When Language Transfer is Negative

Analysis of Morpho-Syntactic Interference Errors by Learners of French in Tanzanian Higher Learning Institutions


  • Jonace Manyasa Dar es Salaam University College of Education, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tanzania




error analysis, interlanguage, interference, negative transfer, target language


This paper analyses morpho-syntactic interference errors committed by learners of French as a foreign language in four Tanzanian universities: UDSM, UDOM, DUCE and Makumira. The paper has three specific objectives: (i) to identify morpho-syntactic interference errors, (ii) to account for their sources and (iii) to recommend a corrective treatment. The study included a total of 61 respondents. The data was collected through learners’ written texts in French from which a corpus was developed. The study was guided by the interlanguage theory and the error analysis approach. Data analysis was qualitative. The findings reveal that errors included the use of nouns with English origins (18.87%), omission of prepositions (36.79%) and absence of determiners (44.34%). The findings further show that these errors are due to previously acquired or learned languages: Swahili, ethnic community languages and English. Different recommendations are given following the findings. As regards the use of definite and indefinite articles in French, teachers should provide a guided reading of different French texts through which learners will be able to understand how articles are used. To master the use of prepositions, teachers should encourage learners to read a variety of texts in French as this can make them understand and internalize the different prepositions. Moreover, through regular exercises on word formation in French, learners may be able to familiarize themselves with French nouns, hence internalizing their forms. Finally, the learning of French nouns should be done in context.


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How to Cite

Manyasa, J. (2021). When Language Transfer is Negative: Analysis of Morpho-Syntactic Interference Errors by Learners of French in Tanzanian Higher Learning Institutions. Journal for Foreign Languages, 13(1), 165–190. https://doi.org/10.4312/vestnik.13.165-190