Academic journal article College Student Journal

Jordan University Students' Performance on the Verbs Make and Do

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Jordan University Students' Performance on the Verbs Make and Do

Article excerpt

This paper attempted to study Jordan University students' performance on MAKE and DO at the two linguistic levels of production and recognition. The main objectives were to see if the students were aware of the differences in use between these high-frequency verbs; to identify the difficulties that students encountered in using or recognizing these verbs; and to find the possible factors to which these difficulties may be attributed. Two tests were designed to elicit some data for using or recognizing these verbs by English major students and non-specialist students whose language of study was also English. The results of the study showed that students tended to overuse MAKE and underuse DO. The total percentages at the production and recognition levels, which reached (71.4%) for English major students and (59.9%) for non-specialists, revealed a deficiency in the performance of both groups though the former group's performance was better than the latter's. Some recommendations that call for direct emphasis on lexical accuracy were presented to remedy that deficiency.

Key words: Make, Do, Production, Recognition, Performance.

Rationale and Introduction

While teaching general English courses to students studying English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at the University of Jordan, the researcher often noticed that students made errors with the high-frequency verbs MAKE and DO thinking that they are interchangeable. Thus, a student might say: I *made my homework, but I *did some mistakes. In fact, lexical errors are not restricted to these verbs; they may extend to include other delexical and causative verbs such as: GET, HAVE, USE, LOOK, etc., despite the fact that these frequently used verbs are among the ones that are taught and learned at an early level in textbooks and in schools. It is clear that the message may be conveyed unambiguously in a rather good "grammatical" way, but the wrong choices of what collocates with the verbs MAKE and DO show that students face a difficulty in using them correctly even at their advanced level after more than eight years of English study in schools and two more years at universities. The knowledge of isolated words does not necessarily produce fluent communication. This study attempts to bring these high-frequency verbs into focus to measure the students' performance level of them.

EFL students may use these verbs on their literal "denotation" level confusing the "connotational" and idiomatic dimensions. According to Collins Cobuild English Grammar, "delexical structures constitute to the impression of fluency in English by a foreign user" (1990, p. 147). However, errors may disrupt the flow of communication, and may lead to misunderstanding between the sender and the receiver of the message. Corder's (1973) term of "systematic errors," in which a learner can get his point across but in different words and structures, may explain why a learner makes errors. Most errors in EFL have been attributed to negative interlingual transfer or intralingual transfer (overgeneralizations) (Brown, 1980, p.174). Wrong explanations, misleading examples, inaccurate translations in the context of learning may also lead the learner to form what Richards (1974) calls "false concepts." Tolerance of errors, particularly in speaking, for the sake of the communicative flow, though harmful for FL learning, may lead to fossilization of errors. Laufer (2005) points out that learners who understand the overall message often do not pay attention to the precise meanings of the individual words. However, in writing, EFL learners may have a better opportunity of having some of their lexical or syntactic errors corrected since writing requires more precise and accurate wording than speaking.

To maintain a constant flow of communication, EFL learners usually rely on some communicative strategies such as: paraphrasing, avoidance and borrowing (Tarone, 1977, p.62). For the strategy of borrowing, learners rely on their native language to literally translate from it what seems to be equivalent to approximate the desired lexical item forgetting its idiosyncratic nature. …

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