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English As An International Language English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 4038 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Teacher of English as a second language is ultimately faced with a dichotomy between knowledge and performance, especially if they teach courses with a major component of written expression. A class of English language learners can perform sufficiently in routine grammatical exercises, but then fail signally to translate this demonstrated knowledge into reality when faced with the task of writing original prose. The purpose of this paper is to present a numerical analysis of grammatical errors in students’ writing as a means of identifying those aspects of English grammar that do not translate well from routine testing of grammatical knowledge to original work. The results provide some insight into shortfall in the capabilities of students and, more importantly, identify ways to redress them.

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Interest in the teaching of English as an international language has been growing throughout the Arab countries, and most Arab governments began to launch the teaching of English as compulsory subject in schools. At present, in most Arab countries, all students who finish the public secondary school education must have had at least eight years of teaching in English as a school subject. So, because of the widespread use of English as a second language, the subject of language teaching in general and teaching English as a foreign or second language in particular, has become the focus of attention of most Arab researchers (Al-Khatib, 2000). As far as English at tertiary level in the Arab world is concerned, (Zughoul, 2003; Sultana, (2001) point out that teaching through the medium of English is obvious in the field of higher education with the exception of Syria which maintained a strong teaching tradition through the medium of Arabic. Zughoul, in confirming this issue has said, ‘no laws have been enacted or language plans drawn to be implemented regarding the use of Arabic in Arab universities in any Arab country’ (ibid, (2003). As far as Arab students are concerned, recently, Rababah has rightly stated that ‘attitudinal studies conducted on Arab students, consistently showed that Arab students are instrumentally motivated to learn English and that they are well aware of the utility of knowing English. The main stimulus for learning English is instrumental, i.e. to achieve a goal, e.g. a career (ibid, 2003).To shed more about the present status of English in the Arab world, Zughoul rightly states: ‘despite the hegemonic and imperialistic nature of English, it is still badly needed in the Arab world for the purposes of communicating with the world, education, acquisition of technology and development at large. Teaching still needs more efforts to be exerted to raise the quality and standard of English of the Arab learners at all levels, (ibid 2003).

General Background

Language is a means of communication with individuals. It is a system of sound which is structured and used to communicate people’s feeling, intentions, purpose, etc to the others. It is a special characteristic of human or it can also be regarded as one of human criteria because only human beings speak a language. However, the ability to speak a language should be developed in a social group. Sapir (1921:p 8) says “language is purely human and non instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotional, and desires by means of system of voluntarily produced symbols.”

One of the Languages is English. It is one of the languages used in communication almost all over the world. It used mainly in Britain and its commonwealth all over the world and it has become one of the main languages of international communication. It has a very important role in technological and scientific advances.

2.1 Grammar

The word grammar has several meanings and there is no universally accepted definition. Different experts define the term grammar differently. There is no fixed definition of grammar. Leech (1982: 3) defined grammar as something in reference to the mechanism according to which language works when it is used to communicate with other people. Harmer (2001: 12) defines grammar as the description of the ways in which words can change their forms and can be combined into sentences in that language. Gerot & Wignell (1994: 2) state that grammar is a theory of a language, of how language is put together and how it works. Having known the definition of grammar, it is not hard for us to understand why grammar is useful and important. Without knowing the grammar of a language, one can not be said to have learned the language. Besides, it seems impossible to learn a language without learning the grammar because it tells him how to use the language. People learn how to construct a good message based on the rules they have known and try to convey the message to the others. These rules are termed as grammar. The mechanism of grammar cannot be seen concretely, because it is rather abstractly represented in the human mind, but we know it is there because it works. One way of describing this mechanism is by means of a set of rules which allow us to put words together in certain ways which do not allow others. The meaning of a message conveyed by language has to be converted into words put together according to grammatical rules and these words are then conveyed by sounds.

Preposition and particles

Sawn states that Arabic has a wealth of fixed prepositions and particles, used with both verbs and adjectives. Many of these do not coincide with their direct English translation. There are no phrasal verbs in arabic and this whole area is one of the great difficult for Arabic speakers. Defence mechanisms may involve selecting alternative but regular verbs to avoid using phrasal verbs altogether, or the misuse or omission of the preposition or particle.

