Auxiliaries and copula were the next very frequent errors.
Abbott (1980) examined the grammar errors created by Arab students in the area of restrictive clauses. The findings indicated that 57% of the attempted relative clauses were erroneous. The types of errors committed were repetition of relative pronoun subject, repetition of relative pronoun object, wrong selection of relative pronouns and using redundant prepositions.
By the same token, Mariko (2007) studied grammatical development in second language acquisition (SLA) via indentifying Japanese learners’ errors of spoken and written English in terms of noun-, verb-, and other part-of-speech-related errors. Substantial bodies of spoken and written data were used to investigate differences between spontaneous spoken production and less time-pressured written production to show the acquisition sequence of certain grammatical features in the different modes. This study was an attempt to answer the following research questions: (1) Are there any differences in rates of part-of-speech accuracy between spoken and written second language (L2) production? And (2) What differences can be observed in patterns of noun- and verb-related errors in different production modes? The results revealed that verbal errors were firmly associated with lower-level learners, and nominal errors with advanced-level learners. Furthermore, noun-related errors shared common developmental patterns, while other varied uniquely across proficiency levels. Moreover, some types of errors did not steadily disappear during the acquisition process.
Also, Lee and Seneff (2008) conducted an analysis of interference, a factor playing an important role in inhibiting the acquisition of English among young German learners in schools in Germany. The data were gathered from an empirical study of errors in essays written by students in six schools. The findings of the study revealed that, despite having gone through six years of learning English in school environment, the learners were still having difficulty in using correct English grammar in their writings. The three most frequent errors were as follows: 1) the use of articles (22.37%), 2) subject-verb agreement (46.83%), 3) copula ‘be’ (۳۰.۸%). This study also proved that omission and misselection were the two most common types of errors in all three grammatical categories. Although not all errors were due to mother tongue interference, a large number of errors identified in the use of determiners, subject-verb agreement, and copula ‘be’ reflected the interference of German grammar.
For the same reason, Darus and Subramanian (2009) examined grammar errors in corpus of 72 essays written by 72 Malay students studying at a secondary school. The participants came from non-English speaking background and hardly communicated in English outside the school. All of the errors of their written essays were identified and classified in to various categories. The results of the study showed that six most common error committed by the participants were singular/plural form, verb tense, word choice, preposition, subject-verb agreement and word order. These aspects of writing in English posed the most difficult problems to participants.
Abeywickrama (2010) focused on errors in English essay writing of Sinhala speaking undergraduates to identify whether the first language (L1) transfer is the major cause for errors in English writing of Sinhala undergraduates if this were to be true, then it could be concluded that the reason behind all those errors was negative L1 transfer/ mother tongue interference. He identified and described Sinhala essay writing and tried to minimize the problems encountered in their English writing. Samples of written assignments were collected from 60 students in the first and the second academic years. These students were provided with the topics ‘My University Life’ or ‘An Unforgettable Day in My Life’ and asked to write on them in 200 to 250 words. They were given sufficient time to write. This high objective and outcome-oriented investigation reflected that negative L1 transfer/interference was not the major cause for errors in the English writing of Sinhala speaking undergraduates.
In addition, Ting, Mahadhir, and Chang’s (2010) study was concerned with the grammatical types of errors in spoken English of university students who were less proficient in English. The data were obtained from the simulated oral interactions of 42 students taking part in five role-play situations during the 14-week semester. Error analysis of 126 oral interactions indicated that the six common grammar errors committed by the learners were preposition, question, plural form of nouns, article, subject-verb agreement, and tense. Preposition and question were the most difficult for the less proficient students constituting about 25% of total errors, followed by word form and article (about 11% each). The other types of errors were relatively less frequent: subject-verb agreement, plural form of nouns, tense, pronoun, misordering of question, and negative statements. The findings also indicated an increase in grammatical accuracy in the students’ spoken English towards the end of their course (about 50 hours in 14 weeks), implying that an oral communication course can have perceptible effects on less proficient students’ oral abilities.
