Error Analysis

Dunja Uzelac

─ Error analysis is a method in second language acquisition
which studies, analyzes and organizes the types and causes
of language errors.
─ It was established in the 1960s by Stephen Pit Corder as an
alternative to the contrastive analysis which was influenced
by behaviorism.
─ Contrastive analysis considered errors as the result of
interference of the mother tongue, and they were not
tolerated or explained.
─ Error analyses explained that learners don’t make errors
only because of their native language, but also as a result of
the same overall learning process.
─ Learner’s errors provide the evidence that the second
language acquisition is a cognitive process.

Errors and Mistakes
─ There is a big difference between errors and
─ An error represents a gap in learner’s knowledge
and it means that the learner’s system is
─ A mistake is a performance error and it occurs
when a learner fails to perform what he knows.
─ Both native speakers and foreign language
learners make mistakes.

─ It is not always possible to make a distinction
between errors and mistakes.
─ Sometimes it can be done by checking the
consistency of the learner’s performance. If they
use incorrect forms consistently, it is an error,
and if they sometimes use an incorrect and
sometimes a correct form, it is a mistake.
─ Mistakes can be self-corrected, but errors can’t.

Identifying and Describing Errors
─ The first step in analyzing errors is identifying and
describing them.
─ There are several categories for describing errors.
─ The major distinction is between overt and covert errors.
Overt errors are ungrammatical at the sentence level while
covert are grammatical at the sentence level, but are
incorrect in the context of communication.
─ Errors can also be identified as omission of some element (I
go school.), addition of some unnecessary element (Does he
can drive?), substitution of some elements (I lost my road.)
or misordering of the elements (He is a dear to me friend.).

─ There are also global and local errors. Global errors
prevent the hearer to comprehend the message,
while local errors are miner and the message can be
─ Finally, there are domain and extent. Domain is the
context that must be analyzed in order to
understand the error and extent is a linguistic unit
that has to be changed in order to fix the error.
─ In the example ‘’a scissors’’ the domain is the
phrase and the extent is the indefinite article.

Sources of Error
─ An important step in error analysis is discovering the

sources of error.
─ Errors were assumed to be result only of interference
of the first language, but studies have shown that
there are other reasons for making errors.
─ The first source of errors is interlingual transfer.
Errors are caused by the interference of the learner’s
mother tongue. The most vulnerable stages are the
beginning stages of learning, because the only
familiar linguistic system is the native language.

─ The second source of errors is intralingual transfer. In this
type of errors there is no interference of other languages, but
only the influence of one target language item upon another.
These errors result from the partial or faulty learning of the
language. This type of errors make both foreign language
learners and the children that are acquiring their mother
─ Third source of errors is context of learning, although it
overlaps both types of transfer. Context may represent a
classroom with a teacher or a textbook. Students often make
errors because of a misleading explanation, faulty
presentation, or even the incorrect information provided by
the teacher or the book.
─ Sometimes, learners make errors by using the production
strategies in order to communicate and send the message.
This is called communication strategy.

Correction of Errors
─ The last step in error analysis is the correction of errors.
─ First, a teacher has to identify the problem and then to find
out the source of error.
─ A teacher has to decide which errors should be corrected
and how.
─ Errors which may affect communication or cause
misunderstanding must be corrected. (global errors)
─ Local errors usually don’t need to be corrected, as the
message is clear.
─ Different kinds of errors require different treatments and
different type of feedback, which are provided by the

Negative Sides of Error Analysis
─ There is a danger of teacher becoming so

preoccupied with noticing and correcting errors that
he doesn’t even notice the correct usage of language.
─ There is also a danger of avoidance. If the learner
doesn’t know some elements, he avoids them, so the
absence of error doesn’t reflect native like

Thank you for your attention!