As prepositions in Arabic are always followed by or linked to a noun or pronoun, preposition- stranding patterns in English will usually be avoided in favour of the Arabic patterns, which are often similar to more formal English.

Literature Review:

A Review of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) Research

Over the past years, studies of second languages learning have occupied a significant position in the field of linguistic. The term ”second language acquisition” refer to the subconscious or conscious by which a language other than the other tongue is learnt in natural or a taught setting. It includes the development of phonology, lexis, grammar and pragmatic knowledge (Ellis, 2008). Ellis (2008) defined Second Language Acquisition (SLA) as ‘the study which people have showed great interests although it does not have a long history.’

Interlanguage Theory (IL)

The Definition of Interlanguage

According to Selinker (1972), ‘interlanguage refers to the separateness of a second language learners’ system, system that has a structurally intermediate status between the native and target languages.’ (p. 201). Nemser (1971:9) stresses the successive approximation to the target language in his term ‘approximative system’. Corder (1972:151) makes use of the term ‘idiosyncratic dialect’ to denote the idea that learner’s language is unique to a particular individual. While each of these descriptions focuses on a particular idea, they share the idea that second language learners form their own language system.

Richards (1974: 124) states that “the sources of errors in studying a language might be derived from the interference of the learners’ mother tongue and the general characteristics of the rule learning.” The general characteristics of the rule learning cause the errors which are called the intralanguage errors and the interference of the learners’ mother tongue causes the errors which are called the interlanguage errors. He (1974) makes a distinction between three sources of competence errors:

(1) Interference errors happen as an effect of the use of element from one language whereas speaking another.

(2) Intralingual errors reveal the general characteristics of rule learning such as faulty generalization, incomplete application of rules and failure to learn conditions under which rules apply.

(3) Developmental errors occur when the learner try to build up hypothesis about the target language on the basis of limited experience.

Richards (1971) also classifies intralingual errors into four types:


It occurs when the learner produces an unexpected structure on the basis of other structures in the target language. In other words, it involves the creation of one unusual structure in place of two target language structures.

Ignorance of the rule restrictions

It includes the application of rules to context where they do not apply. It is in general linked to analogy. It contains a failure to fully develop a structure. As a result, learners of L2 English have been observed to use word order of declaration in questions. This type of intralingual error keeps up a correspondence to what is often referred to as an error of transitional competence (Richards, 1971:174)

False concepts hypothesized

The final type of intralanguage error, that is sometimes named semantic error, may be derived from faulty comprehension in the target language.

The Stages of IL Development

It can be said that there are many way to describe the progression of linguistic development and learners are variable in their acquisition. According to Brown (2000/1994:p211), IL development can be classified into four stages.

The first stage is ‘random errors’, in which the learner cannot recognize that there are some systematic orders to a particular class of items.

The second stage is ’emergent’, in which learner becomes consistent in linguistic production.

The third stage is a ‘systematic stage’ in which the learner has a capacity to prove more consistency. When their errors are pointed out, they will correct their errors right away. Certainly, they are more close to the target language.

The last stage is ‘stabilization stage’ which is characterised by the learners’ ability to self-correct.

Approaches to IL Study

Contrastive Analysis (CA)

According to Johnson & Johnson (1998:110), “Contrastive analysis is a comparing two linguistic systems, the learner L1 and the target L2 with a view to determining structural similarities and differences. Because of it, making errors in learning language is regularly happen.

As said by Brown (1994:193), “second language learning basically involved the overcoming of the differences between the two linguistic systems- the native and the target languages. Lado (1957:2) pointed out that the forms meanings and distribution of native language and culture can be transferred to the target language. He also states that “those elements that are similar to this native language will be simple for him and those elements that are different will be difficult.”(p:2)

Error Analysis (EA)

Significance of Error Analysis

Error analysis in SLA was established in 1960s by Stephen Pit Corder and colleagues. Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis, an approach influenced by behaviourism through which applied linguistic sough to use the formal distinctions between the learner’s L1 and L2 to predicted errors.

According to James (1998:1), error analysis is the process of determining the incidences, nature, causes and consequences of unsuccessful language. It can be said that making errors in language process can be extremely common.

