European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8, Number 3 (2009) 483

Error Analysis of the Written English Essays of Secondary School Students in Malaysia: A Case Study
Saadiyah Darus E-mail: adi@ukm.my Tel: +603-89216570; Fax: +603-89254577 Kaladevi Subramaniam School of Language Studies and Linguistics Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi Selangor Malaysia Abstract This study examines errors in a corpus of 72 essays written by 72 participants. The participants are Form Four Malay students who are studying at a secondary school inMalaysia; 37 male and 35 female. They have experienced approximately the same number of years of education through primary and secondary education in Malaysia. All of the participants come from non-English speaking background and hardly communicate in English outside the school. The instrument used for this study was participants‟ written essays and Markin software. All of the errors in the essays were identified and classified into various categorizations. The results of the study show that six most common errors committed by the participants were singular/plural form, verb tense, word choice, preposition, subject-verb agreement and word order. These aspects of writing in English pose the most difficult problems to participants. This study has shed light on the manner in which students internalize the rules of the target language, which is English. Such an insight into language learning problems is useful to teachers because it provides information on common trouble-spots in language learning which can be used in the preparation of effective teaching materials. Keywords: Error analysis, essays in English, grammatical errors.

1. Introduction
Learning a Second Language (L2) is a lifelong process and it is often a challenging experience for L2learners. English has become the L2 after it was introduced to Malaysia during colonization. Presently, it is an international language and is used as the language in international relations, and in exchanging knowledge and technology. It was only since a few decades ago that it was taught to almost all school children. In general, local Malaysian students have been exposed to eleven years of learning English in primary and secondary schools. A Brief Historical Account of English in Malaysia According to Solomon (1988), English has had a comparatively long history in Malaysia. Since attaining independence in 1957, Malaysia has gone through vast changes in various fields. Not the least of this is development of educational facilities from primary school up to tertiary level. Together with the physical facilities major changes were also implemented in policies related to educational syllabus,and the medium of instruction; that is, the languages used in imparting the knowledge.

those subjects taught at schools that could adopt the . the schools were also geographically distinct. each individual school is mainly seen as operating through one medium. These Malay-. Mandarin. the colonial power tolerated an ethnically inspired and financed vernacular education for the Chinese. there have been no mixed-medium schools. it was necessary for the changeover to Malay to be implemented in an orderly fashion so as to avoid disruption and a drop in standards. which the Malays. Education in Malaysia During Post-Independence As English was the established language of administration in 1957 and the language of education for urban children. English education based on the principle of user fees for the immigrants and the Malay masses. Therefore. As the ethnic groups are geographically distinct. and an employer-initiated Tamil vernacular primary education for the Indians. being Muslims.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. In other words. Therefore. particular schools are labeled as Malay. The government did not rush the change. According to Santhiram (1999) schools in the past were set up along ethnic lines and conducted in different languages.or Chinese. According to Asmah (1982:89) it took 26 years (1957-1983) to implement the National Language and National Educational Policies for the primary and secondary level of education. primary schools were available in four mediums. it is the English-medium schools which had more of an inter-racial character. However there are Indians and Eurasians too. and the pupils were mainly ethnic Chinese. ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian pupils respectively.and Tamil-medium schools catered almost exclusively to ethnic Malay. and tertiary education was through English. Nonetheless. „National schools‟ used Malay language as the medium. It is obvious that Malaysian education system practices monolingual school where other languages may be taught as subjects. English medium schools were mainly found in urban areas. In 1967 Malay was declared the sole national language compared to English that had been another official language prior to this. There were not many ethnic Malays in English schools because of the schools‟ urban location and also because many of them were Christian missionary schools. For the immigrant populations. a divide-and-rule system inherited from the colonial era (Solomon.” (Santhiram 1999:35) Education in Malaysia During Pre-Independence Immediately prior to independence in 1957. Mandarin Chinese or Tamil as their mediums. although education through different languages is widely accepted in Malaysia.or Tamil-medium schools and since 1976. but free for a select nobility and royalty exemplify the classic ingredients of a divide and rule policy. whereas „National-type schools‟ employed English. Secondary education was mainly through English or Malay. were suspicious of. the situation immediately after independence remained largely the same. He states that: “The British superimposed a vernacular primary terminal education in Malay for the indigenous Malay masses within the Islamic traditions as a form of social control over the Malays. Number 3 (2009) 484 Education in Malaysia has been multilingual and Malaysia has continued to practice linguistic segregation as far as individual schools are concerned. 1988). Initially.

