خطاهای زبانی فراگیران

 

خطاهای زبانی فراگیران

نگرشها و اهمیت

نگارش: احمدرضا پیرزاد

کارشناس ارشد آموزش زبان انگلیسی

و

دبیر زبان انگلیسی منطقه سیلاخور

استان لرستان

کدپرسنلی:  38008115

تلفن تماس:  09163997843

پست الکترونیک:  pirzad75@gmail.com

بهمن 1387

  

چکیده

این مقاله بطورکلی شامل دو بخش می باشد: در بخش اول-بخش تئوری- نگرشهای مختلف در مورد خطاهای زبانی، تصحیح خطاها، وسه فرضیه بسیار تأثیرگذار درمورد خطاها، شامل زبانشناسی مقابله ای، تجزیه وتحلیل خطا، و فرضیه زبان بینابینی مورد بحث قرار گرفته اند. در بخش دوم- بخش کاربردی- دو گونه از خطاهای زبانی بسیار رایج، شامل خطاهای واژگانی و دستوری، در بین دانش آموزان دبیرستانی و مراکز پیش دانشگاهی به همراه نمونه هایی از این خطاها مورد اشاره قرار گرفته اند.و در ادامه تدابیری جهت بهبود آگاهی فراگیران نسبت به این خطاها بیان شده است.

 

کلید واژه ها:  خطاهای انتقال، زبانشناسی مقابله ای، تجزیه وتحلیل خطا، زبان بینابینی

 

 

 Language learners Errors,

 Approaches and Significance

 By:

Ahmad Reza Pirzad

 MA in TEFL

 English teacher -Silakhor, Lorestan Province

 Bahman 1387/ February 2009

Mail: pirzad75@gmail.com

Tel: 09163997843

 

 

Language learners Errors- Approaches and Significance

Ahmad Reza Pirzad

 English teacher at Silakhor, Lorestan Province, 2009

Abstract

This paper mainly consists of two sections: In the first section, the theoretical section, different approaches to language errors, error correction, and the three most influential theories on errors- contrastive analysis, error analysis, and interlanguage theory- have been discussed. In the second section, the practical one, two types of most widely spread language transfer errors- lexical and syntactic- among high school and pre-university center students have been mentioned along with some prevalent examples. The rest includes some strategies to improve learners’ awareness of language transfer errors.

                                                                   

Key words: ICALL transfer errors,contrastive analysis, error analysis, interlanguage

 

1. Introduction

Errors are an integral part of language acquisition. The phenomenon of error has long interested second/foreign language learning researchers. In a traditional second language teaching situation, they are regarded as the linguistic phenomena deviant from the language rules and standard usages, reflecting learners’ deficiency in language competence and acquisition device. Many teachers simply correct individual errors as they occur, with little attempt to see patterns of errors or to seek causes in anything other than learner ignorance. Presently, however, with the development of linguistics, applied linguistics, psychology and other relevant subjects, people’s attitude toward errors changed greatly. Instead of being problems to be overcome or evils to be eradicated, errors are believed to be evidence of the learners’ stages in their target language (TL) development. It is through analyzing learner errors that errors are elevated from the status of “undesirability to that of a guide to the inner working of the language learning process” (Ellis, 1985, p. 53).

Corder (1967) introduced the distinction between systematic and non-systematic errors. Unsystematic errors occur in one’s native language; Corder calls these "mistakes" and states that they are not significant to the process of language learning. He keeps the term "errors" for the systematic ones, which occur in a second language.

 According to Karra, errors are significant in three ways:
- to the teacher: they show a student’s progress
- to the researcher: they show how a language is acquired, what strategies the learner uses.
- to the learner: he can learn from these errors (Karra, 2006).

 

2. Approaches to error correction

Over the years, there have been a range of approaches to error correction in language teaching and learning. According to the behaviourists, untreated errors would lead to fossilisation and therefore required rigid and immediate correction if bad habits were to be avoided (Skinner, 1957). Chomsky (1959) however, approached error from a cognitive point of view, according to which errors are the result of the learner thinking through the process of rule formation. According to Corder (1967), errors provide evidence of progress, while Selinker (1972) argued that errors are a natural part of the learner’s developing interlanguage. Krashen and Terrell (1983) proscribed error correction, since they believed it had no place in a Natural Approach to learning language which should be developed in the same way as children learn their first language. As the Communicative Approach came into vogue, a common position was that errors were not important as long as they did not affect communication (Littlewood, 1981). On a pragmatic level, Long (1977) suggested that much corrective feedback is erratic, ambiguous, ill-timed and ineffective, while Truscott (1998) maintained that error correction is ineffective and even harmful.

