Receptive multilingualism: How Finnish as a fi rst language helps learners to understand Estonian? Cover Image

Reseptiivinen monikielisyys: miten suomenkielinen oppija ymmärtää viroa äidinkielensä pohjalta?
Receptive multilingualism: How Finnish as a fi rst language helps learners to understand Estonian?

Author(s): Annekatrin Kaivapalu, Pirkko Muikku-Werner
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: Eesti Rakenduslingvistika Ühing (ERÜ)
Keywords: acquisition of related language; receptive multilingualism; text comprehension; crosslinguistic influence; learner strategies; Estonian; Finnish

Summary/Abstract: The idea of receptive multilingualism in communication between Estonians and Finns is an attractive idea. Since receptive multilingualism is first and foremost about second language comprehension, a test was designed for assessing that. Finnish students with no prior knowledge of Estonian were given a text in Estonian and then asked to describe its contents in writing. Translating was also encouraged. In addition, the students were asked to reflect on the experience: to describe what was easy, what was difficult, and what strategies were used in retrieving the meaning. As expected, the results showed that particularly similarities in the vocabulary facilitated understanding. The learners were also aware of the existence of false friends: the similarity of form was not blindly trusted to provide a shared meaning. The structural proximity of the languages was equally essential in understanding the text: the similarity of inflection, derivation, compounding, and sentence structure aided in deciphering the contents of the text. Unlike production, the comprehension of closely related languages proceeds with simultaneous item learning and system learning. It is also possible to deduct from the answers that strategic competence, metalinguistic awareness and profound knowledge of one’s first language all support comprehension.

  • Issue Year: 2010
  • Issue No: 20
  • Page Range: 68-97
  • Page Count: 30
  • Language: Finnish