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Common Errors in Written English Essays

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  • 1. Source :European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10,Number 2 (2009)Done by :SAADIYAH DARUS & KHOR HEI CHINGSchool of Language Studies and LinguisticsFaculty of Social Sciences and HumanitiesUniversiti Kebangsaan Malaysia 2
  • 2. Educational system in Malaysia – based on RazakReport (1956)Malaysian educational structurea) Primary education – 6 yearsb) Secondary education – 5 yearsc) Sixth Form education – 2 yearsPrior to Razak Report, medium of instructiona) National school – Malayb) National type (Chinese & Tamil) – native languageEnglish & Malay – compulsory subjects to learn 3
  • 3. Secondary level of educationa) Lower secondary level- - 3 years (Form 1 - Form 3)b) Upper secondary level- - 2 years (Form 4 & Form 5)Secondary level - medium of instruction is MalayVernacular students will have to endure effects fromthe changes of medium of instructionChinese students from vernacular school – Englishand Malay are taught in primary level as onesubject respectively 4
  • 4. When they enter Form One – all subjects are taughtin Malay except for English and Mandarin subjectsEnglish has become L2 in MalaysiaFrom being the medium of instruction in schoolssince pre-independence, it has now become acompulsory subject that students need to take(Asmah, 1997)Chitravelu et al. (2004:12) talk about the position ofEnglish as an L2 and its importance to “…enableMalaysians to engage meaningfully in local andinternational trade and commerce”Thus, students need to be proficient in English andbeing able to write well in English is definitely anadvantage for their future 5
  • 5. Out of the four skills, writing is the most complexaspect but it is a crucial skill for students to learnStudents who have the ability and competency inwriting in English will be able to express themselveseffectivelyMoreover, they will have more privilege whenapplying for any job compared to other studentsespecially in private sectors and companies thatare involved at international level 6
  • 6. The Form One Chinese students in vernacularschools need to master three languages – theirnative language, Malay and EnglishOut of these three languages, English is neglectedand not being paid attention toThey are not very much exposed to English and donot have sufficient training in the language 7
  • 7. To investigate errors in essays written in English byForm One Chinese students in a public school inPerak 8
  • 8. What are the four most common errors in theirwritten English essays? 9
  • 9. There can be a huge difference between Englishwriting by native speakers (NS) and English writingby English as a second language (ESL) learnersESL learners have more than one language whilethey are composing as compared to NSSince they have more than one language in hand,it brings more problemsESL learners tend to switch those languagesinteractively, causing some confusion in thestructure and meaning 10
  • 10. As several studies have reported,a) L2 writers use their L1 to plan their writing for text generation (Cumming, 1989; Jones & Tetroe, 1987),b) Transfer their L1 knowledge to L2 writing contexts (Edelsky, 1982; Friedlander, 1990; Lay, 1982), andc) Develop ideas and produce text content and organization (Lay, 1982)In short, L2 writers always make use of their L1 first,while composing in the L2 before translating it to L2This shows that L1 influence the L2 writer in theirprocess of writing in L2 and the influences can bepositive or negative 11
  • 11. PARTICIPANTS 70 students from two Form One classes in a selected public school in Perak They came from Chinese vernacular schools with Mandarin as the main language of instruction They scored on average a grade B or C in their „Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah‟ (UPSR) and other monthly English tests 12
  • 12. Errors in language learners‟ performance includingwriting process have long become the subject ofinterest among teachers, linguists and syllabusplannersAccording to Corder (1967), error can be definedas a systematic, consistent deviance characteristicof the learner‟s linguistic system at a given stage oflearningMeanwhile, Dulay et al. (1982) define error as :“…the flawed side of the learner‟s speech or writingThey are those parts of conversation or compositionthat deviates from selected norm of maturelanguage performance.” (Dulay et al., 1982: 138) 13
  • 13. All of these students came from Chinese speakingfamilyThey write in Mandarin for many occasionsespecially in informal situationsThey only use English during their English classes orwhen needed to 14
