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Error Analysis of English Written Essays of Undergraduate Students

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Error Analysis of English Written Essays of Undergraduate Students essay

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INTRODUCTION:

Background:

English is used as a medium of communication and it has been taught to all levels of education, from basic to advance level. Learning English plays an important role in second language acquisition as by the use of language we are able to communicate with others but it is difficult to acquire it as a second language because English has its own grammatical rules. Corder (1967 cited in Sawalmeh, 2013, p.3) “Error Analysis (EA) has two objects: one theoretical and another applied. The theoretical object is to understand what and how a learner learns when he studies a second language (L2). The applied object is to enable the learner to learn more efficiently by using the knowledge of his dialect for pedagogical purposes. At the same time, the investigation of errors can serve two purposes, diagnostic and prognostic”.

Therefore, in order to examine language in more suitable way, it is important to understand the difference between errors and mistakes. “An error is something you have done which is considered to be incorrect or wrong, or which should not have been done”. (Collins) On the other hand, “mistake is a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgement, inadequate knowledge or inattention”. (Merriam-webster)

As, Kthupi Hoxha (2015) points out that in learning a language error are done both oral and written. Learners make errors not only in classroom but also when acquiring a language. In classroom learning language remain silent to avoid communicating any error and being laughed by others or as a failure. Errors can be positive or negative. He also points out that “linguistic traditions such as the structuralist approach, which observed errors as a sin and believed them to be preventable, dictated”. So the structuralist were the first who emphasize the importance of errors in learning language.

Moreover, in acquiring language learners committed errors at any level. So, in error identification teacher should have knowledge about errors and make learner aware about the errors that learners make. In past, errors were considered as a sign of deterioration but in error analysis it was taken as a learning process through which learners acquire a language. Error analysis is considered as a source of direction for teachers as well as for students. As for students it gives guideline to improve their errors and for teachers it is efficient in their teaching.

However, it is possible for students to make errors unconsciously. In the sense, the researcher will investigate the problem of student errors and also provide some solution to overcome their writing errors problem.

Statement of Problem:

English has different grammar from Pakistani English language which might difficult for students to learn. As English has 12 tenses that should be acquired by students but there is a difference between Pakistani English language and English so, it might be difficult for Pakistani students in acquiring L2. As, Abdullah (2013) points out that error committed by students at any level.

Students makes an error due to lack of knowledge, influence of mother tongue, loan words and lack of exposure of English grammar. The researcher did error analysis in order to identify the student errors so that he comes out with the answer based on the analysis of data that students committed errors due to misinformation of language.

However, this study will investigate the writing errors in English essays of undergraduate students and find out the possible solutions to overcome these problems.

Objective of Study:

The objective of the study is:

  • To identify the errors in writing English essays of learners of undergraduate students of private university.

Research Question:

The study will answer the following question:

  • What types of errors committed by learners of undergraduate students in essay writing?

Significance of Study:

In English, writing skills has been perceived as most difficult skill among the four skills. It is therefore, a very difficult task for students to learn complex grammatical concepts and apply in their own language production well. Secondly, students committed errors in English language because they do not know how to use structure and rules of target language correctly.

In this way the main focus of the study is to highlight the difficulties that students faced in their writing and also types of errors in their writing.

Limitation of Study:

  • Students are only from undergraduate level.
  • The study will focus only on the problems of those students who committed errors in written essays.

Scope of the Study:

The research will be conducted on undergraduate students of English in a private university to find out the difficulties faced by students regarding errors in essay writing. The research will not only highlight the problems of students but also provide some recommendations to overcome the problem.

This study is not only helpful for concerned students but will be beneficial for those who are looking for the solutions in general. Furthermore it will provide guideline to the researchers as well who have desire to work in the same area.

Assumptions:

The study will be conducted in this area of language learning skill because it has been observed that students find difficulty in learning grammatical rules in English and also find difficulty in writing which may lead to the learners tend to make errors. It is important to examine in order to find out how students learn language, their problems and at what particular point improvement need to be made.