Tun Datuk Seri Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government was willing to re-introduce English-medium education „if the people [wanted] it. for a short period of time during this transitional phase some schools ran the same course in science subjects in two streams. Number 3 (2009) 485 Malay language as a medium of instruction without difficulty were the first affected by the conversion process (Asmah 1982:15). art and craft. Tertiary institutions also became Malay-medium. The Education Act was extended to Sarawak in 1977 and the change of the medium of instruction to Malay throughout the entire school system was completed in Sabah and Sarawak three years later that was by 1985. i. The reasons given for the maintenance of English was "to keep abreast of scientific and technological developments in the world and to participate meaningfully in international trade and commerce. Malay and English. English-medium schools would be phased out in Malaysia and by 1985 all former English-medium („national-type‟) schools would become Malaymedium („national‟) schools."(Government of Malaysia 1976: 391) By 1976. However. Changes in the Malaysian Education System There was a major change in the education system when on 6th May 2002. all English medium primary schools were completely converted into schools where Malay was used as the medium of instruction and by 1982 all the former English medium secondary schools were converted to National Schools in Peninsular Malaysia. In fact. Malay for history and geography. Dato Haji Abdul Rahman Ya‟akub.‟ The survey carried out by the New Straits Times Press in May 2002 revealed that most of the people want him to re-introduce the English medium education again. The severe race riots in Kuala Lumpur in May 1969 had caused a drastic change in this education system. the first year of schooling. it was noted that . 2 and 3. declared in July 1969 that beginning from January 1970. local studies and music in Malay in Standards 1.e. In fact as of 2002/3 academic session a policy decision was made to use English and not Malay as a medium of instruction in Mathematics and Science classes in Standard One. Pupils in the transitional period might have a mixed medium education: English for science and mathematics. The Third Malaysia Plan (1976-80) states that "Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) is the basis for national integration" but the plan also states quite emphatically that "measures will be taken to ensure that English is taught as a strong second language (Government of Malaysia 1976:386).European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. Mandarin Chinese-medium and Tamil-medium („national-type‟) primary schools use their respective language as the medium-of-instruction. namely. English continues to be taught as an important L2 in all schools where Malay is the medium of instruction. Malay was made the medium of instruction but English was not ignored. More of the Arts subjects were taught in Malay before the shift to Malay occurred for the Science subjects. The Minister of Education at that time. all English medium primary schools were required to teach physical education. From January 1968. the Prime Minister then. In all such schools.

