Perfect Tenses In English

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Learning a foreign language is not an easy task. It is in fact a very complex and long process. Therefore it is inevitable that during that process some errors will be made. In Poland, like everywhere else, a language is taught mostly in the classroom. One teacher teaches many children or adults; consequently, there may appear errors which will be difficult to locate or predict and to correct easily. We have to keep in mind that each individual is different and has a different personality, thus uses certain learning techniques that might be unusual and unknown to others; some people are shy, some are sociable and open-minded. In other words, different people make various errors. I will focus on what to me seem like most frequent and problematic…show more content…
To understand why it is so problematic, we must refer to Interlanguage Theory. There are five cognitive processes operating in interlanguage and one of them is language transfer. It happens when L1 structures have negative influence on L2 structure. In Polish (like in every other language) there are three tenses: past, present and future. Neither of them divide into simple, continuous or perfect like in English. It seems to me that the most problematic perfect tenses for Polish learners of English are Present Perfect and Past Perfect. They tend to use Present Perfect when talking about past situations, e.g. a sentence in Polish Znam ją od lat is expressed using a present tense, but in English it would have to be in Present Perfect (I have known her for years). In the hierarchy of difficulty proposed by Contrastive Analysis, it is called a split (which means that one item in L1 becoms two or more in L2) and is a very difficult item to learn. Both Present and Past Perfect are not present in L1 (which in this case would be Polish); they must be learned as a completely new element. Another reason why the concept of perfect tenses is so problematic to understand is because learning a foreign language is somewhat always based on L1; there is always the action of looking for reference to L1. That is why I think understanding perfect tenses comes with time; only longer contact with language might inspire…show more content…
It can be explained by Markedness Differential Hypothesis. The vowel and consonant system in English is more marked (meaning difficult, with additional features) in comparison to the Polish one. Moreover, it is an area which is very different from L1 (Polish) and thus Polish learners do find it harder to grasp. The difference between English vowels and consonants in English, and Polish ones, is quite big. Many of them are simply not present in Polish, e.g. [æ] or [ð]. In the previous paragraph I mentioned Interlanguage Theory and language transfer concerning the use of perfect tenses. In this case, similarly, L1 structures have negative influence on L2 structures, which explains why so many of the Polish learners have problems with correct pronunciation in English. They use forms of L1 in L2, e.g. a sentence I have twelve years is an example of such language transfer; the same can be said about using Polish sounds when speaking English. Obviously, people with high musical intelligence will not have many difficulties with proper pronunciation and will learn and acquire it much quicker, but still, teaching phonetic alphabet at early stages of learning a foreign language could be very useful in preventing such errors from

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