TENSE ERRORS IN ESSAY WRITING IS STRICTLY RESTRICTED TO ONLY FIVE SELECTED JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS
TENSE ERRORS IN ESSAY WRITING IS STRICTLY RESTRICTED TO ONLY FIVE SELECTED JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS
The English language is studied and used as a second language in Nigeria. This implies that it is neither the mother tongue nor the first language of any of the over four hundred and fifty ethnic groups in Nigeria. According to Uzochukwu (2010), the English language is indigenous to Britain and the first contact by Nigerians with the English language dated back to the coming of the British to the West African coast in the 18th century as traders.
The Europeans discovered that their main purpose of coming which was mainly for the commercial exploitation of the region was made a little difficult because of the natives .This was because they considered the indigenous language as primitive and had no interest in learning any of them .Anagboso (2010), records that they taught the coastal middle men the type of English only meant for buying and selling. The language progressed with the Europeans coming as colonial masters making Lagos a colony of Britain in 1862.
English language later assumed an important position in Nigeria as the official language. In the absence of a national language, the English language was accepted as the language of government, education, commerce, mass media and above all, language of instruction in the school setting. Other aspects of the relevance of English such as the language for national development, educational advancement, social mobility, technological acquisition etc; make the study of English to become more important as its roles and relevance expand.
English has been widely used in the propagation of education in Nigeria and this is used in all facets of education .This seems to be the most important function of English in our society. In all the levels of education in Nigeria, the English language is the most widely used language of instructions in schools. This has been given backing by the Nigerian educational policy 1977 which makes it mandatory for the English language to be the only language of instructions in our schools especially at the secondary and tertiary levels. The indigenous languages are often used mostly at primary level of education, though rarely as every school considers the English language as the only suitable language of teaching and learning. English, though being the language of educational instruction in Nigeria schools also serves as the language of educational evaluation in our schools. This is applicable at all the levels of educational institutions in Nigeria. In primary schools, English language is used in conducting examinations at the first school leaving certificates(F.S.L.C).In the secondary schools, it is used in testing the student’s proficiency in the used of English in the junior secondary school examinations (J.S.C.E) and the senior secondary school examinations (S.S.C.E).English is also used in evaluating student’s communication ability in the university Joint Matriculation Examination (JAMB) and the Monotechnic/Polytechnic Joint Matriculation Examination (POLYJAMB) before they are given placement in these institutions since this is the major language of communication in schools.
English remains a major medium of instruction in schools. There are large numbers of books that are written in English language. If English is abolished today, it will affect the educational system. So, unless and until these books are translated into various regional languages, it will affect education. For a student to go to abroad to study will have learn English well, if the command over English is poor, then, may face difficulty in adjusting with the alien environment. Knowledge of English promotes the specialized study of literature and philosophy, the charms of Shakespeare and Milton can alone be appreciated in their original works written in English.
In schools, efforts have been made to improve the student’s mastery of it, especially in the areas of basic skills of listening, speaking reading and writing. Among these four skills, achieving the goal of effective writing competence seems to be far from being realized. Evidence of these bounds in the type of tense errors committed by students their essay writing. Tense error means when the verb is inconsistent within a sentence or when modifiers are unnecessarily added and change tense, verb in the other hand is a word that shows action, being or state of being. It is the most important word in a sentence because it tells us something about the subject, i.e., the person or thing spoken about. A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen, while essay is a piece of writing on a particular subject, usually from an author’s personal point of view. Essay can be literary criticism, political manifestation, learn argument, observations of daily life, recollections and reflection of author. English is a medium of instruction in schools. It is in the light of this that the study set to examine the tense errors in English essay while effect the grammatical aspect of language. Historically when language competence and performance of the use of tense in English essay of secondary school students is with errors, their performance in other disciple have to be affected. As offensive as the tense errors may be what is more important and beneficial to the students is how these tense errors should be corrected and be avoided and how to get communicative competence of students enhanced.
In the Nigerian school system, the English language is both a teaching subject and a language of instruction at the primary and post primary levels. In the university, an English language course is usually organized by general studies units; One of the aims of this course. According to Ibileye (2007), the aim is to impact the necessary language skills which the students need for their effective study and life generally. It is also the expectation of the universities and the Nigerian society that a graduate should be able to perform well in the English language with competence especially in the literary skills and even teach others.