Tun Datuk Seri Dr. However. it is a compulsory L2 in such schools. the former Malaysian Prime Minister. 2001). David and Nambiar. 2007). the then Education Minister Musa Mohamad confirmed that a bilingual system would be set up with English used for teaching science and mathematics. As for English. Language teaching in this country is currently focusing on the teaching and learning of the four language skills. which are conducted daily. namely listening. English lessons. especially those from the rural areas. slightly more than half a million attend 3. Malaysian students from different background in life have different levels of knowledge and proficiency in the English Language.364 national primary schools. learners have to be adequately exposed to all of the four basic skills. Statement of the Problem English occupies the status of a L2 in the Malaysian education system in both primary and secondary schools. Beginning from January 2003. mainly Malays. Debate on the New Straits Times Online Surfers‟ Survey in May 2002 still favors the return of English-medium schools although the proposal has since been ruled out by the government. According to Brown (2000). he announced details of the implementation of the new system in national schools: a phase in bilingual system. learning English as a L2 is not an easy task. Musa Mohamad declared that a MalayEnglish mixed-medium education would be implemented in national schools. Currently more than two million Malaysians attend 9.324 Chinese primary schools and more than 130. Malaysian students are still weak in English. This difference has caused a great divide among the majority ethnic group between the Malays from those who can use English fluently and those who are not able to do so.000 attend 945 Tamil primary schools (Educational Statistics. Number 3 (2009) 486 educationists. Studies on written works of Malaysian ESL learners have shown that their writings are full of . and currently there has been a great deal of debate about measures to improve their proficiency in English. The majority of Malaysian children attend national schools that use the national language which is Malay as the medium of instruction. This is due to the concerns about the falling standard of English among ethnic Malays who are largely monolingual. To minimize such divergences within this community. the standard of English among Malaysian children is on the decline despite learning English for several years. However. 2000). Mahathir Mohammad constantly stresses the importance of English to the nation. begin at Standard one at the age of seven. reading and writing. who were predominantly ethnic Malay. The earlier system has resulted in lack of competitiveness among the ethnic Malays and the unemployment rate. 2.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. speaking. They still seem to commit errors in all aspects of language. These rural students come from English as Foreign Language (FL) settings and start school with hardly any knowledge of English (David and Naji. Many urban children who use English as their First Language (L1) or dominant language at home were able to master the language well compared to the majority of children. On 11th May 2002. in order to master the English language. Such a divergence in language proficiency has disenfranchised those who come from rural settings (David and Naji. This has in turn caused a reemphasis on the learning of English especially for the rural students. politicians and a prominent unionist agreed that the move was feasible but would require much work. 2000. especially in their writing skills. On 21 July 2002.

some learners tend to re-emphasize its importance and in the process. Khan (2005) in a research carried out among 30 Form Five students found that most of the students are weak in grammar. In fact making mistakes is a natural process of learning and must be considered as part of cognition. during which mistakes are to be expected in all stages of learning. “all language learning is based on continual exposure. By investigating students‟ written work. In addition. Teachers who can analyze and treat errors effectively are better equipped to help their students become more aware of their errors. rekindling interest in the area of learner errors can be considered a timely move. According to James (1988) errors in writing such as tenses. confusing use of structural verbs. Vahdatinejad (2008) found that students committed errors in tenses. they make many more errors. The use of Error Analysis (EA) and appropriate corrective techniques can aid effective learning and teaching of English. Such errors can be seen clearly in the learners‟ written performance (Nik Safiah 1978). Since grammar is seen only as a means to an end. 2002). Thus. articles and the use of correct tense. Azimah (1998) who carried out an error analyses on 30 Form One students found that they committed a lot of errors in tenses and prepositions other than subject-verb agreement. concord and tenses. It is understood that learning a FL is a gradual process. Therefore. Lim Ho Peng (1976) stated that there are several general types of recurrent errors in learners such as spelling mistakes. which is to investigate the types of errors made by Form Four students in their written work. the use of preposition. The problems that the students are bound to encounter would be weak vocabulary. Similar to Lim Ho Peng (1976). Mistakes will not disappear simply because they have been pointed out to the learner. Objective of the Study This lends to the objective of the study. EA is the best tool for describing and explaining errors made by speakers of other languages. errors must be viewed positively. wrong use of prepositions. As a result. The learners usually face difficulties in learning the grammatical aspects of the Target Language (TL). such as in subject-verb agreement. contrary to what some language learners and teachers believe (Ferris. hypothesizing and. Number 3 (2009) 487 mistakes. testing and reinforcing the ideas behind them” (Bartholomae. even with the correct hypothesis. The study sought to answer the following research question: What are the six most common errors that students make in their essays? . inappropriate use of grammar in sentences etc. Teachers have to recognize that “learning ability varies from person to person”. prepositions and weak vocabulary are the most common and frequent type of errors that are committed by learners.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. word choices and prepositions. 1980: 97). it will provide a means to help Malaysian teachers to recognize the importance of errors as one of the challenging areas in teaching English. 3.

