Intemational students are seriously disadvantaged by having to leam a foreign language through the medium of another imperfectly mastered foreign language. The frequency and type of errors made in written texts by Australian students whose mother tongue is English with a comparable cohort of Chinese students whose mother tongue is a dialect of Chinese and who lack a near-native level of competence in English, are examined to assess this. The frequency and type of syntactic errors are compared for the two cohorts of students. The data are derived from the written components of the end of the year test administered to first year students of Japanese at one of Melboume's universities. The texts are analysed within the framework of interlingual interference, intralingual interference, developmental and induced categories.