Language Mistakes and Errors Done by EFL Learners
Language Mistakes and Errors Done by EFL Learners

Language Mistakes and Errors Done by EFL Learners

Having reviewed a vast number of sources relating to the linguistic studies of language mistakes and errors done by EFL learners, it has become evident that most researchers and scholars fail to set forth a clear distinction between these two terms and often either confuse them or draw no difference, at all. Besides, even those studies that note the existence of some difference between the notions tend to use them interchangeably. Such situation may be explained by a difficulty of making a clear distinction between the terms and their similarity in meaning, which often is considered inessential for researches carried out within the linguistic framework. However, it seems vital to study and sum up the key differences between a mistake and an error; this task is the primary goal of the current paper. Moreover, two typical errors and two typical mistakes of EFL learners, as well as the issue relating to the correction of both EFL learners’ typical mistakes and errors are presented in brief below while referring to some relevant and credible sources concerning the issue.

Differences between a Mistake and an Error

Although the mistakes and errors are often used interchangeably in sources dedicated to learning and teaching of English as a foreign language, these two terms have slightly different definitions and, in fact, inherently different implications as the basis of their denotations. Therefore, one linguistic glossary defines an error as a characteristic mistake made by learners of a second language, usually traceable to a structural feature of their native language. In turn, a mistake is defined as an instance of incorrect usage in a foreign language which is apparently random. This source differentiates the two notions on the basis of their connection with the native language of a learner and character of occurrence, whether it is random or repeated.

This issue is explained in more detail by Jimmy Ramirez Acosta in his article “How can EFL students be corrected without hindering oral participation?” This article references quite a large number of linguists who have worked in this direction. Therefore, as a rule, systematic and may be viewed as proof that a learner is developing linguistic competence in the foreign language. The latter idea is controversial as the majority of linguists agree that the errors rather prove the lack of such competence. Learners may make errors either because they do not know the correct form or because they have not mastered it yet. Withal, the erroneous use of a language form should be regarded as an error in the case it is of systematic nature, if it repeatedly occurs and proves that a learner lacks sufficient knowledge of the correct use.

` In turn, the mistakes may be viewed as less severe errors that appear randomly and do not prove the learner’s lack of knowledge. Therefore, they are the result of processing limitations rather than lack of competence. Both EFL learners and native speakers may make mistakes, for instance, in their speech when they experience strong feelings or are in a hurry; in other words, when they are concerned about the process of communication and conveyance of some message rather than about the correct use of all the language forms. Stress, fatigue, inattentiveness, distractions, and many other things may be the cause of mistakes. As some linguists assert that mistakes can be caused by the influence of the first language, by misunderstanding a rule, by a decision to communicate as best as one can, by lack of concentration, and by a combination of these and other factors. Nonetheless, a characteristic feature of mistakes as a generic notion is that they are non-systematic, mainly random, and do not reflect the lack of the EFL learner’s competence. Besides, both mistakes and errors can become the so-called fossilizedforms in the process of fossilization, in which learners internalize an erroneous linguistic pattern in their minds. When mistakes and errors become fossilized, it is quite complicated to get rid of them as learners may unwillingly slide back into using them once they stop consciously monitoring their correct usage of the language forms. Therefore, it is essential to detect and correct the errors and mistakes in the process of learning and teaching English as a foreign language even though the opinions on how and when to do that vary in the linguistic and teaching community.

Errors of EFL Learners

The errors may occur at any level of language respectively being subdivided into the encoding or decoding errors, understanding or composing errors, and misprocessing or misformulation errors. Misspellings are among the common errors done by EFL learners. Misspellings may be distinguished into four key types, including the punctuation errors, typographic errors, dyslexic errors, and confusables. The first type, punctuation errors, is typical of EFL learners, who find it difficult to use punctuation correctly due to various reasons. First of all, the interference of their native language is the primary reason of such errors. Punctuation rules differ greatly across languages, and EFL learners fail to master their competence in this respect since they may deem it the least essential aspect of the language learning. Furthermore, the English punctuation rules are quite ambiguous and difficult for memorizing for many EFL learners, as well as for many native speakers who tend to use punctuation marks mostly instinctively. Therefore, the examples of punctuation errors include overuse of exclamation marks at the end of sentences, overuse or absence of commas in the sentences, overuse or underuse of the capital letters, incorrect use of the inverted commas, confusion of the colons and commas, confusion of the colon and semi-colon, and many others. For instance, many EFL learners fail to insert commas after transitions such as moreover, furthermore, inaddition, and the like.

