Contrastive linguistics is a practice-oriented linguistic approach that seeks to describe the differences and similarities between a pair of languages. Contrastive analysis informs educators about the language-specific features of two languages in contrast with each other. The process of contrastive analysis is used to identify language-specific features of a language to compare or contrast to forms and usages in the other language. Through this contrastive analysis, we can determine the similarities and differences between the two languages and determine whether the features are transferable or nontransferable. When teachers understand the similarities and differences between the two languages, they are able to plan and deliver instruction that facilitates and supports cross-linguistic transfer.
Some students may recognize similarities and differences between languages on their own, making an intuitive leap in applying what they know about their known language to the new language. (Bruner 1960, 1966) However, rather than leaving this linguistic transfer up to chance, cross-linguistic transfer can be intentionally and strategically taught. Explicit teaching for linguistic transfer builds deeper knowledge about the shared as well as the unique features of each language and how each language works. By intentionally providing a comprehensible connection between languages, teachers guide students to become more strategic thinkers, and as students think about the languages they are using and learning, they develop the Metalinguistic Skills and Awareness needed for proficient biliteracy.