1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The secondary school students are found wanting in this regard, especially in the area of written communication with too many tense errors in their written works, it becomes questionable if they are taught English language at all and something needs to be done to help solve this problem of poor English usage among the junior secondary school students. The situation prompts this survey of the tense errors in essay writing of junior secondary school students to determine their areas of difficulty. The study is expected to provide evaluation information to the solution of the problem. This study is important as it attempts in their speaking and writing of the English language. It will provide variable information for designing a remedial syllabus, authors of the English language textbooks will find the research useful because it will help them to identify areas of problems for students and to focus attention on these areas in their publications. This study will go a long way to enhance the English language expression of our students.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is a fact that the second language learners face some difficulties in their expressions in the language. This research work focuses on “Tense Errors in Essay Writing of Junior Secondary School Students” as most of them cannot communicate their thought well in writing. The situation calls for this research work to find out the tense errors students make, causes and possible suggestion of how to reduce the problems.
1.4 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The aims and objectives of this study are as follows;
i. To find out the common tense errors associated with essay writing.
ii. To find out the causes of tense errors in essay writing.
iii. To find out the solutions to tense errors in essay writing.
1.5 RESEACH QUESTIONS
i. What are the common tense errors associated with essay writing?
ii. What are the causes of tense errors in essay writing?
iii. What are the solutions to tense errors in essay writing?
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
An investigation into the phenomenon of tense errors committed by this category of students is relevant because it will provide a feedback to teachers and students in their language performance. Awareness of these tense errors will eventually empower them into making serious efforts to learn the correct use of the English language in essay writing. This is due to the fact that, English language serves as a bed rock for understanding other disciplines in learning.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Due to time constraints, this research which deals with tense errors in essay writing is strictly restricted to only five selected junior secondary schools in Town of Pankshin Local government area, Plateau state.
The five  secondary schools in which were used are listed below;
i. Government college, Pankshin
ii. Trinity missionary college Pankshin
iii. Community secondary school, Tambes.
iv. Government secondary school, Pankshin.
v. Government secondary school, Bet-Pankshin.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Tense: is any form of a verb that may be used to show the time of action or state expressed by the verb; the present, past and future tense.
Error: is a systematic deviation from the target language by a non-native speaker. It could be a deviant structures or unacceptable utterance that signifies imperfect knowledge of linguistic code.
Essay: is an interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a personal point of view.
School: is an institution for educating children. Is also a place for teaching and learning.
Language: is a particular way or style of speaking, it is the system of sounds and words used by humans.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Literature abound on tense errors in English essay writing. This chapter reviews the meaning and function of verb, meaning and concept of tense errors, types of English tenses, meaning of essay and its forms, approaches to tense errors analysis, the causes of tense errors in essay writing, the classification of tense errors in essay writing, the common tense errors in essay writing, and solution to tense errors in essay writing.
2.2 MEANING AND CONCEPT OF VERB
A verb according to Danung (2010), is a word that shows action, being or state of being. It is the most important word in a sentence because it tells us something about the subject, that is, the person or thing spoken about.
A verb may tell us—-
– What a person or thing does e.g.
i. Umar cries .
ii. The ball rolls.
What is done to a person or thing e.g.
i. Janet has been rapped.
ii. Ibokwe slapped the man.
– What a person or thing is, e.g.
i. I feel sorry.
ii. The trousers are badly sewed.
A verb according to Anujeet (2011), is a word that tell something about a person, thing or object. A verb tells us what a person does, thinks or behaves.
A verb according to Omosowone (2000), is an action word, it tells us what a noun or a pronoun does in the sentence. The actions or activities of persons or things are made known through the use of verbs.
2.2.1. FUNCTIONS OF VERB IN A SENTENCE
A sentence cannot be complete without a verb. For example, if we wish to call a particular person who is within hearing distance, we say: “come” It is immediately understood to mean “you come”. “Go” also becomes, “you go”. However, we cannot use the personal pronoun “you” alone, except a verb, used or not used, is understood to precede or follow it. Let us take a common example in everyday speech:
– James (pointing to the direction of some workers in an office) I am calling you.
– Jane (not looking directly at James but still asked) who are you calling?
– James (still pointing at Jane) you.
The use of you by James in the above dialogue could not have made any meaning without the use of the two verbs [am] (auxiliary verb) and [calling] (main verb)
In another example, the omission of a verb, or verbs, from a group of verbs does not make a readable sentence. A boy ? newspapers every day. A word is omitted. The above sentence does not make a meaning. Moreover, every sentence of the English language must contain a finite verb before it can be considered as complete. The omitted word from the sentence is the simple present tense verb sells. A complete sentence would be thus: A boy sells newspapers every day.
A verb shows three things a subject does in a sentence: it expresses an:
– Being (a temporary state)
– A state of being (a permanent state).
The three expression of the verb.
Example 1: A boy killed a snake (Action)
The only verb in this is killed. It was the boy’s action which brought about the killing of the snake, the direct receiver of the action.
