Overview on Error Analysis
What is an error?
An error is a learner language form that deviates from, or violates, a target language rule.
Remember that accuracy is just one of three ways of describing learner language (accuracy, complexity and fluency). Accuracy occurs when learner language conforms to the rules of the target language; error occurs when it does not. Those rules may be at different levels: pronunciation, morphology, syntax, lexicon, discourse, or sociolinguistics.
What is error analysis?
Error analysis is a method used to document the systematic errors that appear in learner language. Language teachers who listen to the speech of their students probably notice the errors first. But the truth is that everyone makes errors in speaking, even native speakers and language teachers. For example, most native speakers don’t always follow the rules in the grammar books we use to teach learners. Those ‘book’ rules may be used only in formal contexts but not in informal discourse, or they may not fit speakers from all geographic regions where the language is spoken.
While native speakers make unsystematic ‘performance’ errors (like slips of the tongue) from time to time, or shift from formal to informal grammatical patterns in informal contexts, second language learners make errors that no native speaker ever makes, errors that are systematic violations of the linguistic patterns to which they have been exposed. An error analysis – and teacher corrections – should ignore unsystematic performance slips (mistakes) and focus on errors, which are systematic violations of the rules to which the learners have been exposed; these tell us something about the learner’s current knowledge of the rules of the language being learned. (Corder, 1981, p.10).
How teachers can do an error analysis
When we listen casually to learner speech, we tend to notice some errors more than others. Some errors are salient to native speakers, while others, even though...