Stapa and Izahar (2010) probed in to errors on subject-verb agreement among post-graduate teacher trainees in a college in Malaysia. Twenty postgraduate (English Language Studies) students from a teachers’ training college from the northern state of Malaysia took part in the study. They investigated 5 types of subject-verb agreements errors: subject-verb-agreement of person, subject-verb- agreement of number, agreement with coordinated subject, agreement with indefinite expression of amount and also notional agreement and proximity. Two types of written compositions, argumentative and factual, were analyzed in order to identify the problems in writing grammatically correct subject-verb agreement by the students. The findings indicated that the majority of the students committed errors in subject-verb agreement, particularly in subject-verb agreement of number and followed by subject-verb agreement of person.
Likewise, Abbasi and Karimnia (2011) investigated a number of grammatical errors that were committed by Iranian students in their translation and compared the errors of junior and senior students to reach their possible dominant errors which had not been remedied during the years of studying at university. With this intention, errors in translation of eighty Translation students, forty seniors and forty juniors from Azad and Payam-e-Noor University in the academic year of 2009-2010 were examined. Analysis of errors in students’ translation revealed significant shortfalls in English grammar. The results revealed that 98% of the students had problems grammatically, and most errors that the students produced were of interlingual errors, indicating the influence of the mother language.
Kovac (2011) examined the frequency and distribution of speech errors, as well as the influence of the task type on their rate. 101 engineering students took part in this study in Croatia. A recorded speech sample in the English language (L2) lasting for approximately ten hours was transcribed, whereby more than three and a half thousand speech errors were recorded. Morphological errors were dominant due to a significantly frequent omission of articles. Statistical testing of the influence of the task type on speech errors indicated that the retelling of a chronological order of events resulted in a significantly higher rate of syntactic errors compared to other tasks.
More recently, Mohaghegh, Zarandi, and Shariati (2011) studied the frequency of the grammatical errors related to the four categories of preposition, relative pronoun, article, and tense using the translation task. The quantitative compo
nent of the study further looked at the differences between literature and translation students in the frequencies in different categories. A total of 60 junior English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students (30 Literature and 30 Translation), all studied at Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran took part in this study. Four translation tests, three in Persian and one in English, were given to the participants to investigate the difficulties of the Persian native speakers learning English. The results revealed that the students had the most number of errors in preposition (100.0%), relative pronoun (56.7%), article (25.0%), and tense (6.7%) respectively.
The Best Time for Error Correction
One of the main dilemmas for teachers correcting the learner’s erroneous utterance is the time of correction. Teacher educators often differentiate between “accuracy” and “fluency” work, arguing that corrective feedback has a role in accuracy but not in fluency (Bartram &Walton, 1991; Hedge, 2000; Brown, 2007; Harmer, 2007; Hinkel, 2011). They generally agree that teachers should provide corrective feedback during accuracy-oriented activities but delayed correction in fluency work because it will block the flow of communication, causing students to stop talking for fear of being wrong. However, a number of second language researchers have not supported this claim (Ellis, Basturkmen, & Loewen, 2001).
The teacher’s first task when facing with a learner’s error is to identify the type. Having spotted the error, the teacher has to decide when to correct it. The overriding consideration is the aim of the exercise in which the error is corrected. Mirzaei and Saadati (2010) suggested that if the exercise is intended to improve the learner’s accurate use of English, then it would be best to correct the error immediately. However, correcting an error during a fluency exercise might be disruptive and distracting, not just for the learner being corrected, but also for the other learners. There are other possibilities.
۱. Was the mistake a major or constantly recurring fault? If it is so, immediate correction is probably in order; if not, then it may be safer to leave it until a later time for inclusion in a future lesson.
۲. Was the error a language point that the learner has not met yet? If it is so, it may be best to ignore it as the language point will be dealt with later. Trying to correct it immediately could create confusion for the learner, and unnecessary trouble for the teacher.
۳. What does a teacher hope to achieve by the correction? If a teacher wants the learner to become aware of, and correct the error, then, he should be prepared to spend a little time explaining it and practicing the correct form. If a teacher is merely pointing out the error with no intention of spending time correcting it, then it might be better not to point it out at all.
۴. What kind of student is a teacher correcting? If the student is confident and able, and the teacher feels he will be able to understand and accept his correction, then he does. But if the student is shy and reluctant to speak, then it may be wiser to withhold the error until a private moment can be found, correcting