Transfer of English competence into the written German of Kenyan form four learners: the case of negative transfer
Under the title “Transfer of English Competence into the Written German of Kenyan Form Four Learners: The Case of Negative Transfer” the present study investigated the role that the English language plays in the written German produced by form four learners of German in Kenya, that is the last level of secondary school in the Kenyan education system. Specifically, the sample of learners fall into two categories: those from schools located in an urban setting where the dominant language is English and those from schools located in a rural setting, where the dominant language is an indigenous language (specifically Kiswahili or Gikuyu).The study focuses on the negative English competence transfer affecting the finite verb in different types of clauses on the one hand, and those affecting lexical choice and spelling on the other hand. The study tested the following hypotheses: 1) There will be more instances of the incorrect placement of the finite verb in subordinate clauses than in main clauses; 2) There will be more instances of the incorrect placement of the finite verb in main clauses standing alone than in those preceded by subordinate clauses; 3) There will be more instances of the incorrect sentence-initial placement of the finite verb than of the incorrect sentence-final placement; 4) There will be more errors involving borrowings than any other type of word formation process; 5) The number of errors involving any one of the four linguistic features under study will be greater for learners for whom English is L2 than for those for whom English is L1. To test these hypotheses, data extracted from guided compositions from form four learners of German in seven public county secondary schools were used. By way of statistical measures, the study computed frequency counts and percentages of the errors made by the sample. The study foundthat there was a strong influence from the English language, especially in the main clauses preceded by subordinate clauses (15%) and in subordinate clauses themselves (20%); as well as in word formation (68%). The strong influence from the English language which is the language of instruction in Kenya has implications for the practical teaching of German in Kenyan secondary schools and higher education institutions. In relation to these implications, the study makes several recommendations, the most important of which being that the departments of German Studies at universities and middle level colleges should put more emphasis on courses that focus on grammar, especially in the first year of study so as to help the learner achieve a higher level of competence in the German language that will enable him to tackle the courses in German literature, linguistics and stylistics.