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Linguistic errors analysis in learning a foreign language
Assistant professor- Department of French Language and Literature
Azad University of Arak – Iran
Developed from the 1960s, the brand faults analysis an important step
in research in language teaching. In the normal process of learning a
foreign language, the error seems to be inevitable. It is an inherent part
of learning, it is therefore necessary to analyze in order to develop
appropriate teaching situations. We could therefore reduce error
numbers or take advantage of their positive aspects.
In this research, the definition of the error analysis, we will try to
identify some reasons for their training, among which we can mention
the widespread use of the mother tongue and the use of language
knowledge in a second foreign language, refusal apparent to enjoy the
similarities between the two languages, knowledge mixed with those
already acquired previous knowledge, inaccurate translation and faults
trainers. The findings of the research revealed that first language has a
considerable influence on the learning of a second language. A
person’s native language can influence the pronunciation and writing
of the second language as spelling errors were observed when writing
the second language. Also, we will present the utilities of the two
types of teaching methods (comparative manner and that directly) to
take advantage of this unexpected phenomenon. Thus, treating the role
of the mother tongue in the reduction of linguistic errors.
Keywords: analysis, error, linguistic, foreign language, causes
Much research has been conducted to examine the interference of the first language in the
learning process of the target language. Interference is defined as an automatic transfer, due to
habits, of the structural surface of the first language onto the surface of the target language. It
may also be defined as the errors often made in the second language by learners, and these
errors have a close association with the mother tongue of the learner.
The error analysis is a new approach outcome of language that brings some contribution to
language teaching. Current concepts of pedagogy advocate that students' errors are taken into
account by the teacher. On the other part, several scholars outline the necessity of a clear and
precise distinction that exists between errors and mistakes. They also state that there exists a
significant distinction between the mistakes and errors present in the second language. Errors,
in most cases, occur because the learner is not aware of what is presumed to be correct. It
often reflects the gaps in the knowledge of the learner. On the contrary, mistakes refer to an
occasional lapse in the performance, and these occur because the language learner is not in a
position to perform what he knows. The long and the short of it, the error is not a
manifestation of a lack of knowledge that should be ignored or corrected immediately, but
inadequate knowledge on which the correct knowledge will be built. That's why the student
can correct its mistakes, gradually, if he continues to practice foreign languages.
The research questions that would help us to come up with the results include the following:
Why the question of error attracts the attention of linguists? How can we reduce or take
advantage of their positive aspects?
This research will aim to first define the error analysis and then determine some reasons of
their training in the teaching learning a foreign language. Also, we offer two different
teaching methodologies: comparative and direct, and present their utilities to show how it is
possible to take advantage of this phenomenon.
2. Definition of linguistic error
Developed from the 1960s, error analysis, gradually detached from the narrow framework of
Applied Linguistics, a milestone in education research of Languages. In general, one can
compare the field of error analysis with a trial psychic student learning through language.
Linguists make the difference between error and fault. A foul is an act characterized by a lack
of respect for rules and standards set by linguistics. But the error means a response or
behavior of the learner who don't match the response and the expected behavior. Each type of
error is the product of a reflection of the student faces a task given by the teacher. In other
words, the error can be considered a problem and embezzlement in the process of learning
and this feature distinguishes the fault.
Any error analysis begins by identifying the mistakes of the foreign language learner. In the
linguistic field, we first studied the structural system of the foreign language; and then it will
be internalized grammar learner that is processed at a given stage of development (Besse and
Porquier, 1984, p.208).
Considering that the error is an inherent part of learning, it is therefore necessary to analyze in
order to develop appropriate teaching situations. Indeed, treating the "why" and "how" of the
existence of errors (Farhangpour 1994, p.88) to better understand the process of learning a
foreign language and to improve language teaching.
3. The "why" and "how"
In the normal process of learning a foreign language, the error seems to be inevitable.
However, the new research showed how the appearance of errors in foreign language as a
mother tongue in children is a natural phenomenon, unavoidable and necessary and reflects
the gradual assembly of learning the grammar of the target language. On the question of
knowledge and experience, it's speaking that a child learns to talk, it's drawing he learns to
draw. It therefore highlights the practice of trial and error.
