Correcting Errors in the Communicative Speaking Class

Hairus Salikin
Abstrak Peranan pengoreksian dalam pengajaran Bahasa Inggris, terutama kelas ‘speaking’ menjadi perdebatan sejak lama, demikian juga cara pemberian umpan balik atau pengoreksian. Belum dapat diketahui dengan pasti metode yang efektif untuk pengoreksian kesalahan, sebab setiap pembelajar bahasa asing mempunyai kepekaan yang berbeda terhadap umpan balik yang diberikan. Namun demikian, masih dapat disajikan beberapa pandangan dan hasil penelitian para ahli di bidang linguistik yang dapat membantu para pengajar dalam memberikan umpan balik kepada pembelajar dalam kelas ‘speaking’. Tiga kategori cara pengoreksian yang dapat digunakan yaitu pengoreksian secara selektif, mengoreksi istilah yang propduktif, dan pengoreksian konstruktif. Kata-kata kunci: speaking errors, signs of learning, types of errors, errors correction, classroom atmosphere.

Introduction The role of correction in foreign language (FL) teaching has been an issue for quite some time and opinions vary as to whether correction is effective or not. That is why, it is necessary to know way of correcting errors. This project will discuss how to correct errors in the communicative speaking class. Although there has been a small number of research conducted on the reaction of students to the correction of their errors (Chenoweth et al, 1983), there is a great need to hear what the learners think of oral error correction. The teachers often correct the students without considering what the learners think of oral error correction. Jacobovits, as cited in Holey and Freday (1971), believes that students’ inability to speak the foreign language may be due to their teachers’ unreasonable high demands. The problems of how to handle errors have always perplexed foreign language teachers, and this situation becomes even more perplexing with the advent of Communicative Approach. Prior to this, during the Audiolingual, Structural and Behaviorist period, classroom drills were designed so that students would do their pattern drills without making mistakes. However the Communicative Approach sends a different message to the teachers; ‘Get your students to communicate at all costs’ (Mendelson, 1990). This means that teachers should be tolerant to their students errors. The central discussion of this paper is that how should teachers handle errors when they occur in speaking class. In the speaking class. teachers

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are faced with the dilemma of how to correct errors without causing the students become hesitant or nervous about talking. Problems in Defining Errors Defining errors in FL teaching is not a simple matter because it is probably not seen in the same way by different observers. Lennon (1991) points out that a universal and applicable definition of FL cannot be formulated since it could be defined according to situation, reference group, interlocutor, style and pronunciation pressure. However, working definition of error is needed as a reference point for this discussion. Allwright and Bailey (1991) point out that the teacher’s response to the student’s utterances could be considered the most important criterion for judging error in formal classroom instruction of FL teaching. From their perspective, it might be beneficial to define error as ‘ student’s utterances that need to be improved’. In addition, there are some factors that have to be accounted for when defining errors in the communicative speaking class; Are we able to be consistent in handling errors?, How do we correct. Who does the corrections. When do we correct and what do we correct?. The Importance of Errors There is a significant shift in attitude towards learner errors. If traditional review of errors in FL learning agues that errors are like sin, they should be avoided (Brook cited in Hendrickson, 1978), to day, errors are viewed as an integral part of the language learning, process and they are very significant (Dubin and Olshtain, 1990). Clark cited in Cohen (1975) proposes another notion by saying that information about errors must be regarded as punishment. It should be treaded as a form of information to the learner as well as the teachers. Hendrickson (1978) cited a number of studies which found that errors are essential as signal that learning is taking place and students’ progress and success could be indicated by error occurrence. He believes that when teachers are tolerant of some students errors, they might feel more confident about using the target language than if the errors are corrected. Furthermore, Gorbert (1979) suggests that errors must be seen not as signs of failure, but as signs of learning itself. Error Correction It is very essential to note that there are two types of errors; performance errors and competence errors. Performance errors are those that can be corrected

Correcting Errors in the Communicative Speaking Class (Hairus Salikin)


by the learners and competence errors are made as a result of an inaccurate rule or absence of that rule in the learners interlanguage (Mendelson 1990). Teachers should always refer to learners and ask them to correct whatever they can before having other given their feedback, because a number of the errors identified are bound to be performance errors, Mendelshon (1990) added that error correction is divided into two very broad categories; linguistic correction and sociolinguistic correction. The first includes correction of grammar, pronunciation and other linguistic system. Sociolinguistic correction includes register, tone of voice and body language. Providing linguistic feedback and sociolinguistic one are important in the FL teaching. However, it must be noted that sociolinguistc correction is much more important than linguistic correction. In normal communication, even when people talking in their mother tongue, linguistics errors often exist without breaking the communication. It is a conventional wisdom not to destroy the flow of communication by stopping the learners to correct them. Teachers must avoid interrupting communicative exchanges. This means a postponement of error correction until the end of the exchange or interaction could be a good idea. There are, however, certain situations in which immediate correction is necessary, and this is when communication has broken down because of both some linguistics and sociolinguistic difficulties. It is very essential to note that the correction must not make learners lose their face so that they do not like to communicate. Error Correction Criteria Nunan (1989) asserts that one of the functions of the teachers in the classroom is to correct learner’s errors. However, whether it is effective or not remains open to discussion. That is why this paper only proposes some criteria of error correction that might work effectively. Mendelson (1990) argues that there are three criteria for efficient and effective errors correction; correct selectively, choose productive items, correct constructively. Selective Error Correction It is essential to note that it is impossible for the teachers to correct all the errors that students make. When they are overcorrected they may become discouraged and confused, this would probably stifle the communication. That is why it is necessary to view errors from the learners’ point of view. Chenoweth et al (1989) claim that learners preferences to error correction is essential, since corrective feedback is provided for the sake of the learners. Teachers are not