Another common grammatical error of EFL learners concerns the confusion of gerund and infinitive. As a rule, EFL teachers present gerund and infinitive within the scope of one topic due to such organization of the overwhelming majority of the grammar texts. However, such presentation of gerund and infinitive constructions only leads to their confusion by learners; hence, they are resulting in production errors. Some teachers and linguists suppose that the cognitive demands of remembering which verb triggers which construction may simply be overwhelming for students. The frequency of this error occurrence increases if the native language of EFL learners does not have anything similar to the gerundial constructions and if students simply cannot grasp the difference between various uses of infinitive and gerund. In order to somehow eradicate or at least lessen the number of such errors, there is a supposition to present these two grammatical notions to learners separately from the infinitive constructions coming earlier because of their frequent usage.

Mistakes of EFL Learners

Mistakes may occur at various language levels, as well. Train bug fixes when doing jobs such as interview essay examples apa format .The current subsection focuses only on the two types of common mistakes done by EFL learners due to the delimitations of the paper. Therefore, misuse of the articles is a rather wide-spread mistake of EFL learners; it may be explained by interference of their native language, confusion of rules, and inattentiveness. Therefore, although native speakers may consider the articles quite “straight-forward”, they are in fact sources of various mistakes of ESL students. Indefinite articles a and an are not as often confused as these two with the definite article the. Some EFL students may sometimes use a, forgetting that an should be used for a word that starts with a vowel; hence, they are writing a engineer instead of an engineer and the like.

Another common mistake of EFL learners concerns the use or rather misuse of prepositions. One of the reasons for this mistake is that there are so many prepositions that ESL students must learn and remember. This mistake is especially widespread in the oral communication when learners do not pay much attention to prepositions, erroneously supposing that they are not important for understanding the meaning of the utterance. For instance, they may say “Sometimes, she goes to work with the car” instead of “Sometimes, she goes to work by car”. However, prepositions are of utmost importance in English, and EFL learners have to dedicate time and efforts to master them.

Correction of Mistakes and Errors

Nowadays, there are heated debates relating to the questions of whether the EFL learners’ mistakes and errors should be corrected or not, which mistakes and errors should be corrected, as well as when and how they should be corrected. Some teachers advocate for correcting all the mistakes and errors while others claim that only those interfering with the comprehension should be corrected. Another suggestion offers to correct mistakes with account for the level as follows: at the elementary level, teachers should correct “errors that impede communication”; at the intermediate level, attention is paid to “errors that occur frequently” while at the advanced level, “errors that have a stigmatizing effect upon the student” have to be corrected. Nevertheless, correction of the mistakes and errors depends on individual circumstances and EFL learner’s and teacher’s perspectives on the issue.

Therefore, the errors mentioned above can be corrected by a frequent repetition and thorough understanding of the appropriate rules. With respect to punctuation, teachers and learners may compose special tables and group rules based on some criteria for the better memorizing. Practice in producing the texts with punctuation and reading credible sources with correct punctuation is essential. Unfortunately, there has not been developed any sophisticated software for correcting all the punctuation errors, but students may use the currently existing versions of different grammar checkers that sometimes detect erroneous punctuation. In terms of infinitive and gerund, some teachers suppose that the infinitive and gerund constructions should be studied separately. Such mistakes are random, and teachers often fail to correct them either missing them or thinking that they were accidental. However, it seems reasonable to check the learner’s knowledge of articles in the case he or she makes such a mistake. Additional explanation and some exercises on the use of articles may be helpful, as well. In most cases, prepositions have to be learned and memorized. Some lists of verbs with prepositions and examples, as well as appropriate exercises, may be useful.

Withal, the mistakes and errors seem to be rather confusing notions that are often used interchangeably by most linguists and teachers. The issues relating to their classification and correction cause heated discussions, as well. However, the overwhelming majority of sources agree on the fact that the errors are systematic while mistakes are random. Besides, the errors are an evidence of the learner’s lack of competence while mistakes may happen due to various reasons and rarely imply the lack of competence. Despite the existing differences between the mistakes and errors, they should be adequately addressed by teachers in the process of teaching English as a foreign language since they may prevent learners from successful mastering of all aspects of the language.


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