Thus, all linguists have the same opinion that we cannot avoid the occurrence of errors. But
how can we benefit from this involuntary phenomenon to better learn a second language? To
find the answer, we must first identify some of the causes of their manifestation, and then
look for ways in which we can benefit.
3.1 Generalization of L1
According to most linguists and didactics of languages, many of learner errors come from the
generalization of the linguistic system of the mother tongue of the learner and his influence on
the target language.
Considering this psychological law, one can enjoy the sense of similarities and form of both
languages in the early stages of education. Obviously learning the second language structures
is easier compared to the first language. Having already experienced the grammar of his
mother tongue, the learner can recognize it in another language. Vocabularies and
grammatical structures of their native language can prepare the field for learning the second
language. For example, an Englishman who wants to learn French, can compare the sentence
structures of the two languages, as the place of the subject and the verb, or use the common
vocabulary between the two languages as words: "important", "question" etc.
But it faces the risk that the student applies many of the structures of their native language to
those in the second language, ignoring rules of grammar, lexical or even specific to the target
language, if that occurs frequently in learning a second language.
Lade theory explains well how individuals tend to transfer in the foreign language formal and
semantic characteristics of their native language. In practice, this is similar is easily
transferred, so easy to learn. But what is different leads to a negative - interference or transfer
- and thus to errors, events learning difficulties (Besse and Porquier, 1984, p.201).
It is in the development of teaching methods of foreign languages, it is advisable to consider
the errors resulting from differences between the mother tongue of the learner and the target
language, which requires the development of different methods according to the diversity of
cultures and structures of modern languages.
3.2 Waiving of similarities
In general, the first language already acquired before becoming the second language, the
source of transfers, that is to say the interference by which the progress made in the source
language lead to improvements in the performance of the target language (Kerbrat-
Orecchioni, 1986, p.24). But trainers cannot always enjoy such interference.
Some errors come from learning the habits that tries to prevent the exploitation of the
similarities of two languages in mind that the element used in L2 is different from that of the
L1; thus, it automatically prevents the regulations of his mother tongue, even if those rules are
justified in the foreign language.
Indeed, what the learner has to deal with a given stage of learning is internalized grammar of
his mother tongue and what he knows, at this stage of the foreign language. For example, the
French learning English, the pronunciation of words like "attack" and "attaque", he put the
syllabic accent on the first vowel, whereas in English, as well as in French, focus here is on
the second vowel. And that's an important point that is often overlooked in the teaching
methods developed only from differences in both languages.
Thus, one of the most important roles of foreign language teachers is clear to students that
they have reason to apply some rules of their native language to the second language, paying
attention to structural differences. This permission is implemented in writing manuals scion
comparative linguistic characteristics of learners with the same mother language, and of
3.3 Mix of knowledge
Furthermore, it should be noted that the transfers are not always the result of an emotional
state experienced in the source language that is extended to another language. Transfers
cannot be achieved only between two linguistic systems, but between what the learner already
has this foreign language and recent knowledge. In other words, causing some errors,
unexpected event comes from the mixture of recent knowledge of the foreign language with
those already acquired, for lack of grammatical exercises. Thus didactic advice trainers use
exercises comparing the grammatical and lexical structures, repetitions of exercises,
transformations or directed dialogues (kahnamouipour, 1996, p4).
A very common example in French: when one asks the learner who has studied conjugation
of verbs of the first group to conjugate the verb "faire" time present tense; he takes advantage
of the same rule dominant verb conjugation of the first group and said "vous faisez" instead of
"vous faîtes". With repetition exercises or those of transformation, he can learn the correct
In ancient didactic methods used to learn a foreign language, was often used in translation or
the assimilation of grammatical and lexical semantic equivalence sets of mother tongue.
Currently this application is still there, although it declined. But in reality, this parallelism
creates negative interference from structural differences of both languages.
For example, comparing two languages: French, Spanish side, we can show the influence of
the Spanish language (LI) on the French language (L2): The Spanish said: "I am really cold."
but French said: "I am very cold." It was then that Spanish learner of French, under the
influence of his mother tongue, uses the word "many" instead of the word "very." That is to
say, it reflects his thinking and his goal of mother tongue in French.
