Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilinguals

20 December 2016

Earlier this month we published Wai Lan Tsang’s book Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilinguals which studies Cantonese, English and French multilinguals in Hong Kong. In this post, Wai Lan tells us how her own experience as a multilingual learner inspired further examination of the influence of other languages on the language being learned. 

The fact is that if you have not developed language,
you simply don’t have access to most of human experience,
and if you don’t have access to experience,
then you’re not going to be able to think properly.
Noam Chomsky

Chomsky’s quote tells us how important human language is in formulating our experience and thoughts. But what happens when we know more than one kind of human language? How do we think these different human languages influence or interact with each other?

Born into a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, I have the privilege of being exposed to different languages. As a native speaker of Cantonese (a variety of Standard Chinese), I have acquired English, French and Japanese. During the acquisitional process, I have become more and more aware of how the languages I know might influence each other – as expected or to my surprise. For example, once in a Japanese course I was taking, my French was activated quite a number of times when I was trying to figure out the pronunciation of some Japanese words. It was a surprise to me because those moments of activation came unconsciously, and I would expect languages similar to Japanese, for example Chinese, to be activated, but it was not. This kind of amazing experience has inspired me to explore more about how different languages in a multilingual’s mind may interact with each other.

Crosslinguistic Influence in MultilingualsThis book on crosslinguistic influence among three languages, namely Cantonese, English and French, in multilinguals, draws on the notions of ‘interface’ and ‘reverse transfer’ in second language acquisition. In particular, it addresses the possible positive or negative transfer effect from French as a third language (L3) to English as a second language (L2):

Does the acquisition of a later acquired language (i.e. French) have any effect on the reception and production of an earlier acquired language (i.e. English)?

The answer to the above query is not an unequivocal ‘yes’ or ‘no’, possibly because of a number of factors at play: L3 proficiency, linguistic feature or structure involved (which in turn relates to the notion of ‘structural linguistic complexity’), typology/ psychotypology and receptive and productive use of L2. These factors may in turn make the acquisitional process most intriguing.

In order to relish and excel in this fascinating acquisitional process, both language learners and language educators are encouraged to become more aware of the different factors and the resulting potential interaction among languages. The book will show them how those factors might have worked among a group of speakers of Cantonese with knowledge of English and French. The discussions in the book will also highlight other issues that are worth investigating in our quest for how crosslinguistic influence among three languages may take place.

Hope you all enjoy reading it and find it useful!

Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language AcquisitionFor more information about the book, please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also like Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language Acquisition edited by Rosa Alonso Alonso.


Elinor and Tommi’s Asian Adventure

26 June 2013
Elinor and Tommi at the Silver Pavilion

Elinor and Tommi at the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji)

Before our trip to the ISB conference this month (which you can read about here) Tommi and I travelled to Japan, China and Hong Kong to visit our reps, booksellers and academics. It was a really useful trip and fascinating to see how bookselling works in other countries.

Tommi eating green tea ice cream

We started our trip in Japan where we met booksellers based in Tokyo: Kinokuniya, Yushodo, Maruzen, UPS and Far Eastern Booksellers. It’s great to hear firsthand what is happening with library budgets and the local economy. After Tokyo, we travelled to Kyoto where we met our sales reps from Eureka Press and visited academics at both Kyoto University and Ritsumeikan University. At Kyoto University we met with a group of graduate students and Tommi gave a talk about academic publishing and how to turn your PhD into a book.

Fortunately we had a bit of free time in Japan too and we managed to visit several temples and sample some of the delicious local cuisine.

Elinor at the Forbidden City

After that we travelled to Beijing where we met with our Chinese rep Sarah from CPS. We had several meetings with local book importers as well as with the National Library of China. We met with Beijing Zhongke and CEPIEC. We also had a few free hours when a meeting was cancelled and we were able to visit the Forbidden City which was really interesting.

Big yellow duck

Big yellow duck

After less than 48 hours in Beijing, we headed to Hong Kong where we visited one our authors, Andy Gao, at Hong Kong University. Again, we met with a group of graduate students and other people interested in the publishing industry and talked to them about what we do and how the publishing process works. After the work part of our visit to Hong Kong was over we had a bit of spare time and managed to visit the fishing village of Sai Kung which was a complete contrast to the high-rise skyscrapers of Hong Kong island and Kowloon. We also travelled to the top of Victoria Peak and saw the giant yellow duck in the harbour.

After Hong Kong we headed to Singapore for the International Symposium of Bilingualism which rounded off a really successful trip. It really makes a difference travelling to meet customers in their own countries and we really enjoyed expanding our network of contacts in Asia.

To see more photos of our trip take a look at our Facebook pages: Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications.


International Conference on Bilingualism and Comparative Linguistics

25 May 2012

Conference book display

This month we were represented at the International Conference on Bilingualism and Comparative Linguistics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong by our local reps Aromix Books.

Aromix’s stand at the conference

Unfortunately we can’t always attend academic conferences ourselves but we do our best to display our books whenever and wherever we can and when we have local agents who are able to represent us this is a really helpful way of getting our books to the people who need them. As we’re a small company we can’t make it to all conferences so some academics from further away don’t always get to see our books on display so it’s great to give them the opportunity to browse our latest books.

MM books on display

For more information about Aromix Books you can email them or take a look at their website.


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