A verb shows the action of a subject or object in a sentence.
A verb indicates the time (tense) an action takes place in a given sentence.
A verb states the permanent feature of a subject or object in a sentence.
Example 2: The manager is sitting at a table.
The manager’s action of resting himself at a table is considered temporary.
He is not expected to sit at the table forever!
Example 3: the clerk is a beautiful girl. (State of Being)
Is the only verb used, “The verb is tells us of the permanent nature of the girl” external build: her complexion, body build and other qualities, which are classified as beautiful. Festus (2003).
Effective English language communication usually requires that each sentence contain a subject and a verb. The subject is sometimes defined as a person, a place, or a thing. The verb conveys an understanding of the action expressed, or it conveys the state of the subject.
Action and State
– Tom hit the ball.
The verb is hit. Tom acted; he hit something. The verb describes the action. Effective communication also requires identification of the thing Tom hit. The object that Tom hit was a ball. The object of the verb hit is the ball.
– The sky is blue.
The verb, is, conveys the state of the subject. The verb does not convey a sense of action. The sky has a blue state. Blue is the color that describes the sky. The word blue is an adjective in the sentence, “the sky is blue.”
Danung (2010), verbs are necessary component of all sentences. Verbs have two important functions: Some verbs put subjects into motion while other verbs help to clarify the subjects in meaningful ways.
• My English teacher smiled at the plate of cold meatloaf.
My English teacher= subject
In fact verb signals an action, an occurrence or a state of being. Whether mental, physical, or mechanical, verbs always express activity.
The following examples describes physical action.
• let’s run to the corner and back.
• I write a letter to my friend
The following verbs in the sentences are mental verbs they related to concepts such as discovering, understanding, thinking, or planning. In general, a mental verb refers to cognitive state. Examples:
• I know the answer.
• She recognized me from across the room.
The state of being verbs in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
• I am a student.
• We are circus performers.
2.3. MEANING AND CONCEPT OF TENSE ERRORS
Tense errors made by learners of the English language have always been one of the areas of focus by both linguist and language researchers, who have carried out different surveys and researchers in the field. Different definitions of the concept of tense errors have been developed from different perspectives in the literature of tense errors analysis.
Tense errors, according to Randall (2008), are “breeches of the code of a language”. He explains that tense errors are deviant structure or unacceptable utterance that signifies imperfect knowledge of the linguistic code. This implies that tense errors are committed by those who are not well grounded in the structure of a language. He differentiates tense errors from mistakes. According to him, all learners and users of a language are prone to mistakes which are “slips and minor lapses due to fatigue, haste, nervousness or uncertainly, or when attention is divided or when we are absorbed in some non-linguistic activity”. Native speakers scarcely commit such tense errors. Mistakes are typically random and are readily corrected by the learner when his attention is drawn to such mistakes. Tense errors, on the other hand, are systematic and consistent deviances that reflect in knowledge.
Headloom (2001), defines tense error as ‘a systematic deviation from the target language by a non-native speaker’. According to him “it has the same notion as goof, deviant or erroneous production”. It is a fact that languages have rules and standards. Any shift, from these rules either in speech or in writing becomes a tense error.
Brown (2000), states that a tense error “is a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker, reflecting the inter-language competence of the learner” .He also makes a distinction between a tense error and a mistake noting that a mistake “refers to a performance error in that, it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly” In Dictionary of language Teaching and applied linguistics item is such a way that a fluent or native speaker of the language regards it as showing faulty or incomplete learning. Uzochukwu (2010).
Mick (2008), puts his definitions of tense error as “a linguistic form or combination of forms which in the same context and under similar condition of production, would, in all livelihood, not be produced by the native speakers’ counterparts”.
Klassen (2002), sees tense error as “a form or structure that a native speakers deems unacceptable because of its inappropriate use”. Yankson (2002), express tense as “a breach of the language code, a violation of that set of rules for generating what generative grammarians call well-formed sentences”. He further states that tense errors are systematic and recurrent ‘a type of linguistic deviance. That is a slip and the result of tiredness, emotional stress, nervousness, memory lapse or pre-occupation with a subject’. He notes that mistakes could be called performance errors and they are haphazard and unsystematic. While tense is a change in the verb to express time. According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 8th Edition, “tense comes from a word meaning times”, there are three great divisions of time-present, past and future. A close observation of the above definitions essentially portrays the same substance of deviation from the accepted form of a language that is systematic.
Tense errors are viewed as an L2 learner problem. As a consequence, teachers have always adopted a repressive attitude toward it. On one hand, it was considered to be a sign of inadequacy of the teaching techniques and on the other hand, it was seen as a natural result of the fact that since by nature, we cannot avoid making tense errors, we should accept the reality and try to deal with them. Maicus (2000).
