Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cambridge #5teachingchallenges: Find new ways to identify, analyse and correct your learners’ mistakes (Week 1)

First, teachers were asked to reflect on these questions:

• What types of errors do learners make?
• Why do learners make errors?

Apart from the answer given in the video included in the challenge material, I would also add mistakes concerning the production of longer written speech; in other words, paragraph and text structure (i.e. topic sentences, details, correct handling of the introduction-main body-conclusion pattern), but in this video emphasis mostly lies on individual words/ phrases/ collocations.

As every teacher would put it simply, the factors leading to student errors vary from lack of knowledge or attention to tiredness and confusion. The diagram presented in the video, though, gives a more comprehensive picture.

According to the above, an error is due to lack of knowledge, since the language level required for the production of this specific item has not been reached yet, whereas a slip refers to students' inattentiveness or tiredness when producing the language, even though they do possess the knowledge required.

I especially noticed the 'false friends' category when it comes to interference errors. This is true for Greek speakers of the English language. For instance, 'sympathy' (συμπάθεια) in Greek refers to a feeling of liking another person, whereas in English it is connected with a feeling of compassion and understanding. Therefore, as a learner's interlanguage evolves, this type of errors begin to diminish and finally resemble a competent native speaker's production of written and oral speech.

Teachers should also be aware of anticipated difficulties and be ready to face them. When Greek students, for example, encounter the Present Perfect, then they are highly likely to confuse it with the equivalent tense in Greek, which does not exactly cover all the range of uses the English tense has. So the source of error in this case is the interference of L1 and, more specifically,  the omission of features not present in the mother tongue.

A similar issue arises when Greek words which have been assimilated in the English language are not pronounced the same anymore. So 'chaos' in Greek is uttered 'haos whereas in English 'key-os (see The anticipated difficulty here is, once again, the confusion caused by the original pronunciation of the word in L1, so the interference has to do with a pronunciation pattern that does not correspond to both languages, although the learners expect it to, based on the origin of the word.

More posts on error correction are coming soon, also including an analysis of some of my students' mistakes. Stay tuned and dare to pick your own teaching challenge!

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