Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Errors in speech and writing

Errors in speech and writing by Pakistani's

            Before we start writing about errors let us have a look at some of the quotations about errors. Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900) Irish poet, playwright, and wit says:
            “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”

            Werner Heisenberg (1901 - 1976) a German physicist in his book “Physics and Beyond” says:
            “An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.”
            The problem of errors analysis is often being discussed in language teaching. Any one who want to learn a foreign language often struggles for life long during which he/she faces much of difficulties in learning a language he /she commits errors. Behaviorists view error as either a symptom of ineffective teaching or as an evidence of learning failure. While mentalists’ sees errors an evidence of language learning.
            Making errors is the most natural thing in the world and it is evidently attached to the human being. Learners make errors in both comprehension and production, the first being rather scanty investigated. Children learning their first language (Ll), adult native speakers, and second language learners; they all make errors which have a different name according to the group committing the error. Children errors have been seen as "transitional forms", the native speakers' ones are called "slips of the tongue" and the second language (L2) errors are considered "unwanted forms" (George, 1972)".
            According to Lennon (1991) an error is
            "A linguistic form or combination of forms which in the same context and under similar conditions of production would, in all likelihood, not be produced by the speakers' native speakers’ counterparts".
            In the second language teaching and learning process the error has always been regarded as something negative which must be avoided .This study seeks to identify and analyze errors in speech and writings. It looks at the type and patterns of errors in both speech and writings.
            Some of the most important components in English language are writing and speaking skills. The ability to write and speak well is not an inborn skill. These are usually learned through a set of instructional practices. It involves formulating new ideas and transforming information, which by itself is a complex process. A good command of speaking and writing are an undeniable advantage that every student in schools strives to achieve.
            The views of behaviorists and mentalists have opened new vistas for English teachers to dig out reasons regarding the errors committed by learners of foreign language. In this assignment our concentration is not with things such as carelessness, lack of motivation, laziness, lack of attention etc but instead we are concerned with reasons why well intentioned and often highly motivated students continue to produce errors in both their speaking and writing.
             I shall try to highlight and probe into the matter to find out reasons /causes of errors committed by English language learners in their speech and writing. The second is to find out solutions for such errors.
Oxford and Microsoft dictionaries definition of error
1. Unintentional mistake: something unintentionally done wrong, e.g. as a result of poor judgment or lack of care etc
2.         Wrong belief: a belief or opinion that is contrary to fact or to established doctrine
 3.        State of being mistaken: the state of holding incorrect beliefs or opinions, or the fact of acting wrongly or misguidedly
4.         Fact of being mistake: the state or fact of being a mistake
5.         In baseball, a fielding misplay
6.         In computer program: the failure of a computer program
7.         Mathematical difference: a variation between the true value of a mathematical quantity and a calculated or measured value.
            In light of the above definitions we can say that any deviation unacceptable to the majority of speakers of every major dialect of the given language is defined as error and it is an act, assertion, or function that unintentionally deviates from what is correct, right, or true.
Errors are needed to be analyzed and eradicated, according to Corder:
            Error Analysis is a clinical approach to the study of the learner’s language.”
Main reasons for errors
            Second language learners use incorrect forms to express themselves in that language. It is due to inadequate understanding of the target language rules. When these learners are revealed to their errors, they correct the mistakes. Otherwise they are tending to continue their errors in that target language. A second language learner has to be internalized the rules of the target language. He may know the rules clearly. So, Error analysis compares the learner’s Interlingua code & the target language code. Errors arise in reception, understanding or production of the target language in spoken or written form.
There are three main reasons which are as under:
(i)                 L1 interference
(ii)               Overgeneralization of L2
(iii)             Faulty reading materials
Interference of Urdu and provincially languages
     It is commonly assumed that where there are differences between L1 and L2, (For example Urdu and English) the learner's L1 will probably interfere with the L2 (negative language transfer), whereas, when L1 and L2 are similar, (For example Punjabi and Urdu) L2 will assist (positive language transfer). Therefore, we tend to believe that most of the errors are account of negative transfer.
            When some one  is undergoing learning of foreign or L2 he /she often commit mistakes as learner always tries to learn other or foreign  language based on L1 through this practice errors are  produced . For example an Urdu speaker can produce errors regarding definite article (The, a, an) as these are not available in this language but available in English.
Activity:         Teacher can conduct a very simple activity and analyze about Urdu and English such as following sentences.
                     (i)            This is the book of English.
                     (ii)           This is a book.
                     (iii)          She is an English teacher.

Over generalization of L2
                     This term means the use of knowledge already a learner possess about a target language and his/her use of that knowledge for the production and use of that wrongly. Errors are made when learners of L2 produce incorrect language because they do not know the correct form, while mistakes are made when learners produce incorrect language although they know the correct form ( one learns a language he/she uses their own hypothesis for the use and production of language and unknowingly they commit mistakes.