For another example in French and Persian, one may refer to the most common error among
Iranian learners when they want to express verbal expressions like "hungry" or "thirsty" In
Persian, it is said. "I'm hungry". Under his knowledge of Persian grammar, Iranian learner still
uses the verb "be" instead of the verb "to have" in a French expression. The teacher should
keep learner bring about Persian dialogue in French.
Similarly, the problem of translation is manifested in the sociology-cultural field. For
example, as regards the concept of "party" when a Catholic says: "Today is my birthday." it is
the birthday of the Holy, the religious character which I bear the name; while for a non-
Catholic, this concept is meaningless.
We can still see the influence of the mother tongue in a foreign language. Thus, translators,
more than any other bilingual manifest, they taste foreign neologisms, the trend borrowings,
layers, quotations in a foreign language, keeping with the text when translated words and
untranslated towers (Button, 1984 p.57). For example, the French term "sur le champs" must
be translated into Persian as an expression meaning "immediately". The word for word
translation of such expressions would be a trap for translators.
Yet one cannot dismiss the translation on the grounds that it promotes interference or because
it does not allow a real understanding of linguistic and sociology-cultural meanings of
language. The translation cannot meet the needs of understanding, but it can be useful in some
situations of learning. In the higher levels, it is better to encourage students to think and create
sentences in the same target language.
To solve the problem, it is advisable to exercise translation "intra-lingua" and not "inter-
lingual" (Boyer and Rivera, 1979, p.69). Translation intra-lingua uses several methods such as
use of synonyms or antonyms, phrases, definitions or paraphrases. Considering the meaning
of the message, the teacher tried to explain using the already known signs. In this activity,
intra-lingual translation imposed Reuse forms already studied. The results of the research
show that the translation of the first language has affected the acquisition of the second
Finally the error may be related to the trainers: an error learner can sometimes reveal a
teacher's error. Indeed, it may have transmitted inaccurate or erroneous information, or even
use poor teaching, which requires a revision in the choice of foreign language teaching
methods appropriate for learners who have similar learning abilities.
One can take as an example French, the pronunciation of the present participle "avoir" among
Iranian students. Learners who pronounce (ayant) /AJA/, instead of /EJA/, committed a fault
for which the teacher is partly responsible.
In addition, the teacher must take care to define the objective content and to limit the number
of skills into play in order to properly identify the concepts that he wants to acquire. Before
entry into the resolution process and experimentation, it must verify, during the debate, the
students have understood the question and the terms of the problem.
4. Two documented methods
Educational research leads us to find methods and teaching materials that reduce learner
language errors. Among these methods, they are people who both meet the needs:
comparative methods and direct methods.
In 1945, it was stated that the most effective teaching materials are those based on a scientific
description of the language to learn, compared to a parallel description of the mother tongue
of the learner (Besse and Porquier, 1984, p. 214). Following this research, analysis of
linguistic errors reveals a movement from the use of L1 in L2 learning. Today, recent
developments in second language methodology focus on the analog characteristics of the L1
and L2 (Galisson, 1980, p.52).
Based on the comparison, the teacher highlights the differences between the mother tongue of
the learner and the second language to prevent the risk of harmful interference and stressed
their similarities and closeness to exploit the potential of positive transfer. For example, in
Iran, the teacher can compare sentence structures between the French and Persian. Regarding
the difference in the place of the verb in a sentence, it should attract the attention of the
learner on the fact that the verb is placed at the end of the Persian sentence while in a French
sentence, is after the subject. And the similarity between the two languages, one can note that
the pronouns "tu" and "vous" (and the familiarity CT the formal address), available in Persian
and French. But this case is regarded as a difference between the French and English. An
English-speaking does not differentiate between "you" singular and "you" plural in his
language and he only uses "you" instead of these two pronouns.
Taking into account the differences and similarities of the two languages, the comparison of
the LI and L2 predicts some linguistic errors and comparing each structure in the two systems,
one can discover much learning problems (Besse and Porquier, 1984, p.202).
Direct methods, such as audiovisual method that join the sound to the picture, surround the
most diverse objects refer to the statements in L2 to a reality in which the picture just solve
the problem of understanding at the time his presentation. The method "Voices and Images"
which was taught in the universities of our country is one of the direct methods which had
considerable success in his time.
Taking in places of significance, direct methods can be used to present the state of the L2 in
the absence of translation (Galisson, 1980, p.75). This meta linguistic reference helps explain
a statement of the target language without the intervention of mother tongue therefore
translation. This can decrease the number of errors in the learning of a foreign language.