Definition of Key Terms:

Tense:

The tense is simply a way of using verb in a sentence to express an action has occurred in the past, is occurring in the present or will occur in the future also express the time and continuity of an action. (Ibbi, Ruth, 2014)

Error analysis:

“The systematic study of deviations from target language norms in the course of second language acquisition, especially in terms of the learner’s developing interlanguage”. (Dictionary.com)

Descriptive text:

“Descriptive text is a text which say what a person or a thing is like. Its purpose is to describe and reveal a particular person, place, or thing”. (Scribd)

Non-native speaker:

“Someone who has learned a particular language as a child or adult rather than as a baby”. (Cambridge dictionary)

Essay:

“A short piece of writing on a particular subject”. (Oxford living dictionaries)

LITERATURE REVIEW

English plays an important role in L2 acquisition as by the use of language we are not only able to communicate with others but also used in other aspects of life. In language learning learners committed errors at any level and committing errors is one of the most inescapable thing in this world because learners are in the process of learning and while making errors they get feedback to make new attempts and learn new things.

As, Thomas (2014) states that learner committed errors due to influence of mother tongue because every learner thinks in his mother tongue and then he communicate in English. As a result he suggests that learner should read newspaper, listening to T.V. channels, deal with situational presentation with structural practice and communicative approach.

According to Ratnah (2013, p.166-163) “the sources of errors made by students in using tenses covers; intralingual errors and interlanguage errors and the causes of errors are interference, overgeneralization, ignorance of rule restriction and false concept hypothesized”. Ibbi, Ruth (et al., 2014) observed that the tense errors in the written English of science students of Nigeria. As English language is medium of instruction for tertiary level education in Nigeria. This reason justifies that the standard of education for learning English is poor and the researcher also points out that the students have wrong use of tense due to which they are not able to communicate properly and perform well in public. In this sense, the research will investigate the problem that due to poor knowledge of English tense forms students committed errors and they do not use proper tenses.

Therefore, it is important for students to pay more attention in classroom and outside the classroom to improve their ability to achieve their communicative competence. Karim, Fathema, and Hakim (2015) points out that the students at tertiary level committed errors of verb forms. They also have learnt this language for more than 12 years. Although they are making these kinds of errors so the result evaluated in the end is that learners should be motivated to involve in peer group discussion of the rules and awareness, analysis, practice, and feedback should be the part of their regular activities. Sometime students produce grammatical errors and incorrect utterances. Making errors is fundamentally a human process. However, it is possible for students to make errors unconsciously.

Ghafur, Farida (2015-2016), according to them committing errors are very helpful for students to learn new things and it is also very helpful for teacher to correct these errors and learn that what he/she still needs to teach. However, the result of this study is beneficial for both teacher and students. “As by scrutinizing the students’ errors, the teacher learns the area of difficulty and also learn how far they have understood the lesson and what remains for them to learn”. As a result, teacher will be able to teach most appropriate technique, pay more attention and give more emphasis in their teaching process.

Another research conducted by Muftah, Galea (2013). This study investigated the tense errors in the written English of the adult Arab English language learners. As first language (L1) interference in writing is problematic for adult Arab learners due to lack of practice of present simple tense. This difficulty can be attributed to the differences between L1 and L2 (i.e. Arabic and English respectively). Therefore, this study may be helpful for teachers as it highlights the errors and provides an information for other L2 learners who are interested in L2 learning English to understand the problems and difficulties especially in learning English tenses.

Sawalmeh (2013) in his research points out the errors made by a group of Saudi male EFL learners at university level in their written work. According to him, the learners commit wrong tense and wrong verb errors when they were not aware about the use of correct tense in the sentences. “It goes without saying that most of the students errors can be due to L1 transfer. The overt influences of Arabic on the students’ writing of English indicate that language teachers need to take careful stock of the transfer and influence of students’ mother tongue in their spoken or written production”.