As Ubol (1988: 8) said, “Errors analysis is a systematic description and explanation of errors made by learners or user in their oral or written production on the TL.” That is mean that error analysis is concerned with the explanation of occurrence error and production error of their oral or written expression differs from that of native speaker or Target Language (TL)

Corder (1981) noted that Errors can be significant in three different ways. Firstly, teacher can have information about how much the learner had learnt. Secondly, the research can have evidence of how language was learnt. Thirdly, errors served as devices by which the learner discovered the rules of the Target Language (TL)

Procedures of Error

To analysis the data, I use error analysis method. Corder was quoted by Ellis(2008:46) recommends the following steps to conduct an error analysis investigate:

Collection of a sample of learner language by which deciding what patterns of learner language to use for analysis and how to collect thesis patterns.

Identification of errors by which underlying the errors the learner made.

Description of errors in which errors can be classified as group that found and declaring the classes of the errors.

Explanation of errors by which the errors can be established the source of the errors and calculating how often errors appear.

Evaluation of errors in which tabelizing errors and drawing conclusion can be involved.

Referring to the steps of error analysis method above, the date will be analysis as following:

Identification of errors:

In this step, I studied the acquired data and tried to find out grammatical errors in particular errors in use of preposition. I tried to analysis the data as objective as possible.

Description of errors:

Once the errors have been identified. I classified the errors into the category of “errors in use of preposition”.

Evaluation of errors:

In this step would be drawing a conclusion based on the analysis. I have to make a valid conclusion in the form of a brief description of the errors.

Error Types

Brown(1994) pointed out that there are two type (Another division that is widely agreed on is that interlingual errors and intralingual errors believed by linguists. An error that results from language transfer, which is caused by the learner’s native language, is called interlingual errors. Intralingual errors refer to those produced in using the target language in own terms. They result from faulty or partial of the target language, rather than from language transfer.

Errors in the use of prepositions

Prepositions are always followed by nouns (or pronouns). They are connective words that show the relationship between the nouns following them and one of the basic sentence elements: subject, verb, object, or complement. They usually indicate relationships, such as position, place, direction, time, manner, agent, possession, and condition, between their objects and other parts of the sentence (Wishon and Burks, 1980: 288). A preposition may be composed of one, two, or three parts. For instance: a. one part: of, on, in, at, for, from b. two parts: because of, according to, etc c. three parts: in front of, on top of, as far as, etc In using a preposition, one should be aware because there is no certain rule for this. One has to determine which preposition should be used based on its context.

Previous studies Students on EFL Arab Learners’ writing Errors

Bacha (2002:161) states that “L2 writers are known to face problems in developing their writing skills at the university level. These problems are even more accentuated with L1 Arabic non-native speakers of English in required English composition.” She has added that Arab learners or a foreign language or second language do have serious problems in writing and may not be motivated to develop their writing skills. Kharma and Hajjaj (1997) described preposition as an everlasting problem for EFL Arab learner. Kharma’s statement based on his own empirical and theoretical studies conducted in several Arab countries (e.g. Arab Gulf and Jordan) and because he observed that almost all research on syntactic errors in the Arab world, preposition were found to be the most troublesome grammatical words and constantly continue a significant preposition of error occupied the first of second position among other syntactic and semantic errors.



The participants of this study are the IELTS class of Arab students in English language centre at Manchester Metropolitan University in the academic year of 2010. The class consists of 19 students. I choose nine of their written work randomly. I selected them to be subject of this study because they have already learnt the English grammar and they use English in the classroom teaching learning process as well.

Data collection

In collection the data, the materials used for analysis were 9 written works on one topic from IELTS course students at Manchester Metropolitan University. The students were asked to write topic about; “in my dairy, I will:” The topic was chosen for students to practise the simple past tense. The work was done as activity in class, but the students were allowed to use dictionaries. The work created by the students was thoughtful, creative and well structured. I tried to analysis the students’ errors and to find out the grammatical errors done by students in particular preposition errors.

Discussion of errors

The subjects of this study made 28 errors ( see appendix 2). There are three subcategories of errors (substitution, addition and omission) will be presented by the side of their source whether it is intralingual or interlingual. The number of errors is small as mentioned above. In the discussion of errors in this study, only few examples for sake of illustration to the three categories will be given and discussed.

