***This is a guest post from Neha Joshi, used by permission from EnglishTeachingDaily.com***
Significance of Error Analysis in Language Teaching and Learning by Neha Joshi
In order to analyze learners’ errors in a proper perspective, it is crucial to make a distinction between “mistake” and “error”. According to Brown (2000), a “mistake” refers to a performance error in that it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly. While an “error” is a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker, reflecting the interlanguage competence of the learner. This recognition process is followed by the error description process. We compare learners’ sentences with the correct sentences in target language, and find out the errors. The differences between these two indetailed can be described as under:
- Errors are result of ignorance. Whereas mistakes are result of stress.
- Errors of a learner has a definite pattern, whereas mistakes do not occur in pattern.
- Errors can’t be rectified by its doer, mistakes can be.
Significance of Error Analysis in Language Teaching and Learning
In order to teach a language, it is necessary to understand the process that goes on in the mind of the learner. Error analysis is a part of this process.
As Corder has pointed out, there is a vital difference between ‘errors’ and ‘mistakes’. He labels ‘mistakes’ as ‘performance errors’, which are like slip of pen. The learner himself can correct it later on, because they are not the results of unawareness. Whereas, genuine errors are ignorance of rules. The learner can’t correct it by himself. They show the learner’s “transitional Competence”.
Error analysis is essentially significant because, as Jack Richards refers to Corder’s observation: “Learner’s correct sentences do not necessarily give evidence of the rules of the new language and the rules he has developed at given stages of his language development”. This can be done only by the errors he makes. And after knowing this only one can proceed in teaching. So, errors, and its analysis both are an inevitable part of teaching & learning.
Types of Errors
The errors can be divided as under:
- Area: This means an error related to some specific area of language. It can be subdivided into:
- Phonological error: These are the errors related to pronunciation. E.g. in a word like ‘river’ the last ‘r’ should not be pronounced fully. If this is done, it’s a phonological error.
- Lexical error: These are the errors related to words. E.g. ‘air-conditioned room’. Here, ‘ed’ is not required. So this is a lexical error. It’s a use of wrong lexical items.
- Grammatical error: These are errors due to problem with syntax. It is related to the sentence structure. E.g. “I prefer tea than coffee.” Here, underlined part is incorrect. There should be ‘to’ instead. So there is a grammatical error.
- Semantical error : These errors are due to the ambiguity of meaning. E.g. “She is like ice-cream.” Here, meaning is not clear. This is called Semantical error.
- Spellings: Due to incorrect spellings, the meaning is either not clear or is totally changed. E.g. “He is my sun.” Form: These errors can be subdivided into:
- Form: These errors can be subdivided into:
- Error of addition: When there is unnecessary addition of characters or items, this type of error arises. E.g. “He faced a one problem.” Here the word ‘one’ is added unnecessarily.
- Error of omission: This occurs due to dropping the necessary items. E.g. “My father name is XYZ.” Here an apostrophe to the word ‘father’ is dropped though required in order to clarify the meaning.
- Error of selection: An improper selection from the existing options is the cause of such errors. E.g. “One day the king is going for hunting.” Here, from all existing tenses, only present progressive is selected, which is an improper selection in this contexts.
- Error of order.: These errors occur due to incorrect order of words. E.g. “When I shall meet you?” here, the underlined parts have been placed in an incorrect order.
- There can be interlingual error that arises due to L1 influence. E.g. a Gujarati learner of ESL would ask: “Where going you are?’ instead of “Where are you going?”
- Similarly, there can be intralingual errors that occur within the target language due to incomplete knowledge of rules, or ignorance of exceptions. E.g. “Does she still sings?”
Comprehensibility: These errors can be subdivided into:
- Global error – in which meaning is not clear at all. E.g. “I hope you wont mind if I sit here.” “Yes yes.”
- Local error – where meaning is clear, but still it is an incorrect expression. E.g. “My girlfriend is a beautiful.”
The treatments to the errors made by learners may take many different shapes. However, remedial teaching is the most appropriate and widely used treatment.
A remedial programme is a specially designed alternative strategy based on the need analysis carried out by observing the learner’s deviated behaviour, in order to put it on a right track.
The concept of remedial teaching is not new in the history of teaching – learning.
As they say, “To err is human…”, errors are considered to be a natural human behaviour. However, as far as the teaching of any domain is taken into account, the earlier remedial programmes do not show the same gentle attitude as the saying towards the error done by learners. Earlier, it was believed that errors are like diseases, which need to be cured. So, the remedial programmes that people like T. Wood prepared for their students were nothing but a tedious series of mechanical practice. These programmes treated errors as sins, and as a result, the doer of the sin i.e. the learner, was insulted.
This attitude to the errors was built up on the basis of structural approach to language teaching that projected the process of teaching merely a matter of habit formation. So, they insisted upon drilling and mechanical practice, which they thought would solve the problem. But as we now know, learning – whether it be language learning or anything else – is more of a trial and error, as suggested by the cognitive school of teaching. Unlike the behaviouristic school, they said that drilling is not ALWAYS a strategy that can lead to correct learning. From this came into existence the functional approach, which projected the use-oriented teaching. They emphasized the practical implementation of the learning items. Under the influence of this approach, the concept of errors, treatment to it, the nature of remedial programmes, everything went under a drastic change.
Later on, however it was realized that errors are not essentially useless. Even they can be exploited in order to learn correct things. A positive connotation to the term ‘error’ came into existence and that played a role in redefining the remedial programmes. They are no longer a set for practicing correct behaviour; they are now different, alternative strategies to teach. Earlier remedial classes meant the same for all who err. Hundred students can sit and practice the correct behaviour at a time. But now it has become more individualistic in nature. Today’s remedial programmes are specially designed keeping in mind the needs, abilities and weaknesses of individual learner.
Thus the base of remedial programmes is in need-analysis. The learners’ scope of using the taught item, his ability, his requirement etc. would define the course of remedial programme. This leads to the fact that the factors mentioned above may vary from learner to learner. If we consider the issue in terms of language teaching, it becomes more vital, because language is a medium to express the thoughts and knowledge that an individual possesses.