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Teachers and Chinese students often interact through inter language studies when teaching or learning a second language. Errors usually occur out of the approximation of learning the target language because of a lack of proficiency, overgeneralization of rules and an influence of the first language. Error analysis in inter language studies is therefore based on the learner's experience with a teacher when learning a target language and can fossilize at any learning stage (Trosborg, 1995).
Error analysis in inter language studies can be based on the transfer from the first language to the second, training differences, strategies adopted in learning the target language (like oversimplification), strategies used in communicating using the target language (such as circumlocution) and excessive generalization of the target language structures. In enhancing awareness of errors in inter language dynamics, teachers emphasize on the utterances made by the learner in conveyance of the same message if it were made in the native language and target language (Janicki, 1985). This study will analyze existing errors in inter language studies among Chinese EFL learners and the influence of teacher correction in being aware of these errors.
Error analysis in inter language dynamics among Chinese EFL learners seeks to understand inter language dynamics in its own unique identity as a first language; equipped with its own distinct rules. In other words, it is a vibrant microcosm of linguistic studies which includes the underlying baseline techniques of the learners' utterances, vocabulary, grammar and the norms associated with the use of the target language (Janicki, 1985). Inter language analysis is an emerging trend adopted by Chinese EFL learners learning a second language and is characterized with numerous types of errors that vary across the spectrum. Most of these errors are however corrected by their teachers. They include oversimplification, avoidance, grammatical, overgeneralization, negative transfer and overuse errors. Teachers can effectively increase the awareness of students with regard to the above common errors when they educate the learners of the existing errors. These errors are discussed below:
Chinese EFL learners in inter language studies are often victims of falling back into native languages when studying new languages. In other words, some learners make the mistake of using their native language as a resource in learning a second language. This especially influences the way they pronounce words in the target language. There is however existing contention on whether language transfer should be looked upon as a common mistake but there is evidence enough to depict a trend whereby Chinese learners often fall back to their mother tongues especially in the first stages on inter language studies. Teachers have however advanced the fact that this is a necessary stage which learners have to pass through before correctly understanding the dynamics of the first language (Janicki, 1985, p. 35).
Overgeneralization is a common error that normally occurs when a Chinese learner makes reference to the target language in a situation where a native speaker wouldn't. This error often occurs when a learner assumes the use of the target language as appropriate, while in real sense, it fails to conceptualize the meaning. Often, this error is coupled with a lack of proper practice of the target language. This error occurs at many levels.
The first level of the overgeneralization error occurs at the phonetic level which can be depicted when learners of English, after learning the English 'r' proceed to wrongly include it at the end of each word in a situation where it wouldn't be included in the pronunciation, RP. In other words, a voiceless sound may be placed by a sound that should be voiced; for instance, "pig" may be pronounced as "big" or a "car" may be pronounced as a "gar". Phonological errors may also occur when two or more consonants occur in a long sequence; for example, a "spider may be pronounced as a "pider". This error also occurs when a cluster reduction part of the cluster is omitted; for instance an "ant may be pronounced an "at" (Bowen, 1999).
Chinese EFL learners often become victims to overgeneralization errors at the grammatical level where learners are more inclined to use the present tense when it is inappropriate. This is also observed at the early stages of inter language studies. This error may also be characterized by extensive inappropriate use of 'be-ing' in sentences that incorporate verbs. This error is usually associated with a glaring marker of the Chinese language influence or the improper understanding of the target language. Some of the most common mistakes associated with this error include He "come" to school late and He "set" at the front seat (Essortment, 2010).
Errors of overgeneralization may also occur at the lexical level. Through this error, learners tend to stretch terms to negate the wrong meaning. For instance, a "goose" may be wrongly replaced with the word "chicken"; or a "spade" may be referred to as a "big spoon". Sometimes some sentences structures made by Chinese learners are often rigid. For instance, learners often say "on another hand" instead of "on the other hand" which negates wrong use of English target language. Overgeneralization errors may also occur at levels of discourse where lexical terms and expressions are often used in incorrect social contexts (Mason, 2010).
Chinese EFL learners fall victims to oversimplification errors at both syntactic and semantic levels. In this type of error, learners use speech notations which often resemble that of little children or even pidgins. This occurs because of the inability of such learners to produce the target speech forms or due to the fact that learners are uncertain of the correct form of speech. This error may be overly used to the extent that it misrepresents the meaning.
Many examples of oversimplification errors have been noted among learners; for example "Violence rates have gone up in public schools and academic performance has gone down since the advent of free primary school education". This sentence obviously has traces of oversimplification errors because it is under the assumption that the two factors in the above sentence (violence rates and academic performance) can all be attributed to one cause. This statement is obviously incorrect because a myriad of other factors in the society obviously contribute to the high violence rates and the low level of academic performance. This sentence therefore assumes that other social, political and economic factors are constant. Teachers often correct Chinese learners by seeking an alternative method of revealing the error in the above sentence by rewording it.
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Another similar example can be depicted by the following sentence: "The country's current poor moral standards can be attributed to Bill Clinton's low moral examples when he was in office". Presumably, depending on one's Chinese language, some learners would concur with the above sentence, though it is obviously wrong. However, very few people who wouldn't agree with the earlier example would agree with the second; even though they posses some similarities in oversimplification. This type of error is often referred to as Post Hoc fallacy (Bowen, 1999). In the real sense, many events across the society or even the globe have intersecting and ripple effects on other sectors of the society. More often than not, such complexities are difficult to understand and may lead to incorrect conclusions. However, quite unfortunately, many Chinese learners across various language contexts often simplify these factors. In rare occasions, or in some Chinese languages, this simplification may not be wrong but it is undoubtedly disastrous. Interestingly, the field of politics contains a lot of oversimplification (Cline, 2010).