Presently, however with the development of linguistic, psycholinguistic and other relevant disciplines, people’s attitude toward tense errors have changed greatly. Corder (2002), suggest a new way of looking at the tense errors made by the learner of a target language. He argued from the learners’ perspective that the observed deviations are no more “tense errors” than the first approximations of a child learning his mother tongue (MT). Like the child struggling to acquire his language, the L2 learner is also trying out successive hypothesis about the nature of the target language and from this view-point, the learner’s tense errors [or hypothesis] are “not only inevitable but are a necessary part of the language learning process.
Klassen (2002), in agreement with Corder’s view contends that tense errors give a clue to what is happening in the mind of a learner of a second language, and they should be seen as natural phenomena that must occur before correct grammatical rules are completely internalized. He also notes that tense errors reflect the learner’s competence and is inevitable in language learning.
These scholars among others, sees tense errors as a phenomenon that reflects the students’ linguistic, writing and communication competences at a given stage of their long way to master a target language. Tense errors provide teachers with an opportunity to know what the learner has learnt, and the extent to which it has been learnt and the challenge a learner sometimes face, because it reflects the areas where work needs to be done to improve his language performance.
2.4. TYPES OF ENGLISH TENSES
There are three great divisions of tense in the English language: Present Tense, Past Tense and Future Tense. The name “tense” is given to the different forms of verb which denote the tense. Verb is the only kind of word which by its own forms can point at time. The English verb has only three tense formed by the help of other verbs.
The present tense denoted that the action is going on now; as:
-Mary is teaching English.
-The children are playing hide and sick.
The past tense denotes that the action took place, or was going in the past:
-He had booked the flight two days earlier.
-Tina was writing a poem yesterday.
The future tense denotes that the action is yet to take place. It is formed by the means of the verb “shall” or “will” followed by the infinitives; as,
-I shall go to school tomorrow.
-He will go to market after school.
Each tense has four forms; indefinite: (progressive, incomplete and continuous are other names); perfect continuous. An action simply mentioned is said to be indefinite; as,
– I play football.
– I played football yesterday.
– I shall play football tomorrow.
An action mentioned as still going on is said to be imperfect. It is form by means of the verb “be” and the imperfect participle (-ing form), as in,
– I am playing with my Dog
– I was playing handball with my friends
– I shall be playing basketball after school.
An action mentioned as finished is said to be perfect. It is formed by means of the verb ‘have’ (has, had as derivatives) and the perfect participle (past participle form of the verb) i.e. three (3) forms; as,
– I have played the football
– I had played have already
– I should have played the football.
The active voice has a fourth form called the perfect continuous. It expresses an action going on to the present time as;
– I have been writing for two hour.
– She has been sweeping for thirty minute. Omosowone (2000).
2.5. MEANING OF ESSAY WRITING
An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument. Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the authors. Essays have become a major part of formal education. The secondary students are taught structured essay format to improve their writing skills. An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One of the definitions is a “prose composition with a focused subject of discussion” or “a long, systematic discourse”. Essay is an interpretative literary composition usually dealing whit its subject from a personal point of view. Olas (2001).
2.5.1 FORMS OF ESSAY WRITING
i. Descriptive Essay: is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader’s emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description. The focus of a description is the scene. Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language, metaphor, and simile to arrive at a dominant impression. One university essay guide states that “descriptive writing says what happened or what another author has discussed; it provides an account of the topic lyric essays are an important form of descriptive essays.
ii. Narrative Essay: uses tools such as flashback, flash-forwards, and transitions that often build to a climax. The focus of the native is the plot. When creating a narrative, authors must determine their purpose, consider their audience, establish their point of view, use dialogue, and organize the narrative. A narrative is usually written like an article. It takes the form of story-telling where a narrator is expected to recount the event of the past. It is purely a narrative prose. Since it is a story, the tense has to be past and past participle.
iii. Argumentative Essay: Is a critical piece of writing, aimed at presenting objective analysis of the subject matter, narrowed down to a single topic. The main idea of all the criticisms is to provide an option either of positive or negative implication. As such, a critical essay requires research and analysis, strong internal logic and sharp structure. Its structure normally builds around introduction with a topic relevant to thesis statement, body paragraphs with arguments linking back to the back to the main thesis, and conclusion. In addition, an argumentative essay may include a refutation section where conflicting ideas are acknowledged, described, and criticized. Each argument of argumentative essay should be supported with sufficient evidence, relevant to the point. It aims to convince the reader or audience to share the opinion of the writer.
iv. Expository Essay: Is the essay in which is expected to expose or explain a given topic. Expository expects the writer to explain in full or in detail the object in question for better understanding by the reader. Olas (2001).
