswahili as L1 on the acquisition of ESL: a case study of phonological transfer. Master dissertation, university of Dar es Salaam. Available at (