Number 3 (2009) 488 4. since EA only investigates what learners do. C. Corder is the “father” of EA (the EA with the “new look”). Relevance of Error Analysis in Language Teaching Learning a FL is a step-by-step process. According to Ancker (2000). Errors used to be “flaws” that needed to be eradicated. Corder (1967) said that it is diagnostic because it can tell us the learner's grasp of a language at any given point during the learning process. Corder (1967) states that errors are visible proof that learning is taking place. In his 1971 book on Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition. if studied systematically. According to Corder (1967). The theoretical object is to understand what and how a learner learns when he studies an L2. he argues that many of the learners' errors happen due to the strategies that they . errors provide feedback. Error Analysis The field of EA in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) was established in the 1970s by Corder and colleagues. systematically analyzing errors made by language learners makes it possible to determine areas that need reinforcement in teaching. EA has two objects: one theoretical and another applied. Corder (1967) presented a completely different point of view. He has emphasized that errors. A widely-available survey can be found in chapter eight of Brown (2000). during which errors or mistakes are to be expected during this process of learning. and having a substantive nature in that it does not take into account avoidance strategy in SLA. refers to the systematic knowledge of an L2 which is independent on both the learner‟s L1 and the TL. the investigation of errors can serve two purposes. diagnostic (to in-point the problem) and prognostic (to make plans to solve a problem). they tell the teachers something about the effectiveness of his teaching. Richards. EA research has limitations of providing only a partial picture of learner language. EA emphasizes “the significance of errors in learners‟ interlanguages system” (Brown 1994: 204). A prominent researcher of EA is J. A key finding of EA has been that many learner errors were produced by learners misunderstanding the rules of the new language. The term interlanguages introduced by Selinker (1972). It was in his article entitled “The significance of learner errors” (1967) that EA took a new turn. In his opinion. and Corder (1967) as the Idiosyncratic Dialect or Transitional Competence. He also agrees that studying students‟ errors of usage has immediate practical application for language teachers. EA is a type of linguistic study that focuses on the errors learners make. It is also prognostic because it can tell the teacher to modify learning materials to meet the learners' problems.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. can provide significant insights into how a language is actually learned by a foreigner. making mistakes or errors is a natural process of learning and must be considered as part of cognition. The applied object is to enable the learner to learn more efficiently by using the knowledge of his dialect for pedagogical purposes. It consists of a comparison between the errors made in TL and within that TL itself. Nemser (1974: 55) referred to it as the Approximate System. In his view. He contended that those errors are “important in and of themselves”. This was pointed out by Brown (1994) and Ellis (1996). At the same time. Learners who avoided the sentence structures which they found difficult due to the differences between their native language and TL may be viewed to have no difficulty.

Sercombe (2000) explains that EA serves three purposes. Candling (2001:69) adds that the L2 learner‟s errors are potentially important for the understanding of the processes of SLA. Table 1: Distribution of Students by Forms and Ethnic Background (Source: Registration Record for 2008) Form Malays Chinese Indians Others Total (Gender) M F M F M F M F M F Remove class 0 0 76 43 26 13 0 0 102 56 Form 1 176 197 71 106 49 47 8 0 306 351 Form 2 189 189 105 99 47 43 5 10 349 344 Form 3 157 186 76 81 45 38 5 8 284 314 Form 4 131 146 71 82 35 18 4 2 242 280 Form 5 185 199 109 3 59 44 8 6 535 372 Total 798 867 488 490 244 183 302 26 1583 1740 . EA would allow teachers to figure out on what areas to be focused and what kind of attention is needed in an L2 classroom. Methodology Location The location of the study was a secondary school in a housing area in Semenyih town which is approximately 30 kilometers away from Seremban and 40 kilometers away from Kuala Lumpur. Olasehinde (2002) also argues that it is inevitable that learners make errors. Secondly. According to him.. The problem includes the reciprocal interference of the target language items. negative effect of their prior knowledge of their L1 on their absorption of L2. which is needed for errors. Firstly. to find out the level of language proficiency the learner has reached. to obtain information about common difficulties in language learning. Candling (2001) considers EA as “the monitoring and analysis of learner‟s language”. He also cited that errors are unavoidable and a necessary part of the learning curve. Weireesh (1991) also considers learners‟ errors to be of particular importance because the making of errors is a device the learners‟ use in order to learn. He refers to an error as a deviation.use in language acquisition. The distribution of students of the school by Form and ethnic background are shown in Table 1. They call for on the spot correction rather than remedial. The school runs in two teaching sessions. and can be corrected by themselves. He added that errors are essential condition of learning. Mitchell and Myles (2004) claims that errors if studied could reveal a developing system of the students L2 language and this system is dynamic and open to changes and resetting of parameters. especially their L2. He goes on to say that EA serves as a reliable feedback to design a remedial teaching method. namely the morning and afternoon session. lapses are produced even by native speakers. who also explained that the teachers need to view students‟ errors positively and should not regard them as the learners‟ failure to grasp the rules and structures but view the errors as process of learning. According to him. Vahdatinejad (2008) maintains that error analyses can be used to determine what a learner still needs to be taught. to find out how people learn a language. In this situation. He also makes distinction between errors and lapses (simple mistakes). He subscribes to the view that errors are normal and inevitable features of learning. and thirdly. It provides the necessary information about what is lacking in his or her competence. This view is supported by Stark (2001: 19) in his study.e. 5. EA is a valuable aid to identify and explain difficulties faced by learners. i.