  • 14. WRITING SAMPLE Following Halliday and Hassan (1976) who stated that writing allows writers to demonstrate their ability to construct a string of well-connected sentences that are grammatically and logically correct, the students were asked to write a short essay The writing sample for the study - 70 essays written in English by these 70 students 15
  • 15. INSTRUMENT In order to identify the errors, an error classification scheme developed by Darus et al. (2007) was adapted in this study It consists of 18 types of errors as follows : a) Tenses b) Articles c) Subject verb agreement d) Other agreement errors e) Infinitive 16
  • 16. f) Gerundsg) Pronounsh) Possessive and attributive structuresi) Word orderj) Incomplete structuresk) Negative constructionsl) Lexical categories (preposition)m) Other lexical categoriesn) Mechanicso) Word choicep) Word formq) Verb to be r) Malaysian typical words 17
  • 17. Markin 3.1 software (Holmes, 1996-2004) was used inthe process of identifying the errors in the students‟essaysThe software was chosen because it enabledresearchers to obtain accurate classification andstatistical analysis of errors 18
  • 18. RESEARCH PROCEDURE Students were asked to write a short essay (in the range of 80 – 300 words) The topic of the essay was My Family They were given one week to write their essays before researchers collected them for text analysis Essays collected were typed so that they were computer readable The errors of each essay were identified using Markin 3.1 software based on the error classification Scheme 19
  • 19. Table 1 20
  • 20. Table 1 shows the total number of errors for eachcategory of grammatical errors as well as itspercentage and mean value10,147 words were analyzed that consist ofapproximately 145 words for each essayThe results of the mean values show that fourcommon errors are mechanics (2.73), tense (1.73),preposition (1.29) and subject-verb agreement(1.24) 21
  • 21. 4 COMMON ERRORS  Mechanics  Tenses  Preposition  Subject-Verb Agreement 22
  • 22. 19.1% of total number of errorsIn the area of spelling, punctuation andcapitalizationSpelling – „read‟ vs „rid‟ (mainly due to phoneticsperception)Punctuation – commas (,)a) I feel happy to have a lovely family, and I hope my family will always happyb) There are my father, mother * eldest sister and me 23
  • 23. Capitalizationa) My mom occupation is a House Wifeb) My brother is a Form two student 24
  • 24. 12.1 % of total number of errorsEnglish verbs change according to aspect of time(present, past, future and continuous tense)For example :I go to the market Saya pergi ke pasarI will go to the market Saya akan pergi ke pasarI went to the market Saya telah pergi ke pasarI am going to the Saya sedang pergi ke pasarmarket 25
  • 25. The verb „pergi‟ in the sentences did not indicatetimeTime was shown separately by auxiliary verb andparticles such as „akan‟, „telah‟, „sedang‟ - Difficult for students to understand the idea of tense usageErrors identified :a) Every night we watching TV [watch]b) I study in SMJK Yuk Chong [am studying] 26
  • 26. 9.0 % of total number of errors Errors includes omissions, additions and wrong selections For example - Chinese and Malay preposition „di‟ refers to „in‟, „at‟ and „on‟ in EnglishDia bekerja di Kuala He works in Kuala LumpurLumpurSalmah bekerja di Salmah works at the postpejabat pos officeDia letakkan buku itu di He puts the book on theatas meja table 27
  • 27. Therefore students were incapable of choosing thecorrect prepositions when more than one Englishprepositions corresponds to a single Chinese orMalay prepositions 28
  • 28. 8.7% of total number of errorsErrors includes difficulties in distinguishing the verb„is‟ or „was‟ with „are‟ or „were‟Confuse with some nouns such as „people‟ or„homework‟I go to school Saya pergi ke sekolahShe goes to school Dia pergi ke sekolahThey go to school Mereka pergi ke sekolah 29
  • 29. Example :a) My family have five members [has]b) There is five family members in my house [are] 30
  • 30. Errors are caused by :1) Interference of L12) Inadequate understanding of grammatical rules of EnglishThis study shows that the four most common errorsmade by the Chinese students are mechanics ofwriting, tenses, preposition and subject-verbagreementIn general, the finding of this study shows that theChinese students were very much influenced by theL1 in their process of learning English 31
  • 31. Suggestions : 1) Teacher should emphasize on how the concepts are handled in English, Malay and Chinese 2) Teachers should highlight certain rules in L1 and Malay that are inappropriate to be used when they write in English 32

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