English as Foreign Language (Efl) Teaching and Learning at the Undergraduate Level: Treatment of Errors and Mistakes

Topics: Language education, Foreign language, Language Pages: 7 (2333 words) Published: December 31, 2010
Human speech is very much complicated. It cannot be explained from any single source. The first sound a child makes on coming into the world is one of discomfort, it is a cry, a reflex action and the child does not expect a response. People first learn their native languages through making all kinds of errors and mistakes, and getting the necessary correction and help from their parents and teachers. The same thing happens when people are learning their foreign languages. In this research paper, I would like to discuss whether or not linguists believe that teachers should correct their students’ errors, and if so, what to correct, how to correct, and when to correct. It is very important for teachers to know and understand this information when they teach students because how they address these issues will have great impact on students’ language learning process.

Many people find these two words with similar meanings, but when we are talking about errors and mistakes in language learning, they are representing two different things. Mistake means that learners already know or understand the usage of the language, but unintentionally say or use it in the wrong form or way. However, learners will be able to notice it and self-correct it immediately, and this is called a mistake. On the other hand, the error means that learners use the wrong term, word, or form, and they are unable to recognize the problems. At this time, an error is made and it is needed for somebody to point it out to the learner to correct it.

It is interesting to see how error treatment has evolved all these years. Just a half century ago, when language teachers were enthusiastic about audio-lingual method, nobody had really considered or worried about error treatment. When using audio-lingual method, it came with different sets of dialogues; teachers only needed to guide students to practice all kinds of drills from the set dialogues, and did not need to think about how to deal with errors because students would not have the chance to make any (Hendrickson, 1978, p.387-88).

In practical, Audio- Lingual method (ALM) was not working for people whose learning purposes were communication not memorization of a set of dialogue could deal with, and they started to modify their teaching methods to focus on communication. Due to this change, students began to make different errors while they were practicing and learning the language, and this transformation made many linguists take into account about how to deal with students’ errors. Previously, when teachers were still using ALM, the errors were avoided, but with the new teaching approach, some linguists strongly argued that learners’ errors should be corrected immediately, and those errors were not learners’ responsibility to recognize but teachers’ to correct (Hendrickson, 1978, p.387-88).

Literature review
While experimenting with different teaching methods, there were two different voices about how to treat students’ errors. One group of linguists thought that the errors students made did not need correction; however, another group of linguists felt that teachers had the obligations to correct students’ errors. The former group of linguists suggested not to correct students’ errors because they felt it was wasting of time for teachers to do that and the outcome was not sufficient since students were still making the same errors over and over again. The other main point the linguists were arguing about is that the error correction would hinder learners’ willingness to speak up in the class because they would be afraid of making any errors and being corrected by teachers. As a result, student’s tensions and anxieties would build up, they would become hesitant to speak and they would develop a lack of confidence in learning the language (Lyster, Lightbown & Spada, 1999).

Some people may think correcting students’ errors is appropriate; there was another group...

References: Bartram, M., & Walton, R. (1991). Correction: a positive approach to language mistakes. England: Language Teaching.
Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman.
Hanzeli, V. E. (1975). Learner’s language: Implications of recent research for foreign language instruction. The modern language journal, 59, 426-432.
Hendrickson, J. M. (1978). Error correction in foreign language teaching: Recent theory, research, and practice. The modern language journal, 62, 387-398.
Lyster, R., Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (1999). A response to Truscott’s “What’s wrong with oral grammar correction”, Canadian modern language review (Vol. 55, No. 4).
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