Moreover, Zawalmeh (2012) in his research observed that the written errors of English committed by the 10th grade students in Ajloun, Jordan. The researcher did error analysis to find out the errors including morphological errors, errors of insertion of preposition, errors of omission of the main verb, errors of using present instead of past and errors of place of others. As a result, the researcher concluded that “teacher pay more attention to this problem, remedial measures include increasing exercise that focus on these subjects, teacher should adopt approaches to writing and specific activities that can make writing easier and more enjoyable for both teachers and learners, teach certain grammatical rules, and also teach them how to use in a variety of meaningful contexts and it is important for teachers to realize that errors are natural and important part of learning process and not all of them come from mother tongue information”.

Furthermore, Sermsook, Liamnimitr, and Pochakorn (2017) conducted a study about language errors in a writing of Thai EFL students. This study focused on the sentences because according to researcher errors in EFL Thai students writing leads to miscommunication and these errors were “punctuation, articles, subject-verb agreement, spelling, capitalization, and fragment respectively. Interlingual interference, intralingual interference, limited knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary and carelessness of the students were found to be the major sources of the errors”. Therefore, the study aimed at analyzing errors committed by Thai EFL learners that students have very limited knowledge of English and they rely on their first language (L1) which leads to miscommunication. So, the researcher emphasize that students should use better tools which will help in their learning.

Unar, Shakir, and Ahmed (2017) conducted a study about error analysis of English writing of Intermediate students from Government School of Sindh. This study focused on 11 types of grammatical errors and it was observed that students commits errors because they were not able to differentiate among present, past and future tenses. As a result, the researchers find out that students’ commits errors due to the influence of mother tongue, the interlingual factor, the intralingual factor. So, the researcher suggested to improve the proficiency and accuracy of students who belong to Government Schools of Sindh.

METHODOLOGY

Research Design:

The study was based on qualitative method. Research design was content analysis because it provided an accurate portrayal of the particular problem. Tools used in this study were written task (essay writing). The study was cross-sectional on the basis of time whereas on the basis of place it was field research.

Population and sample:

Population:

Population include all the undergraduate English language students learning at private university of Karachi with approximate strength of 27 students on which the findings of the research was generalized.

Sample techniques:

In order to find out the problem faced by students, the major source of data was written task (essay writing). The topic given in the essays were general to make students not confused, the topic given was “Internet influence on youth”.

However, for the collection of data the researcher had visited to meet students. The students were informed that the essay would not affect their result and it would only be examined to find out the writing errors in order to overcome their errors.

Sample size:

The sample of the study was consist of 27 students from private university through systematic sampling and every 2nd student was selected because it was regarded as most reliable method to obtain a representative sample.

DATA ANALYSIS

In data analysis section the errors identified from the written samples of the students were divided into 8 categories. The table 1 contains details of errors while table 2 is used to show the frequency of errors along with their percentages.

The research material consists of 27 undergraduate students of private university of Karachi. 292 errors were identified and classified into 8 categories i.e. coherence, tenses, transitional words, ignorance of rules restriction, spellings, overgeneralization, subject-verb agreement, and influence of mother tongue (MT).

Error Types Recorded and Their Percentage Occurrence.

This research showed that the error of coherence got the highest errors 84 with 29%. As, coherence is a quality of understandable language. It is used to make each word, phrase, sentence and paragraph contribute to develop central ideas. It includes grammar but also its lexical relationship with text. A text can be grammatical but lack coherence. For example; the passage below is incoherent and also lack complete grammatical structure because we cannot imagine a context in which it makes sense like Internet more facility for people work and the business to. Mostly people against to communication person to person. Mostly big industry work on internet. Here the passage is incoherent, lack of grammatical structure and there is no proper use of vocabulary. Thus, grammar, coherence and vocabulary are different aspects of language that each contribute to make sense because it has been used as a measure of good writing.

