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Language Learners’ Errors - Approaches & Significance
نویسنده : غلامعلی عباسی - ساعت ۱۱:٥۱ ‎ب.ظ روز ۱۳٩٤/٢/۱۱
 

 

Language Learners’ Errors - Approaches & Significance

 

A reply to

 Call for papers by:

 

National English Secretariat

 

by: Fateme Moradian Fard

 

M.A in TEFL

(Graduated from the University of Isfahan)

English Teacher in:

 

Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari Province, Farsan Township

Juneghan- Forouzande School

 

February 2009

 

Introduction

Dealing with learners’ errors has been a controversy for many decades and different perspectives, theories and solutions have been pointed out to analyze the errors and find their possible sources. For instance, many language teachers and learners blame L1 transfer for a majority of their problems with L2 grammar.


 


 

Language Learners’ Errors - Approaches & Significance

 

A reply to

 Call for papers by:

 

National English Secretariat

 

by: Fateme Moradian Fard

 

M.A in TEFL

(Graduated from the University of Isfahan)

English Teacher in:

 

Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari Province, Farsan Township

Juneghan- Forouzande School

 

February 2009

 

Introduction

Dealing with learners’ errors has been a controversy for many decades and different perspectives, theories and solutions have been pointed out to analyze the errors and find their possible sources. For instance, many language teachers and learners blame L1 transfer for a majority of their problems with L2 grammar.

The teaching experience of the present writer in schools, private language centers and universities in Iran has also shown me that a large part of the learning problems that EFL learners encounter in producing the language, especially at lower levels of proficiency, seems to do with the areas where there is a difference in structure between the source and target language word partners.

But, the controversial issue is that whether L1 transfer is the only source of errors or there are other probable sources. In this paper, the significance of evaluating Error Analysis (EA) studies in 1970s, 1980s and the present time is discussed and the proper perspective toward the use of learner corpora in analyzing learner language errors is set in order to better understand the process and sequence of acquisition of English as a second/foreign language.

 

Literature Review

Before 1960s, when the behavioristic viewpoint of language learning was prevailing, learner errors were considered something undesirable and to be avoided. It is because in behaviorists’ perspectives, people learn by responding to external stimuli and receiving proper reinforcement. A proper habit is being formed by reinforcement, hence learning takes place. Therefore, errors were considered to be a wrong response to the stimulus, which should be corrected immediately after they were made. Unless corrected properly, the error became a habit and a wrong behavioral pattern would stick in your mind.

This viewpoint of learning influenced greatly the language classroom, where teachers concentrated on the mimicry and memorization of target forms and tried to instill the correct patterns of the form into learners' mind. If learners made any mistake while repeating words, phrases or sentences, the teacher corrected their mistakes immediately. Errors were regarded as something you should avoid and making an error was considered to be fatal to proper language learning processes.

This belief of learning was eventually discarded by the well-known radically different perspective proposed by N. Chomsky (1957). He wrote in his paper against B.F. Skinner, that human learning, especially language acquisition, cannot be explained by simply starting off with a "tabula rasa" state of mind. He claimed that human beings must have a certain kind of innate capacity which can guide you through a vast number of sentence generation possibilities and have a child acquire a grammar of that language until the age of five or six with almost no exception. He called this capacity "Universal Grammar" and claimed that it is this very human faculty that linguistics aims to pursue.

This swing-back of pendulum toward a rationalistic view of language ability led many language teachers to discredit the behaviouristic language learning style and emphasize cognitive-code learning approach. Hence, learners were encouraged to work on more conscious grammar exercises based on certain rules and deductive learning began to be focused again. This application of new linguistic insights, however, did not bear much fruit since Chomsky himself commented that a linguistic theory of the kind he pursued had little to offer for actual language learning or teaching (Chomsky, 1966) .  

In the school of applied linguistics, however, this shift towards the innate human capacity raised a growing interest in the learner's powers of hypothesis formation as he moves towards the bilingual competence sufficient for his communicative needs. One major result of this shift of attention was an increasing concern in the monitoring and analysis of learner language. The concepts of 'interlanguage' and 'approximate system' presented challenging areas of descriptive enquiry.

In 1970s and early 80s, a large number of papers on error analysis were published throughout the world. However, it lost its attention and enthusiasm gradually as more and more criticism was made against the approach and method of error analysis.

 

Error Analysis (EA): its roots and development

Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991) claims that the study of SLA can be said to have passed through a series of phases defined by the modes of inquiry researchers have utilized in their work: contrastive analysis, error analysis, performance analysis and discourse analysis (p.81).

 In order to look into the roots and development of error analysis, first I overview contrastive analysis so as to gain better insight into how error analysis became more popular among SLA researchers.