2.6 APPROACHES TO TENSE ERRORS ANALYSIS
Tense error is an essential source of information to teachers. It provides information on students’ which in turn helps teachers to correct students tense in essay writing and also improves the effectiveness of their teaching. The study of tense errors by themselves would have been misleading, but in contrast to the number of correct responses gives a good picture of which items are being mastered and which are not. This hope to enlighten teachers on the tense errors in essay writing that require remedial work so that time is not wasted on teaching grammar items or any other linguistic features which pose little or no problems to the majority of the students in relation to writing approach to the problems of tense errors is an effort to account for their linguistic and psychological origin, regularity, predictability, variability, etc. and proffering solutions to it. According to Headbloom (2001), current linguistic and pedagogic theories have come up whit two different approaches to tense errors. The approaches are Contrastive Analysis (C.A) and Tense Error Analysis (T.E.A). Contrastive Analysis is derived from the view that languages are different the second language learner will encounter difficulties. C.A then is the systematic study of a pair of languages usually refers as L1 and L2 with a view to identifying their structural differences and similarities.
Erdogan (2005), claims that, until late sixties, the prominent theory regarding the issue of second language learning was behaviorist, which suggests that the learning of a language was largely a question of acquiring a set of new language habits. Therefore, tense errors were considered as being the result of the persistence of existing mother tongue (MT) habits in new language. Consequently, this idea made the researchers of applied linguistics devote their studies largely to the comparison of the native and the target languages in order to make predictions and explanations about tense errors.
Brown (2000), also believes that Tense Errors Analysis can easily supersede contrastive Analysis, as only some of the tense errors a learner makes a attributable to the mother tongue (MT); that learners do not actually make all the tense errors that contrastive Analysis predicts they should, and that learners from disparate language backgrounds tend to make similar tense errors in learning the same target language.
Although the proponents of tense error analysis seem to have provided concise arguments regarding the weakness of contrastive analysis, it should be noted that both C A and T E A have their own merits and drawbacks. To achieve greater heights, attention should be focused on the merits of both in addressing the issue of tense error occurrence in second language learning.
2.7 CAUSES OF TENSE ERRORS IN ESSAY WRITING
Randall , advances major causes of tense errors as:
i. Psychological state
ii. L1 habits
iii. General muscular activity
iv. Style of course material
v. Teaching method
vi. Introduction of written language
i. Psychological state: for him, these factors which range from the physiological, linguistic through pedagogical to the personality of the teacher and learners of a foreign language cause language users especially foreign language users to commits tense errors. He explains that the factor need not all be present nor do they have equal weight in the generation of tense errors. Psychological state, that is a mental condition in which the qualities of a state are relatively constant even through the state itself may be dynamic; “a manic state” mental condition, mental state, psychological condition. Cognitive state, state of mind-the state of a person’s cognitive processes, can cause or lead the users of foreign language to commits tense errors. He also view that individual motivation, personality, societal attitude to a language as well as other psychological variables come into play, as they could facilitate the learning of a language or by the causes of tense errors.
ii. L1 habits: L1 habits result in overgeneralization and a failure to discriminate between similar items or structures. It manifest in the linguistic system of one language being transfer to the other while producing utterances in the later. Usually, it is the form of the dominants language, L1, which is transferred to L2 or target language. The features transferred could be at the phonological, lexical, grammatical, and /or discourse level. The transferred of these features to L2 or target language causes the learners to commits tense errors. L1 habits could be retroactive. Retroactive retards the process of acquisition of L2 because the features are different or do not exist in the L1, thereby occasioning a negative transfer which causes tense errors. These is also phonic interference which suggests the transfer of the rules guiding the production of speech sounds of a dominant language L1 in a speech community to the sound system of a subordinate L2 or target language. Tense errors occur because certain English sounds are not present in the L1 to replace the one in L2. The syllabic structure of the mother tongue or L1 differs from that of English resulting in the insertion of vowels in consonant clusters which causes tense errors. The L1 habits cause tense errors in L2. For example, learners who say; “I comes to school every day”, instead of; I come to school every day
iii. General muscular activity: muscular failure which is physical inability to write and produce the sounds of a new language. It is sufficiently obvious that, is through muscular activity that we do many necessary, useful or otherwise desirable things, and it is also a matter of common experience that muscles. To specify the exact form or amounts of muscular exercise advisable would take us beyond the coped of the present work. Here as elsewhere, the student must work out his own his own salvation. Muscular activity been the ability to produce sounds and also write, failure or inability to do that cause tense errors.
