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First Language versus Foreign Language

Fluency, Errors and Revision Processes in Foreign Language Academic Writing


Esther Odilia Breuer

First Language versus Foreign Language deals with the «battle» that takes place in writers’ heads when writing in a foreign language. Most academics today need to write in another language than in their first language (L1) in order to publish in internationally recognized journals. However, as writing research has shown, writing in a foreign language (FL) presents difficulties. The study compares L1 and FL writing, analysing written texts and the writing processes in terms of fluency, errors and revision. It takes a closer look at the «battle» between the L1 and the FL and offers useful insight. The findings allow a glimpse at the processes that take place in the brain, calling for new didactic approaches to FL writing.
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1 Introduction


1  Introduction

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. (Mark Twain [1902] 1935: 380)

In the academic community, writing has always enjoyed pride of place as the most important of all forms of communication (Russell 2002: 4, Swales 2004: 2). The written exchange of information, the publication of the results of academic and scientific work, and the communication of ideas across cultures have been fundamental to the generation and development of knowledge in science and in the academia. Internet, e-mail and other electronic channels, as well as better and cheaper travel opportunities, have simplified cross-cultural communication and international cooperation. As a result, we are experiencing an explosive growth in publishing opportunities in the form of printed and electronic international journals and websites, as well as an increase in the number of virtual and ‘real’ academic communities (Rijlaarsdam et al. 2012: 191).

To include as many participants as possible in this communication process, it has always been vital to find a common language for the exchange of information. For many centuries this language was Latin; then for a time it was German (Kretzenbacher, 2001: 447). As English is nowadays the language that is taught in most countries in the world as the first foreign language and is often the language of the media, it has become the language...

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