There are about 3. Markin is a Windows 95/98/ME/NT4/2000/XP program developed by Martin Holmes in 1996. they are loaded into the program and marked using a system of buttons and annotations. consisting of 17 boys and 20 girls. there are a total of 37 participants. English was taught as an additional subject within the school curriculum. Procedure All of the 72 participants were administered a writing assignment that involved essay writing. All of the participants have experienced approximately the same number of 10 years of the education through the primary and secondary education system. After the participant‟s text was typed in electronic form. In class Form 4 Harmoni. After that.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. In class 4 Gigih. Number 3 (2009) 489 Participants 72 Form Four students participated in this study. the three steps of EA specified by Corder (1974) were followed: Collection of sample errors Identification of errors Description of errors Instruments The main source of data used to find answers to the research question is the written essays of 72 participants of the selected school. Background of Teachers and Students There are altogether 134 teachers in the school where 54 of them are teaching in the afternoon and 80 of them are teaching in the morning. . in which Malay was the medium of instruction. They were required to write a report entitled “Cleanliness of the school canteen” within a period of 60 minutes and a minimum of 200-250 words.000 students from Remove classes until Form Five. All 72 essays were typed using Microsoft Word 2003 so that they were computer readable. there are a total of 35 participants. Markin software was utilized to analyze the errors in the essays. This essay follows the English format of SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) Examination in which every student will have to take when they are in Form Five. Out of this. It is a guided writing. It was program for marking and annotating text documents using a Windows computer. there are 15 teachers who teach English. consisting of 20 boys and 15 girls. Error statistics are also automatically compiled and included at the end of the text. All of the respondents speak Malay at home except for one student who speaks English at home. The respondents are from Form 4 Gigih and Form 4 Harmoni classes comprising of 30 boys and 42 girls. In the report they were asked to include specific details in their responses. Three of them hold a Masters degree and 12 of them a degree in TESL (Teaching English as Second Language). All of them had their primary education in National schools.

The six most common errors and examples of errors from the corpus are shown in Table 3.5 1.of errors Percentage (%) Mean 1 Singular/Plural Form 412 13.93 8 Missing Space 178 5.72).08).99 7 Article 211 6. Verb Tense (4. followed by Word Choice (4. Missing Word (1.42 15 Redundancy 78 2. the results show that six most common errors that the participants made were in Singular/Plural Form (5. Next were Spelling (2. Singular/Plural 1.72).93) while Missing Space and Word Form were 2. plastic bagSing/Plu.00 5 Subject/Verb Agreement 217 7. Subject-Verb Agreement (3.47 and 2. Results Table 2 shows the analysis of errors based on type of error.51 4 Preposition 288 9.80). Table 2: Analysis of Errors Item Type of Error No.2 1.0 Taking the mean values of errors. tissue .08 11 Verb Form 145 4.3 1.08 Total 3090 100.08) and Verb Form (2. The next noticeable error was Article errors (2.5 2. Another problem is insufficient number of rubbish binSing/Plu around the canteen compound.79).36 10 Spelling 150 4.5 4.36 respectively.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8.00). Other errors that amounted to less than 2. Another problem is insufficient number of rubbish bins around the canteen compound. Table 3: Most Common Errors and Examples of Errors Definition and Error classification Identification of errors Correct sentences and explanation of rule 1.47 9 Word Form 170 5. Preposition (4.3 4.79 13 Wrong/Misused Word 124 4.3 5. 2.80 3 Word Choice 325 10. This is because the students always throw tissues. 1.0 3.8 2.8 2.99).2 4.00 were Capitalization (1.72 14 Missing word 102 3.01 12 Capitalization 129 4. Wrong/Misused Word (1.51). percentage and mean values of errors committed by the participants.42) and Redundancy (1.01 6 Word Order 215 7. number of errors.7 2.72 2 Verb Tense 346 11.01) and Word Order (2.0 2.0 1.9 2. Number 3 (2009) 490 6.01).

