Error Analysis

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Error Analysis of the Written English Essays of Primary School Students in Malaysia: A Case Study

Abstract

Participants that were involved are Standard Six students who are studying at a primary school in Malaysia. All of the participants come from non-English speaking background and hardly communicate in English outside the school. The instrument used for this study was participants’ written essays and Corder’s methodology for Error Analysis was implemented. All of the errors in the essays were identified and classified into various categorizations. Aspects of writing in English that pose the most difficult problems to participants were highlighted, explained and discussed. This study has shed light on the manner in which students internalize the rules of the target language, which is English. Such an insight into language learning problems is useful to teachers because it provides information on common trouble-spots in language learning which can be used in the preparation of effective teaching materials.

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Learning a Second Language (L2) is a lifelong process and it is often a challenging experience for L2 learners. English has become the L2 after it was introduced to Malaysia during colonization. Presently, it is an international language and is used as the language in international relations, and in exchanging knowledge and technology. It was only since a few decades ago that it was taught to almost all school children. In general, local Malaysian students have been exposed to eleven years of learning English in primary and secondary schools.

1. Education in Malaysia

Prior to independence in 1957, primary schools were available in four mediums. ‘National schools’ used Malay language as the medium, whereas ‘National-type schools’ employed English, Mandarin Chinese or Tamil as their mediums. As the ethnic groups are geographically distinct, the schools were also geographically distinct. English medium schools were mainly found in urban areas, and the pupils were mainly ethnic Chinese. However there were Indians and Eurasians too. There were not many ethnic Malays in English schools because of the schools’ urban location and also because many of them were Christian missionary schools. Secondary education was mainly through English or Malay, and tertiary education was through English. As English was the established language of administration in 1957 and the language of education for urban children, it was necessary for the changeover to Malay to be implemented in an orderly fashion so as to avoid disruption and a drop in standards. In 1967, Malay was declared the sole national language compared to English that had been another official language prior to this. Initially, those subjects taught at schools that could adopt the Malay language as a medium of instruction without difficulty were the first affected by the conversion process From January 1968, all English medium primary schools were required to teach physical education, art and craft, local studies and music in Malay in Standards 1, 2 and 3 before the shift to Malay occurred for the Science subjects. Tertiary institutions also became Malay-medium. By 1976, all English medium primary schools were completely converted into schools where Malay was used as the medium of instruction and by 1982 all the former English medium secondary schools were converted to National Schools in Peninsular Malaysia. The Education Act was extended to Sarawak in 1977 and the change of the medium of instruction to Malay throughout the entire school system was completed in Sabah and Sarawak three years later that was by 1985. In all such schools, Malay was made the medium of instruction but English was not ignored. English continues to be taught as an important L2 in all schools where Malay is the medium of instruction.

2. English in Malaysia

The majority of Malaysian children...
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