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Review of English in Europe- The Acquisition of a Third Language
Jasone Cenoz & Ulrike Jessner, editors (2000): English in Europe: The Acquisition of a Third Language, Multilingual Lingual Matters Ltd, xii, 271 pp. ISBN 1-85359-480-6 (hbk) 1-85359-479-2 (pbk)
Reviewed by: Malcolm A. Finney, California State University Long Beach
This text primarily addresses the issue of the spread of English as a lingua franca in continental Europe, with emphasis on its acquisition as a third language. The book is divided into four broad sections that contain useful information not only for researchers in acquisition, multilingualism, and education, but also for language planners and administrators.
The first section (chapters 1 and 2) examines the sociolinguistic implications of English as a third language Europe, particularly the growing status and implications of English as lingua franca. Chapter 1: ''The Spread of English and the Growth of Multilingualism with English in Europe'' (by Charlotte Hoffmann) looks at the spread of the different varieties of English in Europe and the diglossic relationship that currently exists between English and other languages in non-English-speaking European countries. The chapter outlines the expanding influence of English in various domains including education, science, commerce, sports, entertainment, tourism, etc.
Chapter 2: ''English as a European Lingua Franca: Current Realities and Existing Dichotomies'' (by Alan James) examines the factors that sometimes necessitate the use of a neutral language (English) as lingua franca in some European countries. The chapter discusses the numerous factors, including function, context, and age, that influence language choice by individuals. The chapter further discusses other issues relevant to the development of competence in English such as the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)/Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) distinction proposed by Cummins (1977, 1981). This was not neatly tied in to the major theme of the chapter however.
The second section (chapters 3-5) evaluates the cognitive (positive and negative) implications of multilingualism. Chapter 3: ''Research on Multilingual Acquisition (by Jasone Cenoz) focuses on the different forms and notions of multilingualism and the different routes taken by learners in achieving trilingualism. Cummins' Developmental Interdependence Hypothesis is revisited and research studies cited in the chapter indicate a positive correlation between competence in L1 and L2 and success in L3 acquisition.
In Chapter 4: ''Putting Language Proficiency in its Place: Responding to Critiques of the Conversation/Academic Language Distinction'', Jim Cummins addresses the criticism levied against his dual language proficiency distinction (BICS vs. CALP), a popular theme of this text. He discusses these proficiencies within the context of trilingual education and warns of potentially negative consequences of premature withdrawal of children from bilingual, trilingual, and transitional programs.
Chapter 5: ''The Dynamics of Third Language Acquisition'' (by Philip Herdina & Ulrike Jessner) examines the different factors that trigger variation in multilingual acquisition. Different learners apply different processes and strategies. They argue for a more complex process for third language acquisition, which is distinct from that for second language acquisition.
Section three (chapters 6-8) looks at research on the acquisition of English as L3 by subjects with diverse European languages as L1 and L2 and the psycholinguistic implications of developing competence in L3. Chapter 6: ''Metaphorical Competence in Trilingual Language Production'' (by Istvan Kecskes & Tunde Papp uses a longitudinal study to evaluate metaphorical density in L2 and L3. The chapter makes a distinction between being multilingual and being multicompetent. The latter implies a 'common underlying conceptual base' (p. 99) for all languages. This chapter contains useful information but may be too technical for those with limited background in multilingualism.
In chapter 7: ''Word-Fragment Completions in Second and Third Language: A Contribution to the Organization of the Trilingual Speaker's Lexicon'', Ute Schonpflug focuses on the structure of the trilingual lexicon. The chapter discusses the interdependence and independence of the three lexical systems and how this may be influenced by degree of competence in all three languages.
