21 March 2012
Everyone encounters difficulties in learning a foreign language. My personal experience has shown the truth of this statement. In an upgrading course in Makassar, a participant (mandarese) asked permission (from pak Jasman, another facilitator ) to come a bit late the next day. I eavesdropped her saying, “ marakkea ri pak Mansyur” (saya takut sama pak Mansyur). Overlapping, I said, “ andiang ki marakke’ ” (jangan Anda takut).Pak Jasman corrected me by saying, “ da: marake’ “. In this conversation, I made mistake because I only know that ‘andiang’ means ‘don’t’, and ‘marakke’ ‘ means ‘afraid’. In fact, in Mandarese, ‘andiang’ becomes ‘da: ’for this particular purpose.
Another tangible example is that when a language advisor of PKG, short for Pemantapan Kerja Guru (Threngthening teachers’ work), tried to use Indonesian and said, “ apa namamu?” instead of “siapa namamu?” because he learnt from a bilingual dictionary that the equivalent of ‘what’ is ‘apa’.
The two problems faced by foreign language learners exemplified above are in line with the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH). CAH claims that the principle barrier to second language acquisition is the interference of the first language system with the second language system, and that a scientific, structural analysis of the two languages in question would yield a taxonomy of linguistic contrasts between them which in turn would enable the linguist to predict the difficulties a learner would encounter (Brown, 2000: 207-208). Furthermore, Lado (1957:59) confirms the CHA’s claim when saying: “…, and since the learner tends to transfer the habits of his native language structure to the foreign language, we have here the major source of difficulty or ease in learning the structure of a foreign language. Those structures that are similar will be easy to learn because they will be transferred and may function satisfactorily in the foreign language. Those structures that are different will be difficult because when transferred they will not function satisfactorily in the foreign language and will therefore have to be changed.”
No doubt therefore that learners of English, whose native language is Indonesian, will face difficulties in their endeavors.
Being stimulated by this phenomenon, I would like to critically study the similarities and differences between English and Indonesian personal pronouns, based on which, I would predict the potential problems or difficulties that learners of English will encounter.
B. Theoretical Review
Despite the criticism of the strong form of CAH ( Wardhaugh, 1970; Eckman, 1977; Oller and Ziahosseiny, 1970), in Brown (2000: 211-212), I believe that until now CAH is a fruitful technique of uncovering the difficulties faced by foreign language learners. A similar theory called ‘weak version of CAH’ under the label ‘cross-linguistic influence (CLI), suggests that we all recognize the significant role that prior experience plays in any learning act, and that the influence of the native language as prior experience must not be overlooked. According to this theory, the difference between today’s emphasis on influence, rather than prediction, is an important one (Wardhaugh, in Brown,2000). The problem with the weak version of CAH is that not many teachers can do the analysis of today’s difficulties faced by students.
Thus, in this section, definitions of pronoun and personal pronoun; procedures in comparing two grammatical structures; and hierarchy of difficulty will be discussed.