Students naturally want the English they produce to be understood, and they usually expect to be corrected (Ur, 2000). Grammar and vocabulary errors, as well as consistently mispronounced sounds may affect their ability to be understood. Students are often aware of the importance of feeling confident that they will be understood, and believe it is the teachers’ job to provide for their communicative needs. Students often don’t know they are making errors, and require feedback from teachers to raise their awareness. According to this view, focus on errors is a good use of some class time as those errors may hinder the successful completion of a classroom task.

According to a communicative philosophy, errors that detract from successful completion of a task or which could lead to misunderstanding should probably be dealt with. Repeated or shared errors are also ones that teachers should consider correcting (Kelly, 2006).

 

3. Error theories

There are three different approaches to the analysis of “learner English” (Swan and Smith, 1987), namely, contrastive analysis, transfer analysis (interlanguage theory), and error analysis. As Okuma (2000) noted, these approaches differ in their standpoints. Contrastive analysis compares the structures of two language systems and predicts errors. Transfer analysis, on the other hand, compares “learner English” with L1 and attempts to explain the structure of those errors that can be traced to language transfer. Error analysis compares “learner English” with English (L2) itself and judges how learners are “ignorant” (James, 1998).

 

3.1 Contrastive analysis

Contrastive Analysis (CA) stresses the influence of the mother tongue (MT) in learning a second language in phonological, morphological, lexical and syntactic levels. It holds that L2 would be affected by L1. Here, language is taken as a set of habits and learning as the establishment of new habits, a view sprung from behaviorism, under which language is essentially a system of habits.

Two versions of CA were proposed, a strong version and a weak version, and on the former those who write contrastive analyses usually claim to base their work. Purists of contrastive analysis advocate a “strong” approach—predictions about learner difficulties and development of teaching methods based on a comparison of phonological, grammatical, and syntactic features of the native language (NL) and target language (TL). A second or “weaker” version looks for learners’ recurring errors and attempts to account for those errors by ascribing their NL/TL differences (Jie, 2008).

 

3.2 Error analysis

Error  Analysis (EA) received considerable attention and finally became a recognized part of applied linguistics in the 1970’s since the strong version of CA turned out not to be a productive pedagogical tool. James defined the notion of EA as “the study of linguistic ignorance, the investigation of what people do not know and how they attempt to cope with their ignorance” (James, 2001, p. 62).

In order to analyze learners’ errors in a proper perspective, EA enthusiasts considered it crucial to make a distinction between mistake and error, which are “technically two very different phenomena” (Brown, 1994, p.205). Corder (1967) made use of Chomsky’s the “competence versus performance” distinction by associating errors with failures in competence and mistakes with failures in performance. In his view, a mistake occurs as the result of processing limitations rather than lack of competence. That is, it signifies L2 learners’ failure of utilizing their knowledge of a TL rule. All people make mistakes, in both native and second language situations. As a matter of fact, falling back on some alternative, non-standard language uses like false starts, hesitations, random guesses, confusions of structure or slips of the tongue is a regular feature of native speaker speech. Native speakers are normally capable of recognizing and correcting such mistakes. Nevertheless, an error, in this technical sense, is the breaches of rules of code; it is the noticeable deviation in grammaticality resulting from a lack of requisite knowledge. It arises because of the lack of competence. Native speakers may also make errors but they are able to correct their own errors; nevertheless, L2 learners cannot, by any means, always do so.

 

3.3 Interlanguage theory

The concept of interlanguage (IL) was suggested by Selinker (1972) in order to draw attention to the possibility that the learner’s language can be regarded as a distinct language variety or system with its own particular characteristics and rules. IL is a structured and interlocking system which the learner constructs at a given stage in his development. An L2 leaner, at any particular moment in his learning sequence, is using a language system which is independent of both the TL and the learner’s mother tongue (MT). It is a third language, with its own grammar, its own lexicon and so on. The rules used by the learner are to be found in neither his own MT, nor in the TL.