In this research, the error of tenses placed in second position and found 61 errors with 21%. “The tense is simply a way of using verb in a sentence to express an action has occurred in the past, is occurring in the present or will occur in the future also express the time and continuity of an action”. (Ibbi, Ruth et al., 2014) in academic writing if an essay began with present simple tense, then it should use present simple tense throughout an essay. This is not an appropriate way to switch tenses in written academic essays.

For example; the passage given below Internet had made a great influence in this developing world. Here, student is not conscious of tense persistence. She uses past perfect tense instead of present simple tense. Another example; if we talk about negative aspects and influence which was being made in our society through internet is cybercrimes. Generally, in school and college essays are written in simple past tense or past perfect tense. So, if students are expressing their opinions then simple present tense is used and if someone else’s opinion then simple past tense is used. More importantly, student should use one tense throughout an essay instead of switching.

Students also committed errors in transitional words got 46 errors with 16%. Transitional words helps the reader to recognize the connections between paragraphs or ideas. Paragraph transitions helps to connect ideas and maintain the logical flow of a document. It helps the reader understand how new paragraph connects with preceding paragraphs but if students do not use transitional words then the reader fails to recognize the change and do not understand the previous and current point. For example; if you are building your first idea with second idea, use words like; similarly, in addition, furthermore, moreover. All these will help your ideas further enhancement.

Another main cause of error is ignorance of rules restrictions also found in this research with 38 errors 13%. For example Internet we our a lots of facilities that way. People are use to and inhance knowledge and many things and enjoying. This shows that student do not know the correct use of the (TL). Another example is; they are use internet for chating each other. Thus, by applying wrong rules, students make wrong sentences in their writings.

Researcher also observed errors of spellings with frequency of 25 with 9%. Students are unaware to use correct spelling in their writing. Students spell out words by referring to the sound pf the words. They admitted that they do not know how to produce a word correctly for appropriate spelling. For example; benefit, depents, collage, negetive, bussiness, glorcery etc. either they should write with correct spelling like; benefit, depends, college, negative, business, grocery etc. students did not differentiate the meaning of many of the spelling for example; many of the students did not know the Homophone words (same sound but different meanings) for example; effect/affect, then/than, their/there etc. in their writing.

Moreover, another cause of error is overgeneralization also found in this research with 20 errors 7%. Students usually use extra words which are of no use even though for that word we can use single word. For example; currently instead of in this point of time or in last my conclusion instead of to be concluded. In addition, students use group of words in which at least one word is unnecessary because it repeats the meaning that is already contained in other word for example; many information, younger youth, many teenagers, more better etc.

Researcher also observed 15(5%) errors of subject-verb agreement. as it is necessary for correct structure of sentence. If subject is singular then verb should be singular and if subject is plural then the verb should be plural. For example; it have negative impact or technology is increases day by day.

In this research the influence of mother tongue (MT) or first language interference (L1) is observed with 3(1%) errors which is quite evident and it is one of the major causes of poor writing among students. for example; this is the essay about internet influence on youth or this world is full of technologies or but as we talk on the influence. these examples reflect in students writing and they simple translate the English from their native language.

DISCUSSION

The result of data analysis of this research were shoed in 2 tables. In the first table all the participants’ number of errors were classified individually while on the other hand the second table is used to show the frequency of errors with their percentages.

On the basis of data analysis it can be said that coherence is the most problematic area of the learners and researcher found the highest frequency of errors related to it i.e. 84 errors with 29%. It can be observed that they lack grammatical structure, proper use of vocabulary and their writing is incoherent which is not making proper sense.

The second number belonged to tenses of 61 errors with 21%. As the result suggests the claim of Ibbi, Ruth (et al., 2014) that tense errors in written English of Nigerian students are due to poor standard of education and poor knowledge of English tense. According to them, it is important for students to pay more attention in classroom and outside the classroom to improve their ability to achieve their communicative competence.

With 46(16%) total number of occurrences, errors of transitional words are also considered common linguistic errors of students. as students fails to use transitional words so that the readers are unable understand the current and previous point.

