Thursday, 27 October 2016


In my previous post I wrote about the importance of providing feedback to our students and I differentiated mistakes and errors. On this opportunity I will write about errors. How do we treat them? Why are they produced? What categories can we put errors into?

First of all I would like to start by pointing out the downside of error analysis. There is a danger in paying too much attention to our learners’ errors because for instance if we make the correction using the second language, the corrected utterance will go unnoticed. While the diminishing of errors is an important criterion for increasing language proficiency, the ultimate goal of second language learning is the attainment of communicative fluency.

Another problem teachers face when analyzing an error is making an overemphasis on production data not paying attention to comprehension data which is equally important in developing an understanding of the process of SLA.
Over the years, many studies have shown that error analysis fails to account for the strategy of avoidance. The absence of errors therefore doesn’t reflect native like competence because learners may be avoiding the very structures that represents difficulty for them.

Now let’s talk about the different categories we have for the description of errors. All in all there are four main categories.
  • ·        1st Errors of addition, omission, substitution and ordering
  • ·        2nd Errors at the level of phonology, orthography, lexicon, grammar and discourse
  • ·        3rd Global errors vs. Local errors. The first affect the comprehension of the message. The second don’t affect the comprehension of the message. There’s only a minor violation of one segment of a sentence.
  • ·        4th Domain vs. Extent the former makes reference to the rank of linguistic unit that must be taken as context in order for the error to become apparent. The latter refers to the rank of linguistic unit that would have to be deleted, replaced, supplied or reordered to repair the sentence.

The last things I want to mention are the different sources of errors defined.

v INTERLINGUAL TRANSFER: the beginning stages of learning a second language are especially vulnerable to interlingual transfer from the native language, or the interference in these early stages, before the system of the SL is familiar, the native language is the only previous linguistic system upon which the learner can draw.

v INTRALINGUAL TRANSFER: it is a major factor in SL learning. It refers to generalization within the target language. As learners progress in the SL, their previous experience and their existing subsumes beginning to include structures within the target language itself.

v CONTEXT OF LEARNING: it refers to the social situation in which the SL learning occurs. Possibility of “induced errors”: learners often make errors because of a misleading explanation from the teacher, faulty presentation of a structure or word in a textbook, or because of a pattern that was memorized in a drill but improperly contextualized.

v COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES: learners use production strategies in order to enhance getting their messages across, but at times these techniques can themselves become a source of errors.  

Which is your personal opinion about errors? How do you treat a learner's error? 

Keep up because I will continue posting more about this topic which is so important for teachers. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Feedback must always be present

To begin with: what do we speak about when we refer to FEEDBACK?  It is the information that is given to the learner about his/her performance of a learning task, usually with the objective of improving this performance.
Feedback has two distinguishable components: assessment and correction. In the former the learner is simply informed about how well or badly he has performed. In the latter some specific information is provided on aspects of the learner's performance through explanation.  It is possible to give assessment without correcting but it is virtually impossible to comment on what is right or wrong in what a learner has done without conveying some kind of assessment.

Now let's speak about an important difference that we have to consider when we are looking at our learners performance and it is whether they are making a mistake or an error. What's the difference between these two concepts?  Mistakes refer to a performance error that is a "slip" of the pen,  it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly.  [It can be self corrected] However,  errors are noticeable deviations from the grammar of an adult native speaker, they reflect the competence of the learner. [It cannot be self corrected]. When a teacher is providing feedback on mistakes the purpose is to help and promote learning, and that "getting it wrong" is not bad but rather a way into "getting it right".

As teachers, what do we do when instead of making a mistake we see that a learner has made an error? What are the different categories to describe an error? Which are the sources of errors?

I will be answering all these questions on my next post! :)