Various alternative terms have been used by different researchers to refer to the same phenomenon as IL. Corder (1971) proposed the notions of “idiosyncratic dialects” to identify the idea that the learner’s language is peculiar and “transitional competence” to pinpoint the dynamic nature of the learners’ developing system. In another similar model, a paper by Nemser (1971) referred to this learner language as “approximative system”, one of a series of approximative stages through which the leaner moves in his acquisition of the TL.

 

3.3.1 Interlanguage and language transfer

According to the Interlanguage Hypothesis( Selinker, 1972; Selinker et al., 1975), learners create an interlanguage when they try to express meaning in a second language. Language transfer is the central element in the process of creating the interlanguage, because learners need to make use of available linguistic resources in creating the interlanguage, and these resources often come from their native language. Therefore, language transfer plays a very important role in second language acquisition.

However, language transfer is not restricted to L1 transfer. Odlin (1989) defined transfer as “the influence resulting from similarities and differences between the target language and any other language that has been previously (and perhaps imperfect) acquired.” Bull (1995) discussed the importance to recognize the role played by other foreign languages in addition to the learner’s native language. Our discussion will be restricted to L1 transfer here, because in the case of Persian learners of English, L1 transfer is primary: the majority of Persian learners of English either do not know any other foreign language, or do not know one well enough for L3 transfer to be of significant interest.

 

3.3.2 Language transfer and fossilization

Fossilization refers to the phenomenon where a linguistic form, feature, rule, etc. becomes permanently established in the interlanguage of a second-language learner in a form that is deviant from the target language norm and that continues to appear in performance regardless of further exposure to the target language (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1987). A linguistic form may also be temporarily stabilized in the interlanguage instead of permanently fossilized, and stabilization needs to be distinguished from fossilization (Han and Selinker, 1999). Needless to say, however, both fossilization and stabilization of any false linguistic form, feature or rule are not desirable for second language learners.

Selinker and Lakshmanan (1992), among others, proposed the multiple effects principle, which links language transfer and fossilization. Their basic idea is that when two or more source language factors work in tandem, there is a greater chance of stabilization of interlanguage forms leading to possible fossilization, and language transfer is a necessary co-factor in setting multiple effects. Once a structure is fossilized, it may not become open to destabilization through consciousness raising strategies when multiple effects apply.

Based on this theory, it is very important to help the learner understand the sources of language transfer errors and develop an awareness of such errors in the early stages of language learning, so that the stabilized linguistic forms in his or her interlanguage can be destabilized before they become fossilized.

 

4. Lexical and syntactic transfer errors among Persian learners of English

In this section, some common lexical and syntactic transfer errors among Persian learners of English (especially those at high schools and pre-university centers) are discussed. This discussion will facilitate the design of exercises to be included in the ICALL component that handles language transfer errors. The types of transfer errors covered here are not exhaustive. It is also important to keep in mind that this is not a discussion of all types of common errors, but only common transfer errors of Persian learners of English in high schools and pre-university centers.

 

4.1 Lexical transfer errors

Ro (1994) used lexical transfer to refer to the projection of the idiosyncratic properties of L1 lexical items onto the corresponding, i.e., translationally related target language lexical items. He argued that if the syntactic and semantic properties of an interlanguage lexical item diverge from the standard of the target language, but are strikingly similar to properties of the corresponding L1 lexical item, lexical transfer is a likely explanation. He considered two types of lexical transfer, i.e., transfer of L1 subcategorization frames and translational transfer of idiomatic expressions. These two types of lexical transfer are also prevalent among Persian learners of English. These are illustrated with some examples below.

 

4.1.1 Transfer of L1 subcategorization frames

Transfer of L1 subcategorization happens when a verb in Persian and the corresponding verb in English have the same meaning but different subcategorization requirements, and the learner transfers the  subcategorization requirement of the verb in Persian to his or her interlanguage. This is illustrated in the following examples:

 

(1)  English expression intended:              She will marry an engineer.

       English expression used:                    She will marry with an engineer.

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