Moreover, the fourth category of errors is ignorance of rules restriction of 38 errors with 13%. These types of errors are attributed to students’ poor knowledge of correct use of target language.

The findings of this research showed that homophones and spellings also had the number of errors which are 25 errors with 9%.

Another cause of error is overgeneralization were 20 errors with 7%. As students used extra words which are of no use, even though for that word they can use single word. Furthermore, subject-verb agreement were 15 errors 5%. This indicate that students have limited knowledge of TL.

The last cause of error is influence of MT or L1 which were 3 errors with 1%. As the result suggests the claim of Muftah, Galea (et al., 2013) that L1 interference in writing is problematic for students due to the differences between L1 and L2. Therefore, teacher should highlights the error and provides an information for other L2 learners who are interested in L2 learning.

Different reasons appears to be causes of these errors. In Karachi particularly, the learners of English as a second language came from different linguistic background which means the MT of all the learners are not same. Every L1 has an influence on L2 acquisition. Similarly, the national language of Pakistan is Urdu and the regional languages including Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi, and other varieties have to some extent a negative influence on L2 learning. It is also difficult for a language teacher to address such diversity in the same classroom.

Moreover, it was observed during the investigation that students had a passive attitude towards reading and writing. The highest rate of coherence, transitional words, and tenses also validates that students apply their own rules as they do not know the rule if the TL. For this purpose, they either rely on their L1 or their incomplete knowledge of TL which result in overgeneralization.

The result of this study could help the teacher to assess their own teaching methodologies and their students’ ability in writing and to guide them in choosing the strategies and topics that are best suited to their students.

Conclusion:

From the results obtained, it is noticed that the errors found are mostly interlingual. After having 12 years of education in English medium, they fail to achieve the goal of learning English as L2. They find difficulties in writing due to L1 and ignorance of rules restriction. The main reason behind these errors is translation from MT into TL. They must be aware of the fact that two language systems cannot have the same rules system or structure. From the analysis, it is understood that teaching and correction is not enough to make students able to write well. They should receive motivation from teacher to practice more and also be aware of the errors that they commit.

Some causes that might be responsible for the errors are; tenses, ignorance of rules restrictions, coherence, transitional words, spelling overgeneralization and subject-verb agreement. The major cause is that the errors are interlingual and students are not aware of the proper rules and structure of TL.

Moreover, in schools writing skills are neglected, as school is the first place that laid the foundation of acquiring a language. The problem students are facing in writing is coming from school level. It cannot be sort out in a day. For this, proper grammar instructions should be given to the students from the initial stage of L2 acquisition. Thus, the researcher of the present study believes that sufficient practice of English writing and a proper method of teaching English grammar are the best solution to reduce the writing errors of undergraduate students.

Ethical Consideration:

Ethical consideration is an integral part of my research planning and implementation. All the participants were informed of the purpose and nature of the study, thus, confidentiality was ensured. No one was under compulsion to become a participant in this research and they were free to refuse to participate or withdraw from the study completely without any explanation.

Moreover, it is hoped that the participants will be benefited from the research in their future academic session. The research has been kept free from plagiarism, all the quotations are cited with complete references.

Recommendations:

Based on the findings and conclusions, the researcher offers the following recommendations;

  • · Teachers must remind their students that if they write in English. They must think in TL so that there is no influence of MT or L1.
  • · Teacher should explain the rules of TL regarding grammar and vocabularies.
  • · Teacher should discuss the errors of students and use positive comments on students writing errors, as a source of motivation for them.
  • · Teacher should include increasing exercises that focus on these subjects to make writing easier and more enjoyable for both students and teachers.

Hence, the findings of the research suggest that in order to improve students writing skills they should increase their reading and writing skills in order to overcome their errors.

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BIBILIOGRAPHY

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Error Analysis of English Written Essays of Undergraduate Students. (2022, Jul 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/error-analysis-of-english-written-essays-of-undergraduate-students/

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