Error Analysis___ A Practical Perspective by Olatuja Oloyede

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Error analysis is a posteriori evaluation of the errors that are noticed in the process of language learning and language use. Error analysis in Second Language Learning (SLA) was established in 1960s by Stephen Pit Corder and colleagues mainly because of the deficiencies encountered in Contrastive Analysis.

Contrastive analysis being a systematic study of a pair of languages with the view of identifying their structural differences and similarities evaluates errors in language learning and language usage as primarily caused by interferences. Robert Lado posits in his book, Linguistics Across Culture (1957) that:
“Those elements which are similar to (the learner’s) native language will be simple for him, and those elements that are different will be difficult”

Lado’s position is that the efficiency and efficacy of a learner to use or learn a language is characterized by positive interferences and negative interferences. Nevertheless, critics of this approach in the 1960s have pointed out that errors encountered by language users are beyond mere interferences. Some possible reasons advanced are interlanguage, fossilization, modality, incompetence, etc.

However, error analysis which was given impetus to by Stephen Pit Corder became an alternative to Contrastive Analysis. The objective of this approach is to distinguish between errors which are systematic, and mistakes which are not. By developing a typology of errors, some basic types have been advanced, such as, omissive, additive, substitutive, or related word order. We also have overt errors and covert errors evident only in context. This typology is however, characterized by methodological problems due to the complexities of errors made by Second Language users.

Therefore, for the purpose of clarity in this project, errors are classified according to:
Modality (that is (i.e.) level of proficiency in speaking, writing and reading)
Linguistic level (i.e. errors on pronunciation, grammar/syntax, vocabulary, and style)
Form (i.e. omission, insertion, substitution)
Cause (i.e. interferences, interlanguage)

Nevertheless, error analysis, as we have hinted earlier, is only capable of dealing with the learner’s production (speaking and writing) and not with the learner’s reception (listening and reading). Overtly, errors encountered by Nigerian students who use the English Language as their second language is often times characterized by interferences, linguistics deficiencies, code-mixing and code-switching.

Unequivocally, we do not claim to proffer an automatic remedial solution to the poor linguistic states of our academic institutions, but we are of the opinion that students especially those in the Humanities to work consciously and assiduously on the enrichment of their speech repertoire and knowledge of syntactic rules.

Through interviews, audio recordings of discussions and conversational observations of students in Adekunle Ajasin University, we are able to gather some basic facts concerning the proficiency and deficiency of students of higher institutions who use the English language as a second language. The steps we employ in carrying out this research work are:
Collecting samples of learner language
Identifying the errors
Classifying and describing the errors
Explaining the errors
Evaluating and correcting the errors

An Interview with Owaduje Fisayo, an 100level student of the Department of Biochemistry.
Interviewer: Can we meet you sir?
Fisayo: My name is Owaduje Fisayo. My department is Biochemistry. I’m an hundred level student.
Interviewer: Can you share with us some of your experiences so far in school?
Fisayo: To me Adekunle Ajasin is hell. That’s just it. Like summary. What I have experience, I can’t say it out, but I know is hell. Everything in Adekunle Ajasin, you have to like queue for everything, to buy food, to go to class, to do everything, to go to bank, everything sha.
Interviewer: How has been your academic and social experience so far?
Fisayo: Ya, as in the academic stuff, I think it has been like fun. As in, they have like the teaching standard that we need. As in, it is very normal. Ya.
Interviewer: As a hundred level student, we believe you have some goals you want to achieve at the end of your stay here. What are those goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Fisayo: Actually for me I just want to be successful in everything. As in anyway. Anything life bring to me. I might not eat with this academic stuff. My aim is just to be successful.
Interviewer: What’s your definition of success?
Fisayo: Ah! Definition for success as in like, my own definition of success is to have this thing ( gestures by tapping his hands together to lay emphasis) is to have what we call money and peace of mind. Actually, I have learnt some entrepreneurship stuff like tailoring, like I have an alternative to biochemistry. I know in any one I follow, I know I will be successful.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time sir.