iv. Style of course materials: materials presented in textbooks, if not well structured or well articulated and intelligently presented to the learner, could lead to tens errors. The suitability of appropriate language materials selected for the age and ability of the learners matter a lot. The selection of course materials for students is one of the most difficult tasks of the teacher. Teacher problems today is not lack of materials but, how to make the of course materials especially, the modern innovations are grossly lacking which cause errors in the learners.
v. Teaching method: for him, the factor which range from the teaching, used by the teachers to enable the students to learn. These strategies are determined partly on subject matter to be taught and partly by nature of learner. For a particular teaching to be appropriate and efficient. It has to be in relation with the characteristic of the learner and the type of learning it’s supposed to bring about. Teachers with insufficient subject knowledge and appropriate teaching methods causes tense of knowledge which is the root causes of the present in teaching English.
vi. Introduction of written language: one of the reasons students cannot understand written language is the fact that they have never had the opportunity to write. Negligence either on the side of the teachers or parents in exposing this learners to wide range of written language, lack of this knowledge lead learner to tense errors in writing.
According to Ardogon (2005), it is understood that the nature of tense errors implicates the existence of other reasons for tense errors to occur. Then, causes of tense errors can be categorized within the following two domains:
i. Inter-lingual transfer
ii. Intra-lingual transfer
– Inter-lingual transfer is a significant source of tense errors of language learners. Inter-lingual tense error is the tense error of language transfer, which is caused by the learners’ first language. It happens when an item or stricter is in the second language manifest some degree of difference from some degree of similarity with the equivalent item or structure in the learners first language. Randll (2008).
However, this should not be transfer. Tense error analysis those not regard. There as the persistence of old habits but rather as signs that the learner is internalizing and investigating the system of the new language.
Inter-lingual tense error may occur of different levels such as the transfer of phonological, morphological and lexica-semantic elements of the native language into the large language.
– Intra-lingual transfer: interference for the student’s own language is not the only reason for committing tense errors. Some tense errors seen to be universal, reflecting learners’ simpler. The use of past tense suffix ‘ed’ for all verbs is an example of simplification and overgeneralization. Such tense errors are commonly found in the speech of a second language learner, irrespective of their mother tongue (MT)
Intra-lingual transfer, result from faulty or partial learning of the target language rather than language transfer. They may be caused by:
i. False analogy
iii. Incomplete rule application
iv. Exploiting redundancy
v. Overlooking co-occurrence restriction
vi. Hyper-correction [monitor overuse]
Intra-lingual tense errors occur as a result of a learner attempting to build up concepts and hypothesis about the target language from his limited experience. Example:
John was watching television when he stand up and fixes a snack.
The tense in this sentence changes from past progressive to present. The appropriate tense here should be past tense.
– John was watching television when he stood up and fixed a snack.
In this example, the entire sentence is in past tense, with past progressive showing the continuation of action.
Brown (2000), adopts a similar position in maintaining that inter-lingual transfer, inter-lingual features such as incorrect generalization of rules of the target language, the classroom with the teacher and his materials, the social situation (including peer groups) and communication strategies are all sources of tense error.
One’s own personality style or style of thinking can be a source of tense error, highlighting the idiosyncratic nature of learners’ tense error. A reflective and conservative style might result in very careful but hesitate production of speech with perhaps fewer tense error but tense error indicative of the conscious application, or rather misapplication of learner rules. Such a person might also commit tense errors. Brown (2000).
Anagboso (2010), address the reasons why Nigeria users of English commit tense errors. He notes that tense errors arise because many Nigeria languages have a phonetic writing system in contrast to the English language. This causes Nigerians to write English words as they pronounce them, thus producing tense errors.
Yankson (2002), asserts that the “crucial and decisive role of the English as a second language [ESL] teacher demands that the teacher be competent and knowledgeable”. He stresses that incompetent teachers induce and reinforce tense errors.
2.8 CLASSIFICATION OF TENSE ERRORS IN ESSAY WRITING
Tense error classification draws a lot of attention from researchers in the literature.
Randall , proposes a three-way classification of tense errors as follows:
– Interference tense error
– Intra-lingual tense error
– Developmental tense error
– The interference tense error, otherwise known as inter-lingual tense error, are caused by the influence of the learner’s mother tongue on his production of the target language in presumably those areas where the two languages clearly differ. In the other word, interference tense errors occur when the learner transfer native language habits into language learning L2.
– The intra-lingual tense errors are those originating within the structure of the target language itself Complex rule-learning behavior is typically characterized by over generalization, incomplete application of rules, and failure to learn conditions for rule application. When the complexity of English structure encourages such learning problems, all learners, regardless of background language, tend to commit similar tense errors.
