Saturday, November 16, 2013

What is error anylysis in SLA ? What are its major limitations?

The field of error analysis in SLA was established in the 1970s by S. P. Corder and colleagues. Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis, an approach influenced by behaviorism through which applied linguists sought to use the formal distinctions between the learners' first and second languages to predict errors. Error analysis showed that contrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors. A key finding of error analysis has been that many learner errors are the results of language transfer.
Error analysts distinguish between errors, which are systematic, and mistakes, which are not. Before 1960s, when the behaviouristic viewpoint of language learning was prevailing, learner errors were considered something undesirable and to be avoided. It is because in behaviourists perspectives, people learn by responding to external stimuli and receiving proper reinforcement. A proper habit is being formed by reinforcement, hence learning takes place. Therefore, errors were considered to be a wrong response to the stimulus, which should be corrected immediately after they were made. Unless corrected properly, the error became a habit and a wrong behavioural pattern would stick in your mind.

Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis. Error analysis developed by S.P. Corder and his colleagues reassessed Contrastive Analysis and elevated the status of errors. To them the errors are not undesirable rather a guide to the inner workings of the language learning process.
The most significant contribution of Error Analysis lies in its success in elevating the status of errors. Now, errors were considered as sort of feedback to the teachers. Moreover, errors are significant in three other ways:

1- to the teacher: they show a student’s progress. So, errors are like feedbacks to the teachers.
2- to the researcher: they show how a language is acquired, what strategies the learner uses.
3- to the learner: he can learn from these errors.
Error analysts often seek to develop a typology of errors. Error can be classified according to basic type: omissive, additive, substitutive or related to word order. They can be classified by how apparent they are: overt errors such as "I angry" are obvious even out of context, whereas covert errors are evident only in context. Errors may also be classified according to the level of language: phonological errors, vocabulary or lexical errors, syntactic errors, and so on.

Limitations of Error analysis
In 1970s and early 80s, a large number of papers on error analysis were published throughout the world. However, it lost its attention and enthusiasm gradually as more and more criticism was made against the approach and method of error analysis.

From the beginning, error analysis was beset with methodological problems.

1-In error analysis, it is often impossible to reliably determine what kind of error a learner is making. It is often difficult to identify whether a learner does a mistake from overgeneralization or L1 transfer.
2-Also, error analysis can deal effectively only with learner production (speaking and writing) and not with learner reception (listening and reading).

3-Furthermore, it cannot account for learner’s use of communicative strategies such as avoidance, in which learners simply do not use a form with which they are uncomfortable.

For these reasons, although error analysis is still used to investigate specific questions in SLA, it is considered less favorite by the SLA researchers.

Error analysis is closely related to the study of error treatment in language teaching. Today, the study of errors is particularly relevant for focus on form teaching methodology.

Inspite of the avobe limitations, error analysis has had a huge contribution on SLA research. It directed researcher’s attention to specific areas of error analysis. It also helped linguists realize that although errors sometimes obstruct communication, they can often facilitate second language acquisition; also they played a significant role in training teachers and helping them identify and classify students' errors, as well as helping them construct correction techniques.