Error Analysis

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Error Analysis
Khalid Shamkhi

1.Definition
Crystal (2003:165)defines error analysis(henceforth EA) as ‘a technique for identifying, classifying and systematically interpreting the unacceptable forms produced by someone learning a foreign language ,using any of the principles and procedures provided by linguistics.’ EA was established in the 1960s by Stephen Pit Corder and colleagues as an alternative to contrastive analysis. It showed that contrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors. A key finding of EA has been that many errors are produced by learners’ making faulty inferences about the rules of the new language(http://en.wikipedia.org.). 2.Objectives

Error analysis may be carried out in order to:
a. identify strategies which learners use in language learning. b. try to identify the causes of learner errors.
c. obtain information on common difficulties in language learning, as an aid to teaching or in the preparation of teaching materials(Richards and Schmidt,2002) 3.Lapses ,Mistakes Errors
Corder (1973:256ff) contrasts ‘lapses’ , ‘mistakes’ and ‘errors’. The first refers to slips or false starts or confusion of structures .These produce unacceptable utterances as shown in the examples below: *1.It didn’t bother me in the sleast….slightest.

*2.It’s a bit –it hasn’t –I mean ,I wouldn’t really care to have one just like that…. ‘Mistakes’ result from producing inappropriate utterances ,i.e, utterances that do not match the situations. In other words ,such mistakes are a case of the selection of the wrong style ,dialect or variety. Language learners are certainly liable to lapses and mistakes of the sort described above .However, the great majority of their errors are of a different kind. They result in unacceptable utterances .Such errors are the sign of an imperfect knowledge of the language .The learners have not yet internalized the formation rules of the second language(Ibid). Native speakers do sometimes make errors but they can recognize them and correct them while learners of the language cannot recognize their errors and even when they are told about their mistakes they cannot correct them. Accordingly, Corder (1973) makes a distinction between errors of performance referring to the former and errors of competence referring to the latter. 4.Identification and Interpretation of Errors

Indentifying errors of language learners is not an easy task .One difficulty stems from the fact that the linguistic systems of such learners cannot be directly observed .They must be inferred by means of analyzing production and comprehension data(Keshavars,2010). Corder (1973) points out that recognizing an error is not a simple matter. The first stage in the technical process of describing the linguistics structure of errors ,he says, is to detect them. The difficulty in doing so ,he explains, ‘lies in the fact that what looks a perfectly acceptable sentence may nevertheless contain errors.’ He differentiates between ‘overtly erroneous’ and ‘covertly erroneous’ sentences. The former refer to unacceptable sentences such as ‘I angry’ where the error is overt while the latter are sentences which are acceptable but not appropriate to the context in which they are used. For example, the sentence : ‘I want to know the English’ is a perfectly acceptable sentence but if the context shows that the speaker is not interested in the people but in their language the sentence would be inappropriate, and hence erroneous. Thus, Corder argues that an identification of error necessarily involves interpretation in the context. Els et al.( 1984) state that identification of errors will only possible if we can establish a difference between actual and intended L2 utterances. In this They refer to Corder (1973) who suggests that the learner should give this information and he differentiates between an ‘authoritative’ interpretation and a...
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