WChoice 2. it leads to many other problemSing/Plu 3. The members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain had a meeting. The members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain havingVTense a meeting 3.WChoice 3. 2. Word Choice 3. 1. So many dirty plates and glasses are serves tVTense 2. The food to cater toPreposition the students . the members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain conductVTense a meeting. b) Inappropriate verb construction 3.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. Verb Tense 'Owe' is a sativa verb and does not require the ing participle: 1.This is due to the irresponsible attitude of the canteen workers 1. 1. a) A mistake with the verb tense 3. So many dirty plates and glasses are given. Number 3 (2009) 491 wrapperSing/Plu and bottleSing/Plu in the drain. Verb Tense 1. The plates and glasses are very oily and dirty because not washed properly. They are owing VTense us a good service. So many dirty plates and glasses can be seeneverywhere atPreposition the school canteen 1. The plates and glasses are very oily and dirty because not washesVTense properly. This is because the students always throw tissues. 2. The workers should keep the canteen clean and healthy. Not washing and sweeping the floor everyday makes the floor dirty. This is due to the irresponsible attitude of the canteen staff. We. The members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain havingVTense a meeting 3. The workers should keep the canteen clean and safe. 2. Not washing and sweeping the flour Wchoice everyday makes the floor dirty 1. 3. tissue wrappers and bottles in the drain A mistake with number (singular and plural) 3. plastic bags. They owe us a good service 2. The members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain had a meeting 1. it leads to many other problems 2. We. So many dirty plates and glasses can be seeneverywhere aroundPreposition the school canteen 2. 2. the members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain conducted a meeting.

I don't know why we are facing these problems 2. The food to cater for recess are not enough 4.during recess are not enough 2. 2. i. The dirts always stick in the food that the students eat 4. 1. Another problem is dirty kitchen area 3. As the secretary ofPreposition the club I have been assigned to write report 5. The dirts always stick in the food that the students S/Vagreement are Eating. A large number of students is S/VAgreementsick. Preposition 3. We need to be careful because it dealingS/Vagreement with health. We don't know why are we WOrderfacing these problems. Although in the canteen. Dirty kitchen area is another problemWOrder 2. number of rubbish binsWOrder are not enough 3. 1. We need to be careful because it deals with health 3. Word Order Subject-verb inversion (why are we facing) in the interrogative but inversion ruled out in the form of statement (why we are): Disordering/Inversion of subject and verb 1. It causes fights because there are no chairs to sit. It causes fights because there are no chairs to sitsS/VAgreement 4. plural subject and requires plural verb 'are': Wrong combination of subject and verb 1. 3. 6. As the secretary atPreposition the club I have been assigned to write report 3. 'A large number of students are sick'.e. Although the number of rubbish bins in the canteen. WOrder are not enough . 2. Subject-Verb Agreement A large number' refers to more than one person.