In the past, most errors made by Chinese EFL learners were often attributed to the transfer from the native language to the target language. However, upon the conclusion of morpheme studies, it is unclear where errors come from (Mason, 2010). Nonetheless it is hard to establish whether errors originate from the native language or not. Some teachers have however advanced the reason that these errors often occur due to interference errors (Mason, 2010). In fact, it is difficult to conclude that a given error has occurred in such as sentence.
In some scenarios it is difficult for a teacher to establish whether an error has occurred or not. For example from the question "I 'look' for Lydia, you 'see' her?" and the response "Of course, I see her an hour ago"; a Chinese learner may interpret it as "I'm looking for Lydia. You have seen her?" and "Of course. I have seen her an hour ago". In essence, the right thing has been done but for the wrong reasons.
It is therefore correct to conclude that if Chinese learners make errors in inter language studies and upon investigation, these errors are traced back to their native language influence, such errors are interference errors (Mason, 2010). This conclusion is especially undisputed in the phonology level. There are also obvious differences in pronunciation of different languages from different Chinese dialects. For example, it would be easy to distinguish German, American and Japanese learners. However, even in light of these differences, there appears to be rules that are exclusive to the target language. For instance, the progress to the acquisition of "th' in the target language; which in is in turn related to the patterns of the target language; similar to a child learning his/her native language.
Some Chinese learners often have the tendency of avoiding to use certain language components whenever the structures of the target language are different from the native language. Teachers have often observed that Chinese and Japanese learners of English as a target language often make fewer mistakes as compared to Persian or Arabian learners. This does not however come about out because of an improvement in proficiency level but out of avoidance, because the Chinese and Japanese learners use English less often. Persian and Arabian dialects have also been observed to be similar to the English language whereas the two oriental languages have clauses that are nothing close to the English language.
However, the use of avoidance can never be easily detected by teachers. It is only easy to detect avoidance error when one understands the language structure; whereby the learner should have incorporated the full structure or a native speaker could have used the full language structure. Avoidance can occur at various levels. First, the learner can be anxious or aware of the correct form of a sentence structure and have a rough idea of what the comprehensive wordings may be. In such a case, a lack of surety may cause the learner to avoid using unsure clauses so as not to distort the language meaning. However, the rough idea of how the language should have been, may petition some learners to incorporate the full language structure, which may either come out well or totally misrepresent the meaning.
In other instances, Chinese learners may find it necessary to avoid certain clauses despite understanding the correct sentence structure. This may happen when such learners contemplate that it would be complex using the various clauses. Sometimes, the learner may also understand the use of comprehensive clauses but still prefer to avoid it because it breaks a personal rule or principle. For instance, the use of the prefix "tu' may be preferred by the Chinese culture which values formalities.
Overuse as an error among Chinese EFL students can be assumed to be a concomitant of avoidance. Chinese learners often have the tendency of using language clauses that they are versant with instead of using clauses they aren't familiar with. This may also be a reflection of Chinese native language or culture interference. As an attestation to this trend, Chinese students who have been to Europe in pursuance of learning the English language have been observed to use direct apology expressions than native English speakers would.
Implications for Teaching
The implications of errors analysis on inter language study can be contained through adopting different teaching methods. However, different instructors have different methods of teaching with significant variations from one teacher to another. Research studies evaluating different teaching methods have reported that teaching methods are largely inconsistent with one another. The treatment of various errors has also been largely different with errors of discourse, content and lexical errors being emphasized more than phonological and errors of grammatical composition (Mason, 2010). In addition, there has also been a variation in the way native teachers handle these errors as compared to non-native teachers. Some errors are also being ignored by teachers because of their frequency while some are not being addressed at all (Mason, 2010).
In most modern settings, errors should be self-repaired, in that, the Chinese learners should be able to identify and correct them. Nevertheless, in a more confined setting, such as a classroom, the teacher or instructor should be able to identify and initiate correction of errors. This should especially be done in the initial stages of language orientation (Janicki, 1985). Error correcting has however been established to be an ineffective measure because students are noted to make the same errors repeatedly even after being corrected.
Through the analysis of ineffective error rectification, certain recommendations need to be made to instructors. Firstly, teachers should respect the errors learners make because they are part of the learning process (Nehls, 2008, p. 45). Secondly, teachers should be selective in the treatment of errors which means that they should only treat errors that students can correct. Thirdly, self correction should be highly emphasized as well as avoidance strategies.
Error analysis is an important aspect in inter language studies especially for many Chinese students wanting to learn the English dialect. The various types of errors are part of the learning process, though Chinese learners should be sensitized on errors they should avoid. Most errors are attributed to a lack of proficiency of the target language though others occur out of the reliance on native Chinese languages. The bulk of the responsibility lies on both the learners and the teachers. An emphasis should therefore be made on sensitizing learners to adopt avoidance strategies that would help in preventing the occurrence of these errors. Teachers should also be at the forefront in initiating efforts that avoid the occurrence of common errors. They should however be unbiased. The kind of errors existing in inter language studies are therefore varied and through their understanding, teachers can make Chinese learners aware of the occurrence so that they can be able to effectively deal with them for correct language proficiency.