– The developmental tense errors reflect the strategies by which the learner acquires the language. These tense errors, according to (Randall (2008), shows that the learner, often times completely independent of his native language, make false hypothesis about the target language based on limited exposure to it. A major justification for labeling tense errors as developmental comes from noting similarities to tense errors produced by children who are acquiring the target language as their mother tongue (MT).
Randall in his discussion focuses on the intra-lingual and developmental tense errors observed in the learning of English as a second language. He further classifies them into the following four categories:
– Overgeneralization-covering instances where the learners creates a deviant structure on the basis of his experience of the other structure of the target language (TL).
– Ignorance of the rule restriction: Occurring as a result of failure to observe the restrictions on existing structures.
– Incomplete application of rules: arising when the learner fail to fully develop a certain structure acquired to produce acceptable sentences.
– Hypothesized false concepts-deriving from faulty comprehension of distinctions in the target language (TL).
On the local level, tense errors are classified by Corder (2002), into four main categories as follows:
a. Omission of some required elements.
b. Addition of some unnecessary or incorrect elements.
c. Selection of an incorrect element.
d. Ordering of elements
Nevertheless, Corder (2002), himself adds that this classification is not enough to describe tense errors. He, therefore, includes the linguistic level of the tense errors under the sub-areas of morphology, lexical, syntax and discourse. This categorization is exemplified below:
A. Omission of some required elements
Morphological level Syntactic level
A strange thing happened to me yesterday. [The past tense morpheme was omitted in the sentence]. The correct version is: “a strange thing happened to me yesterday. -He the man [The ‘be’ verb was omitted in the sentence]. The correct version is: “He is a man”.
B. Addition of some unnecessary or in correct elements
Morphological Syntactic Lexical
I getting up every day at 6 am. [The present continuous tense was wrongly added in the sentence]. The correct version is: “I get up every day at 6 am”.
We shall discussed it. [The past tense was wrongly added] the correct version: “We shall discuss it”. I staying there years ago. [The present continuous tense was wrongly added]. The correct version is: “I stayed there years ago”.
C. Selection of an incorrect elements
My friend is olderst than Pat [The correct word adjectival morpheme is [-er] not [-est] I want that he comes. [The correct word should be “like” not “want”
D. Ordering of elements
Phonological Morphological Syntactical
‘stands up’ for stood up’, “fixes” for fixed. The use of present tense, instead of past tense. Get upping. For ‘get up’; He a dear friend to me for ‘He is a dear friend to me’.
Another classification of tense error given by Corder (2002), is overt and covert tense errors. Overt tense errors are errors of correctness and appropriateness. They are unquestionably ungrammatical at the sentence level but convert tense errors are intricate and not easily identifiable. They are grammatically well formed at the sentence level but include structures which are not appropriate in the context in which they occur.
Anagboso (2010), provides his own classification as follows:
i. Discourse tense errors: Errors beyond the sentence level.
ii. Factual Tense Errors: Errors made by a learner concerning the factual knowledge or truth value of an utterance.
iii. Word Errors: incorrect choice or addition of words and wrong spelling.
iv. Syntactic Errors: The common errors of syntax, for tense, word order, agreement and so on.
These classifications provide great enlightenment about the nature of tense errors.
2.8.1 COMMON TENSE ERRORS IN ESSAY WRITING.
Common tense errors are “those occurring in the written and spoken English of large number of learners”. Common tense errors may not impede, that is hinder communication but they are fossilized tense errors.[ conventional pattern of behaviors ] and their fossilization is reinforced by their widespread use: Common tense errors are subdivided into vulgar and institutionalized tense errors.
– Vulgar tense errors, shows ignorance of fairly elementary rules seen in syntactical, morphological and spelling errors. They are prevalent tense errors that convey signs of semi-literacy.
– Institutionalized tense errors are common tense errors which are not identified as errors except by native users of the language or by most highly educated and experienced users of English as a second language. Such tense errors are characterized by the violation of rules of more advance syntax (e. g; the use of “for” after demand). ( Klessen (2002).
He further states that, “simple present tense is used to express a habitual action with adverb such usually, always or often”. The use of simple present tense often confuses students, especially when simple present tense is used in descriptive essay /writing. When the descriptive writer makes tense error in present tense, it means that the writer is not careful enough in making the text vivid and detailed. Examples;
– Wrong: I am getting up every day at 6 am.
– Correct: I get up every day at 6 am.
Past participle tense are form from verbs. Past participle can be used as adjectives or used to form verb tense. Past participle is used in narrative essay. Example;
– Wrong: The boy taking to hospital has recovered.
– Correct: The boy taken to hospital has recovered.