they were not sure when they should apply the plural form. 1.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. 1. Number 3 (2009) 492 Most Common Errors Singular and Plural Form Some of the participants did not know that the plural form using the suffix „s‟ must be applied to the countable plural noun. Another participant uses the word „healthy‟ instead of „safe‟ in sentence no. While the third participant used the word „staff‟ instead of „workers‟ in sentence no. The plates and glasses are very oily and dirty because not washesVTense properly. Not washing and sweeping the flour WChoice everyday makes the floor dirty 2. We. 2.WChoice 3. One participant used the word „flour‟ instead of „floor‟ in sentence no. The use of some suffixes like „ing‟ and past tense forms showed that these participants are aware of the rules on different tenses application and they have already hypothesized that these verbs needed to be used with different tense forms and should not be used in the basic form. The benches and chairs for the students to sit isSing/Plu not enough Verb Tense Wrong application of verb tense can be seen when the participants did not apply the correct tense to the verb in the sentences. This information revealed that the different tenses rules application was not formed but they have already hypothesized that these tenses forms exists in English grammar. They eats and drinksSing/Plu and just leave on the table 3. One of the main problemsSing/Plu is the dirty plates and plastic glasses used 2. 1. 2. there is no plural marker for a noun. This is because some verbs written using different tenses forms are not written in the basic form of the verb. For example. the members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain conductVTense a meeting. 1. The workers should keep the canteen clean and healthy. This is due to the irresponsible attitude of the canteen staff. When the subject was in the singular form they applied the plural form to the noun as shown in the examples below: 1. the sentence „I waiting for my food‟ could be written in the basic form „I am waiting for my food‟. However.WChoic . The suffix „ing‟ applied is not relevant to the context given because the context required verb to be written in the past tense form instead. Examples of wrong application of verb tense are shown below. 3. they have already hypothesized that English nouns have plural and singular forms. 3. This shows that they acknowledged the „ing‟ form but they were not sure of the complete past continuous tense forms and application in the English sentence. However. A possible reason for the failure to construct plural noun forms probably because in Malay. It can be assumed that some of the participants are not aware of the different rules for tenses application. 3. for some participants. The members of the cleanliness club of SMK Engku Husain havingVTense a meeting Word Choice Participants lack appropriate vocabulary. 2.

Since the workers are not washing and sweeping properly the floor everyday the workers the dust and dirts will fly around and stick in the food that the student will eat. participants also have problems in forming simple or complex sentences. Secondly. the dirties on the kitchen area. Vague Correct sentence: Since the workers are not washing and sweeping the floor properly everyday. In sentence no. In sentence no. 1. we do not have the appetite to eat. The food to cater toPreposition the students during recess are not enough 3. The dirts always stick in the food that the students S/Vagreement are eating. many students fall sick. 2. 3. the participants demonstrate missing/wrong object. . missing subject.e. The word „sit‟ should be used rather than „sits‟ in sentence no. and missing verb in their essays. However. 2. the preposition „for‟ should have been used. one participant uses „is‟ instead as shown in sentence no. The school workers doesn't care weather the flies on the food that is going to affect the students Vague Correct sentence: Secondly.European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 8. 3. 1. 1 the correct preposition is „around‟ rather than „at‟. So many dirty plates and glasses can be seen everywhere atPreposition the school canteen 2. However. 2. 1. As a result. We need to be careful because it dealingS/Vagreement with health. 1. the kitchen area is very dirty and can affect the students‟ health but the workers don‟t care about the cleanliness. Number 3 (2009) 493 Preposition The participants demonstrated confusion for correct usage of preposition. A complete sentence should start with a subject and should be followed by a verb and an object or complete sentences. While the preposition „of‟ should have been used in sentence no. „eat‟ should be used rather than „are eating‟. 4. Vague Correct sentence: The plates are dirty and consequently. In sentence no. A large number of students is S/VAgreementsick. 4. 3. the dust and dirt fly around everywhere and stick onto the food that the student eats. The dirty plates are and we have no appetite to eat consequently. i. plural subject and requires plural verb „are‟. In sentence no. As the secretary atPreposition the club I have been assigned to write report Subject-Verb Agreement „A large number‟ refers to more than one person. It causes fights because there are no chairs to sitsS/VAgreement Sentence Construction Besides the above errors. 3. 2. Many feel themselves the students always feel sick. the correct word should be „deals‟.

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