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encouraged to correct every errors the learners make while they are talking. The teachers must understand the students preferences of errors that should be corrected. Cathcart and Olsen (1976) found that students preferred pronunciation to be corrected when talking. According to their findings pronunciation is important to be corrected because when learners mispronounce certain words, communication can be confusing. Grammar mistakes or errors should be tolerated as long as they did not break the communication. Hendrickson (1978) believes that the learners do not like to be corrected for each minor errors they made because this practice destroys their confidence to use the target language. It is suggested that the teachers should be more tolerant to errors that do not destroy communication. Correction often creates a lack of confidence in speaking, and overt correction can lead to loss of face with may discourage the learners further attempts to practice (Allan, 1991). It is common knowledge that lots of learners do not care about accuracy as long as they get the message across. Choice of Productive Items for Correction The decision as to what to correct should be based on the rule that the teachers should concentrate on that will be most productive for the learners in future communication. This criterion applies to all aspects of language correction; lexical, syntactic, phonological etc. Regardless of those errors, the teachers should make a snap decision using the criterion of what will be most productive to the students, and concentrate on those errors. This is not an easy job for the teachers, because the teachers usually are not consistent in treating errors. It should be remembered that the role of correction in language learning is still far from clear. Chaudron (1988) argues that effectiveness of correction is difficult to demonstrate. It is interesting to note that although the learners need correction (Holley and King, 1971, Cohen 1990, Cathcart and Olsen 1976), it is not acceptable to correct every errors when they are speaking. Hendrickson (1978) found that the learners prefer not to be marked down for each minor speaking error and writing error because this practice destroys their confidence and forces them to spend so much effort on details that they lose to overall ability to use the language. There is no a single theory that tells us the whole story of effective items of correction. Nevertheless, it might be beneficial to present Hendrickson’s idea (1978) that correcting three types of errors might be useful to foreign language learning; errors that impair communication significantly, errors that have highly stigmatizing effects on the listeners or readers, and errors that occur frequently in learner’s speaking and writing.

Correcting Errors in the Communicative Speaking Class (Hairus Salikin)


Constructive Error Correction Creating a very good atmosphere in the classroom is very essential to gain the successful language learning. According to Mendelshon (1990) this is connected to classroom management , and the attitudes that develops in the class. It is strongly believed that the classroom atmosphere should be built on a premise of mutual respect. This means learners and the teachers should respect each other. The classroom must be healthy ; in a communicative speaking class there should be a place where there is a lot laughing with others, but there is never any laughing at anyone. The speaking class should be a sheltered environment in which it is always safe to take risk for the students to try thing out without fear or ridicule. By this the learners might be more confident to use the language they are learning. Correcting errors is a delicate matter because everyone has a fragile ego and not everyone responds positively to unsoftened correction. Therefore, correction must always be handled with care. The teachers should be careful when correcting errors. Different learners will react to feedback given by their teachers in different way. Suggestion Correcting errors in a communicative speaking class needs a serious treatment since every learner will give different reaction to the feedback given by teachers. The aim of speaking class is to make the learners use the language they learn. That is why, it is worth considering that teachers should be more tolerant to the students errors in speaking class. It is hoped that the teachers correct selectively, choose productive items, and correct constructively.
Bibliography Allan, Diana (1991) ‘Tape Journal : bridging the gap between communication and correction’. English Teaching Journal, Volume 45 Allwright, Dick and Bailey, Kathleen M (1991) Focus on the language classroom: introduction to classroom research for language teachers. Cambridge University Press Chenoweth, N. Anne; Day, Richard R; Chun Ann E and Luppescu, Stuart (1983), ‘ Attitude preferences of ESL students to error correction’ Studies in second language acquisition, volume 56 Cohen, Andrew D (1975) Error correction and the training of language teachers’.Modern Language Journal, Volume 56 Dubin, Faraida; Olshtain, Elite (1986) Course Design Cambridge University Press Gorbet, Frances (1979) ‘To Err is Human’: Errors Analysis and Child Language Acquisition. English Language Teaching Journal, Volume 34

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Hendrickson, James H (1978) ‘Error correction in foreign language teaching; recent theory, research and practice’. Modern Language Journal, Volume 62 Holey, Freday M and King, Janet K (1971) Imitation and correction in foreign language learning’ Modern Language Journal, volume 55 Lennon, Paul (1991) Error : Some problems of Definition, Identification and Distinction’. Applied Linguistics, Volume 12 Mendelson, David (1990) How to Correct Errors in the Communicative Language Talking Class. Prospect, Volume 5 Nunan, D (1992) Research Methods in Language Learning Cambridge University Press

Correcting Errors in the Communicative Speaking Class (Hairus Salikin)


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