Linguist agree to some extent on the necessity of the stick of standard English in writing unlike in pronunciation where it is thought that sticking to Received Pronunciation (RP) is almost impossible. Presently, there is a cry against the falling standard of English in secondary schools. The situation could be viewed from the phenomenon of deviant usage, otherwise called tense errors.
Willmont (2002), states that “much of the English heard in secondary schools could be defined as “substandard containing linguistic flaws”. The substandard English, misused idioms, a tendency to use verbose and ‘high fluting’ language often with a archaic manner”. He notes that those that used the substandard English do so, not by choice or out of a sense of creativity like the literary language but out of ignorant. He also notes that secondary school written English is characterized by pluralization of some non-countable nouns, introduction of cultural specific vocabulary, back formation, semantic shift, different verb-preposition combinations and some secondary schools L1-induced syntactic structures.
On the L1 induced syntactic structures, Ogbuechi (2003), writes that the imposition of the lexical-syntactic structures of a native language or L1 on English known as direct translation is one of the features identified in the essay writing. Using Hausa language as an example, one normal reads versions of sentences such as:
Nigerian English Hausa Good English
– I have eaten the money
– Malam put his mouth into the issue – Na ci kudin
– Malam ya sa baki a Magana – I have spent the money
– Malam interfered in the issue.
Some of the usages where the rules of the native language applied to English language are usually attributed to creativity. While these usages are pardonable in the literary field, the moot point whether it is really the standard English that is expected of secondary school essay; the language that can pass the test of international intelligibility.
Ogbuechi (2003), also belies that “the second user of English writes vaguely because of lack of the knowledge of synonyms in English to express exact meanings of concepts, ideas and situations”.
Adekule (2003), advocates English language competence and proficiency according to the domestic and international needs of the country. He emphasizes that since the ESL users embarks on education career whose final goal could be contact with educated users of English, the world over, it is only reasonable for him to learn the worldwide dialect.
The language of Nigerian secondary school students generally speaking, is very appalling. Their problem seems to be a carryover from one level to another.
2.9. SOLUTIONS TO IMPROVE THE WRITING SKILLS OF THE STUDENTS.
i. A positive attitude towards writing: All teachers experience student apprehension to write at one time or the other. Motivation and success complement in another, whether a student does poorly or believes do poorly, will be avoided. Thus if students do not think they are good at writing, they will not choose to write and become less capable because of avoiding the experience. “Poor writers fear to make mistakes”.
ii. Providing multitudes of writing experiences: A safe place for students to express themselves through writing is the first thing teachers’ needs to provide. The classroom should become a community of authors, a supportive and cooperative relationship among students and teacher that occurs when writers explore possible topics, try out ideas and struggle together to create, it is also the role of the teacher to supply a supportive atmosphere and topics. Writing experts believes that learning written language is similar to children’s acquisition of oratory skills in language. It is crucial for the learners to learn by doing, to interact with printed work, and to explore ideas and the writing process without restriction.
iii. Developing lessons that will target specific writing weaknesses: poor writers do their best to avoid writing, the teacher needs to make writing so necessary and so ordinary process that students can’t avoid it, this includes making it a part of the entire curriculum. He believes that “the teacher who has a wide repertoire of strategies can coordinate and inter-mingle modes of instruction to teach students to enjoy being authors and produce coherent piece of writing.”
Students are not born with necessary skills to become good writers. They need to develop them to grow as writers and as learners. Teachers need to demonstrate and discuss these strategies that can help learners break the “blank paper barrier that get started with first drafts.” Mini-lessons on various writing skills give struggling learners more tools and strategies to help them through the process. Lessons needs to focus on where the students are as writers.
Time must be made daily for students to write because writing is a process. The opportunity to write daily is especially critical for students who come from home where they have few opportunities to see other students write or to actually write themselves. Burns (2000).
2.10. SUMMARY OF LITERATURE REVIEW.
In this chapter, the studies reviewed are relevant to the present research work, looking at the tense errors in essay writing. Generally, the study revealed that, tense error refer to a deviant structure or unacceptable utterances that signify imperfect knowledge of the linguistic code. A systematic deviation from the target language by a non-native speaker either in speech or in written. The literature reviewed showed the types of English tense and forms of essay writing as: Types of tense, present tense, past tense and future tense. And the forms of essay writing are: Descriptive essay, narrative essay, argumentative essay and expository essay. It also reviewed the tense errors analysis and the causes of tense errors as follows; psychological state, L1 habits, general muscular activity, style of course material, teaching methods and introduction to written language. Finally, the literature reviewed showed the solutions to improve the writing skills of the students as follows; positive attitude towards writing, providing multitudes of writing experience and developing lessons that will target specific writing weakness
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