Errors of substitution

Analysis of the data disclosee examples of the substitution of prepositions which seemed to be caused by both, the students’ mother tongue interference and influence of the target language itself. The majority of the errors were of substitutes, made in the use of prepositions in the composition whether the source was interlingual or intralingual.

Interlingual Errors

Intralingual Errors


In instead at:

The following are illustrative examples:

I felt comfortable to learn English in MMU.

I did registration in police….

At instead in:

Finally, at the first week, I felt homesick.

This error are attributed to overgeneralization that arises from the ambiguity in the learners’ mind, particularly when they face the task of using one preposition to express different connections and meanings. In this case, the learners will overgenerlise one item over the other as in (1) they overgenerlised the preposition ‘at’ instead of ‘in’.

To instead for:

The following is illustrative example:

I took photos to him.

To instead in:

The following are illustrative examples:

I arrived to Manchester.

It was my first time to the UK.

To instead on:

The following are illustrative examples:

My teachers asked us to go with group to campus.

We took our student cards and to enrolled to our course.

For instead to:

The following are illustrative examples:

I started for study hard.

I came here for learn English.

About instead for:

The following are illustrative examples:

My first impression about the university was good.

I search about a flat or home.

During instead over:

The following is illustrative example:

During the three weeks….

Errors of addition

The addition of preposition indicated those redundant propositions are used where they are not needed. The analysis of the date showed that (5) prepositions were added they were not necessary. Analysis of data showed examples of the addition of prepositions which seemed to be caused by both, students ‘s mother tongue interference and the influence of the target language itself. Here some illustrative examples:

Addition of ‘of’

I started stady of Eingliesh.

The error in the above example attributed to the TL interference. in the same way, Modern Sanders Arabic does not need a preposition in such context. Therefore, the learner of this sentence overgeneralised the use of the preposition ‘of’ in position where it is not nedded.

Addition of ‘for’

I spent about three hour for studying…….

Addition of ‘to’

I pray everyday to arrive my passport.

I met to Staphany at that time.

We went to shopping.

Errors of omission

Analysis of the data revealed that there are …… prepositions were omitted from places where they were needed. Also, analysis of data revealed examples of omission of preposition which seemed to be caused by both, the student mother tongue and the influence of the target language itself. Here are some examples:

Omission of (of)

The following are illustrative examples:

It was my first time to ride^ a train.

I went to Manchester Metropolitan University, because^ registration.

Omission of (for)

When I came back to my flat with my family^ about one hour.

^the first three weeks, I visited my friend in Manchester.

I visited hotel in London ^3 days.

Omission of (on)

The following are illustrative examples:

I got her my passport^ Wednesday.

^the first day in the school language.

Omission of (in)

The following are illustrative examples:

^ the second week, …

When I arrived ^Manchester,…..

(1) Based on the finding of the analysis, it shows that the students made a total of 235 errors which consists of 153 or 65 % errors in using verb forms, 3 or 1.3 % errors in agreement between subject and verb, 10 or 4.3 % errors in the use of article, 30 or 12.8 % errors in the use of preposition, 12 or 5.1 % errors in pluralization, 23 or 9.8 % errors in the use of pronoun, and 4 or 1.7 % errors in the use of conjunction.

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(2) According to the findings, it can be concluded that the students have not mastered the use of verb groups. We can see it from the number of the errors made. Although they had been taught about it before, they were still confused which one to use when making a grammatical sentence. It could be because in bahasa Indonesia we do not have the verb conjugations. We do not have time signaling in expressing ideas. They are unfamiliar to this form and because English is still foreign for them. And those are the possible causes of their errors.

The students were still confused in making the agreement between subject and verb. It could be because in bahasa Indonesia there is no agreement between subject and verb. The students were still confused in differentiating whether to use the definite or indefinite articles. It could be because in Indonesian language grammar there is no definite article used. The students still confused in deciding preposition which preposition should be used, whether to use in, on, or at. The students overgeneralized the pluralizing of nouns. They just added the -s/ -es without considering that there are some irregular forms of nouns pluralization. The students still confused in deciding which pronoun should be used to substitute nouns, whether it is personal, relative, possessive, or demonstrative pronouns. The students applied rules in forming past time verb to conjunctions. From the explanations above, I can conclude that the students still confused in dealing with English grammar systems.

Pedagogical implication:


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