5. Back in mother tongue
In the new teaching methodologies of foreign languages in this decade, we can take the place
of the mother tongue and / or foreign languages already acquired. Again, firstly gives pride to
the mother tongue (Farkamekh, 2007; Roux, 2014). The use of mother tongue and other
languages known learners is now not only tolerated, but often encouraged, provided that it is
framed, selected, reasoned and match educational options, not one solution ease. One can also
observe the emergence of the concept of linguistic mediation in the CEFR (Common
European Framework of Reference for Languages), which consists of treating in a language, a
proposed media into another language. Thus, the L2 researches present a consensus that
grammatical representations L1 influence in L2 learning morphs (Roux, 2014). Indeed, the
use of the rules in L1, L2 can advance the individual in its acquisition L1 when the rule is
similar to the L2. Using the rules of L1, premature production of L2 helps the individual to
participate in a conversation. It will be in contact with understandable language input, so the
individual may acquire more skill in the secondary language (Krashen and Terrell, 1995
Moreover, in the course of foreign languages, commonly found attachment of adult students
to learn grammar first. Learners often viewed grammar as the vehicle of foreign language oral
and written skills. It feels more capable when it exercises its grammatical knowledge to
improve their oral skills. The milestone of its grammar is placed on pre-grammatical
knowledge of their native language. The basis of this theory is linguistic researches that
explain the role of first languages in acquiring a second language. So thanks to the common
linguistic bases between languages, you can learn knowledge of the language of a mother
tongue and turn them into a second language (Lambelet et al., 2014).
Fries Research points out that the most effective teaching materials are those based on a
scientific description of the language to learn, compared with a parallel description of the
mother tongue of the learner (1945, p.9). The contrastive analysis is a method that is still the
most effective for comparing languages. It is a valuable tool for the degrees of difference and
similarity between two or more languages and therefore, to some extent, the degree of
difficulty of learning. According Besse and Porquier, linguistic comparisons predict learning
problems, by comparing the phonological structures, synchronic and lexical-semantic
language "source" and language "target"; comparing each structure in the two systems, one
can discover all the learning problems (1984, p.200-201).
Comparing languages, we can highlight the similarities and differences. If there are
similarities between the new language and the language already acquired trace of language
influences positive effects. However, in case of differences we find more obstacles in learning
and they can be sources of errors. Besse and Porquier point in their research that this is similar
is easily transferred, so easy to learn, which is different places to give a negative transfer - or
Interference-and therefore to errors, events learning difficulties (Ibid., p.206).
Lado develops the Fry's theory by comparing languages and studied L1 interference in
learning L2. It highlights instead of positive or negative transfer in language learning.
According to his research, in the case of similarities between the two languages, the transfers
are positive and in case of differences, the learner produces errors (Lado, 1957).
In short, error analysis is helping to provide suitable methods to improve the learning of a L2.
According Strevens, the usefulness of the error analysis consists in itself brings a certain
contribution to language teaching (1964, p.85). The use of different languages at the same
time certainly because of language interference and hence linguistic errors in the foreign
language learning process, but it can take advantage of those mistakes to improve the process
of learning a second language. These new data upset the prevailing notion that completely
opposes the mother tongue in teaching a second language. According to the recent research,
the use of the mother tongue is not prohibited in the foreign language learning process, but
certainly because its function in contact with the target language.
In recent years, linguistic research has to move from a negative design error leading to the
sanction, a new design where they appear rather as an index of development in the process of
learning a language and as a valuable witness identify student difficulties. Indeed, a linguistic
error is rarely repeated in a real situation. This is why it is useful to analyze them to enjoy the
positive aspects of teaching. Once the research on this topic explains the reasons for their
appearance: the generalization of the mother tongue or even instead the refusal to apply the
similarities of the L1 and L2, the mixture of the two languages, translated into native
language errors from those trainers.
In short, to minimize linguistic errors, it is advisable for trainers to perform an intra-lingual
translation involving the use of synonyms or antonyms of the target language; produce
educational materials such as repetitions of exercises, transformations or dialogues directed
exercises; to use comparative manuals into account the differences and similarities of the two
languages or to take advantage of direct methods.
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