Selinker defines fossilization as a phenomenon where a non-native speaker of a certain language continuously uses an erroneous linguistic item (Huang, 2009; Li, 2009; Qian & Xiao, 2010; Wei, 2008) Just like other phenomena, fossilization is also brought about by several factors. It is important for learners to be aware of, at least, the major ones so that they can put them under control.
One factor that causes fossilization is attitude. Some learners just don’t find English language learning very important. Others don’t find it interesting. Still others have negative attitudes toward the teacher or the materials used in the teaching and learning (Li, 2009; Qian & Xiao, 2010). Another factor which is closely related to attitude is confidence. When learners work hard and continue to fail, they are inclined to lose confidence in their ability to succeed and give up trying altogether (Li, 2009).
The learners’ L1 is another strong factor. EFL/ESL learners have strongly instilled the L1 rules in their minds so that when they learn a new language, they have the tendency to apply L1 rules to L2 system (Li, 2009). Selinker (as cited in Wei, 2008) has taken the same stand. In fact, he claims that the differences between L1 and L2 causes the occurrence of these errors leading to fossilization.
Another factor is the environment. Some environments provide ample opportunity for practice and authentic communicative environment (Li, 2009). So AIIAS is one such environment. It is, in fact, an immersion environment because learners just have to communicate in the target language most of the time. Environment can also mean the classroom and the teacher. Teachers’ errors can be transferred to students. So does incorrect teaching method and strategies; and, when left uncorrected, can lead to fossilization (Huang, 2009; Wei, 2008). This is the very reason why I believe that those who teach English should be trained how to teach and what to teach. Those who have not studied the intricacies of the English language will blindly believe that what they know is already enough and even correct.
Social distance is also a factor that can lead to fossilization. Social distance is the extent of the differences of two cultures, the source culture and the target culture of English language learners. The more dissimilar the two cultures are, the wider the social distance. Schumann’s1976 Hypothesis states that the language learning progress of learners depends on the social distance between the source culture and the target culture. The wider the gap, the harder it is for English literacy to develop (Brown, 2000; Huang, 2009).
Finally, intelligence affects fossilization. Gardner (as cite in Nkobi & Weaver, 2011) mentions eight intelligences. One of those is linguistic intelligence. Some learners are naturally endowed with linguistic intelligence so that they do not almost effortlessly understand and speak the language, they are also not prone to fossilization (Huang, 2009). In addition, the learners’ intelligence is closely linked to their learning styles. These not only refer to the overall strategies, but also to the specific preferences of strategies and styles that learners adopt. Inappropriate styles or misapplied strategies can saliently lead to fossilization (Li, 2009; Qian & Xiao, 2010; Wei, 2008). Modesty aside, I believe I have linguistic intelligence so that I easily learn a language in all four macro-skills. This claim doesn’t mean, however, that I can perfectly manipulate the language but at least I am able to communicate through these languages. I can also easily recognize the errors that I make in these language so that I can correct myself.
Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th edition). White Plains, NY: Pearson
Huang, Q. (2009). Probe into the internal mechanism of interlanguage fossilization. English Language Teaching, 2(2), 75-77. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1082359.pdf
Li, D. Activating strategies to fossilization for English learners in China. English Language Teaching, 2(4), 75-77. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1083718.pdf.
Nkobi, T., & Weaver, S. (2011). Multiple Intelligences & Learning Styles. Retrieved fromhttp://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/33390809/Multiple_
Qian, M, & Xiao, Z. (2010). Strategies for preventing and resolving temporary fossilization in second language acquisition. English Language Teaching, 3(1), 180-183. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1081500.pdf.
Wei, X. (2008). Implication of IL Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition. English Language Teaching, 1(1), 127-131. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/