Chapter 8: ''Toward the Construction of a Theory of Cross-Linguistic Transfer'' (by Christine Bouvy) is based on a topic that has received modest attention in acquisition and multilingual studies: Cross- linguistic influence of L2 in L3. Making reference to a research study, Bouvy acknowledges relatively low frequency of L2-L3 transfer compared to L1-L2 transfer. The conclusions of this chapter may be misleading however since transfer may be triggered by a number of factors including perceived similarities and differences between L2 and L3 by the learner. Perceived similarities generally trigger transfer. Bouvy also concludes that L2-L3 transfer is a feature of language use, not structure.
The final section (chapters 9-13) also utilized research to address the educational implications of acquisition of English as L3, primarily the introduction of English as L3 in bilingual education in Europe. Chapter 9: ''Bilingualism and Trilingualism is School Students in Catalonia'' (by Carmen Munoz) examines the potentially beneficial effects of immersion in Catalan in schools in Catalonia based on a research study that evaluates the development of linguistic competence in Catalan, Spanish, and English. This study confirms a positive correlation between competence in L1 and L2 and success in developing competence in L3. The study further reveals no negative influence of use of home language on minority language education.
In chapter 10: ''Three Languages and Three Linguistic Models in the Basque Educational System'', David Lasagabaster explores the interaction of Basque, Spanish, and English in the educational system of the Basque Autonomous Community. A research study evaluates students' competence levels in all three languages and indicates support of the Developmental Interdependence Hypothesis and the Thresholds Hypothesis (Cummins). There was positive correlation between degree of competence in L1 and L2 (Basque and Spanish) and success in L3 (English) acquisition.
Chapter 11: ''The Role of English as L3 in a Swedish Immersion Programme in Finland: Impacts on Language Teaching and Language Relations (by Siv Bjorklund and Irmeli Suni) looks at the growing importance of English as a foreign language in Swedish/Finnish Immersion Programs in Finland. It further evaluates the increasing use of the communication-based approach to teaching English as L3.
Chapter 12: ''Trilingual Primary Education in Friesland (by Jehannes Ytsma) reports on a longitudinal study that examined the interaction of Frisian, Dutch, and English as compulsory school languages in the officially bilingual province of Friesland in the Netherlands. The study evaluates the effects of attitudes/motivations and additive/subtractive bilingualism on children's development of trilingual competence and the maintenance of a minority L1.
In Chapter 13: ''Teaching English as a Third Language to Hungarian- Romanian Bilinguals'', Tatiana Iatcu examines the use of Hungarian, Romanian, and English in the Romanian educational system and the growing importance of English as L3. The chapter evaluates a shift in teaching methods and materials to help children develop communicative competence in L3 English.
Chapter 14: ''Expanding the Scope: Sociolinguistic, Psycholinguistic, and Educational Aspects of Learning English as a Third Language in Europe'' (by Jasone Cenoz and Ulrike Jessner) provides a synthesis of the issues discussed in the different chapters.
One of the strengths of this text is that most of the chapters are based on current empirical research and experimental data. The introductory sections of each chapter generally provide some historical or geographical background information for readers that are not familiar with the countries or regions in which the research was conducted.
I find the text a bit narrow in focus. Most of the authors (13 out of 16) are affiliated with European educational institutions. The primary focus of the text is on the development of trilingual competence and trilingual education in a few European countries. The implications for multilingual education outside of Europe are limited. It however provides an invaluable resource for those working on multilingualism and multilingual education in Europe and the authors demonstrate intimate knowledge of the subject matter. This would be an excellent text for a multilingual course in a European institution. Non-European institutions may find this text useful as a supplemental text.
The text is also easy to read with the possible exception of chapter 6, which contains a wealth of terminologies, that the average reader may find intimidating.
Bibliography Cummins, J. (1979): Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the optimum age question and some other matters. Working Papers on Bilingualism 19, 121-129
Cummins, J. (1981): The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. California State Department of Education (ed) Schooling and Language Minority Students: A Theoretical Framework, 3-49, Los Angeles: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University.
[For Cenoz's response to this review see http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-284.html -- Eds.]
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
The reviewer is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach. His research interests are first and second language acquisition processes: similarities and differences, and implications for second language instruction.