Interviewer: Can we meet you sir?
My name is Wamitula Daniel
Interviewer: Can you share with us some of your experiences so far in school?
Daniel: As in it is like stressful, as in like signing, moving from one place to another. And if you go to those lecturer office, they will like send you away, like shout on you like that and if you are going to bank, you want to collect money, as in like you queue. As in you stay there from morning till even if ATM… if you want to everything is just stressful.
Interviewer: How has been your academic and social experience so far?
Daniel: is good but is like, as in my own opinion, they are like slow sha. As in like, their programmes sometimes, as in if we want to have practicals, they will like suspend it to the next week. Like prosponing some like practicals, they prospone it.
Interviewer: As an hundred level student, we believe you have some goals you want to achieve at the end of your stay here. What are those goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Daniel: My aim is like I don’t want to like sleep off, as in like I want just a normal grade like 2nd class upper or 1st class. Through hard work and endurance. As in like endure the circumstances of the place. What I know is that if I’m hard work and I am like, if I can endure, just endure it in this place and read my book, I know I will make it.

Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time sir.

Identified Errors in the Conversation
Overtly, the transcripts above have provided us with copious examples of the ungrammaticality (ranging from negative transference of elements from 1st language to obvious phonological and syntactical errors) which characterizes the speech acts of students in Nigerian higher institutions. Therefore, extracting some basic linguistic errors from the above interviews, we shall attempt classifying the errors into linguistic levels (i.e. phonological errors, and syntactical/grammatical errors) as well as identifying individual idiolects which to a great extent seems to have affected the speech behaviour of inferably most of the Nigerian students. Other errors to be classified include interferences and mannerism/style.

Phonological Errors
Phonology according to George Yule is essentially the description of the system and patterns of speech sounds in a language (1985: 54). Certainly, it is no gainsaying that the linguistic capacity of an average Nigerian student is relatively low compared to the Received Pronunciation accent of London. In fact, scholars like professor Adegbite have vehemently established that there is no Nigerian who uses the English language phonologically like the native speakers. However, literary prowess may be attained in terms of literature and expression but all Nigerians speakers of the English language uses what is technically known as the Nigerian English. From the foregoing, we can inferably state that the above interviews are full of interferences from the native languages of the speakers. Nevertheless, below are some of the noticeable errors encountered in the speech behaviour for Nigerian students in Adekunle Ajasin University.

Syntactic/Grammatical Errors
Syntax in the original Greek concept means “a setting out together” or “arrangement”. Therefore, in the linguistic concept, syntax deals with the structuring and ordering of component within a sentence. Every language has its own syntactical rule peculiar to it which may not be operational in other language. Nigerians students especially in Adekunle Ajasin seem to be ignorant of so many of these grammatical rules that are peculiar to the English language. Words ordering are characterized by interferences and idiolects. Some of these errors are listed below.
“ if I’m hard work” instead of “if I’m hardworking”
“they will like send you away, like shout on you like that and if you are going to bank, you want to collect money, as in like you queue. As in you stay there from morning till even if ATM… if you want to everything is just stressful.” Instead of “they will send you out, or shout at you. Even if you are going to bank to collect money, you will have to stay on the queue.”

Other once include:
“I am going for night vigil” instead of “I am going vigil”
“fetch my water back” instead of “refill my bucket ”
“I was cracking my brain” instead of “I’m racking my brain”
“me and oloyede” instead of “Oloyede and I”
Semantic Errors
George Yule defines semantics as the conversational meaning conveyed by the use of words and sentences of a language. (1985: 114). The speech behaviour of many Nigerian students is flavoured by the linguistic elements of their indigenous languages. Some of this overt errors are:
I might not eat with this academic stuff instead of “I might earn a living using my academic qualificaltion”
I am coming used mainly in a conversational context when the speaker means “I am going”
they prospone it instead of saying “they will postpone it.”

Possible Cause of these Errors
Without further ado, the overt reason that can possibly account for these errors is interference. Interference is therefore, the transference of the linguistic elements of the first language into the second language. This problem is generally encountered by the second language learner and user of the English language. More so, most of these errors (phonological, syntactical and semantically errors) are traceable to their competence in their second language.
We have established in this paper that the speech behaviour in Nigerian university especially in Adekunle Ajasin University as regard the English Language is relatively low in terms of proficiency, fluency and efficiently. Having identified some of these errors, evaluated them and also corrected them, we can therefore assert unequivocally, that these errors can be reduced drastically if Nigerian students especially those in the Humanities will consciously and deliberately learn and improve their efficient use of the English language.

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