Faulty teaching Materials
(S. P. Corder, 1974: 20) says:
            “If we were to achieve a perfect teaching method the errors would never be committed in the first place, and therefore the occurrence of errors is merely a sign of the present inadequacy of our teaching techniques(...or alternatively...) we live in an imperfect world and consequently errors will always occur in spite of our best efforts. Our ingenuity should be concentrated on techniques for dealing with errors after they have occurred”
Errors in Speech of Pakistani English speakers
            L1 interference often results in non standard Pronunciations; People pronounce words one way or the other than how they are intended to be pronounced. Some of the likely reasons for mispronunciation are reading difficulties, nonstandard spellings, local or regional mispronunciations and hearing problems. People often have difficulties with reading and understanding words because it is complicated. When this happens, they also can have trouble correctly pronouncing the words they are attempting to read. Pushto speakers also do mispronounce some of the words and some of them for example they pronounce /ƒ/ as /p/.
            The fact indicates that use of consonant cluster which is becoming recurrent among Urdu speakers and other are slowly moving towards the use of consonant clusters. This validates Jenkins theory that :
“learners accommodate positive changes in learning language.”(Jenkins,2000) Research by Wajdan Raza PAF KIET
Two Pakistani school children were asked to write about spring holidays their writing can be seen as under with errors :-

Errors of English speaking in Pakistan
             Our countrymen tend to carry the intonation, phonological processes and pronunciation rules from their mother tongue into English speech. They may also create innovative pronunciations for English sounds not found in the speaker's first language. The age at which speakers begin to immerse themselves into a language is linked to the degree in which native speakers are able to detect a non-native accent the exact nature of the link is disputed amongst scholars and may be affected by neurological plasticity, cognitive development, motivation, psychosocial states, formal instruction, language learning aptitude, and the usage of their first (L1) and second (L2) languages. Speaking English with a timing pattern that is dramatically different may lead to speech that is difficult to understand.

Reasons of different English pronunciations in Pakistan
Where there is a problem, there is a factor of it as well. Just like the problems, there are many factors of mispronunciation too. Under are some of the factors of different pronunciations.

 (I)            Education System (Dual education system)
 (II)           Untrained and Unqualified Teachers
 (III)          Transliteration
 (IV)        Impact of Regional Language
 (V)         IT and Electronic Media
Error analysis involves,
Some of the errors caused by the learners are mentioned below.
  1. Errors caused by the learner’s inability to recall.
  2. Errors caused by confusion between formally similar items.
  3. Errors caused by confusion between related items.
  4. Errors in the use of Verb and Tenses.
  5. Confusion between the simple and the perfect tenses.
  6. Verbs incorrectly used for number and person.
Error Analysis: Pros and Cons

1.         Error analysis focuses on learner production of errors in speech or writing.
2.         Error analysis considers only systematic errors, which are supposed to reflect the learner’s Interlingua competence. Non-systematic errors are attributed to performance problems and are not investigated.
3.         Error analysis is a methodology (not a theory) that explains the errors in learner’s speech or writing.
4.         The strength of error analysis lies in the fact that, almost for the first time, researchers began to look at what learners actually said and wrote.
The weaknesses of error analysis:
          One needs to investigate non-errors as well as errors to get the full picture of learners’ competence.
          Because error analysis focuses only on learners’ production, some important features of learners’ competence may not be apparent—e.g., structures they avoid.
          The investigator may not identify correctly the structure that the learner was actually trying to produce.
            Errors under study in writing occur mainly due to interference of L1,over generalization and faulty teaching materials and in speaking L1oftenely effects Phonology of that language ,if we want to control we need to adopt an approach of direct teaching method and to completely ignore L1 as it causes errors.Both teacher and students are required to be aware of the elements effecting foreign language and they shold adopt a strategy of teaching through which errors could be reduced to the minimum.

1.         Allen, H. B. and Russel, N. B. Teaching English as a second language. USA: McGraw Hill, 1965.
2.         Brown, H. D. Principles of language learning and teaching, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc, 1987.
3.         Corder, S. P. The significance of learner’s errors in Richards, J. C. (ed.), Error analysis, perspectives on second language acquisition, London: Longman.,1974.
4.         Cross, D. “A practical handbook of language teaching”. Hertfordshire Ltd., Prentice Hall Int, 1991.
5.         Dubin, F. and Olshtain, E. Facilitating language learning- A guidebook for the ESL/EFL teacher. USA: McGraw Hill, 1977.
6.         Dulay, H. Burt, M. and Krashen.Language two.New York, 1982.
7.         Elliot, A. B. Errors in English. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1983.

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