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Types of Transfer


Research on transfer has established that all aspects of language can be the object of transfer between languages. Cummins (2013) has identified the following five types of transfer:

Language learners can transfer any of these aspects of language, at either a superficial level or a deeper, conceptual level. If we refer to The Iceberg Model, we can see transfer as  concerning above-the-surface elements of languages or below-the-surface ones.

We can also look at transfers from their outcome, whether they are positive or negative.

The table below outlines examples of transfer between English and French, organized according to transfer types, and possible positive and negative outcomes.

In the classroom

Although transfer may happen fortuitously, the ELA and/or FSL teacher can also plan for a variety of engaging learning situations that foster language learning transfer in different contexts and situations, optimizing the potential for positive transfer. For more information on how to plan for teaching for transfer, refer to Teaching for Language Transfer.