Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Common Error Types of Iranian Learners of English

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Common Error Types of Iranian Learners of English

Article excerpt


This paper aimed at obtaining a clear understanding of Iranian EFL learners' L2 writing error types. To develop such an understanding, a research question was formulated to see whether there is any significant difference between the participants' language proficiency level and their error types in writing. To this end, a sample version of the structure and reading sections of a paper-based TOFEL test, and a Test of Written English (TWE) were administered to 103 university students majoring in English. The statistical analyses revealed that a) there were statistically significant differences among proficiency groups on overall error types they made in their compositions, and b) frequency of occurrence of error types in each group was different.

Keywords: Error analysis, Proficiency level, L2 Writing

1. Introduction

The study of second language learners' errors has emerged as one the focal concerns of second language studies since 1970s. Since then, many researchers have devoted their time to explore the nature and the cause of the errors second language learners make in their production of the second language. Many studies aimed at identifying the frequency of error types among either EFL or ESL learners. Among these studies, some have tried to observe errors which are mainly caused by the L1 influence (Chen, 2006; Kao, 1999; Lin, 2002; Tseng, 1980; Ying, 1987), other studies have dealt with detecting those error types which are general among all EFL and ESL learners (Burt & Kiparsky, 1972; Fitikides, 2002; Richards, 1974).

However, most of these studies have not considered error types which are peculiar to different proficiency levels. And this insufficiency can be traced in the studies conducted on the error types of Iranian-speaking English learners' error types (for example, Rooshanzamir, 1995; Shakeri, 1993). In fact, the present study seeks to observe the performance of Iranian speakers of English regarding the error types they make in their writing. For that reason, the study aims to answer the following research question:

Are there any significant differences in the type of writing errors of Iranian EFL learners at different proficiency levels?

2. Background

2.1 Significance of Studying Learner Errors

One strategy to address the problem of how much the standard of English in non-native production has declined is to first look at the type of errors that learners make. We can cite evidence that the analysis of errors provides researchers with valuable information on learner language, and helps teachers improve instruction. (Burt & Kiparsky, 1972; Corder, 1967; Dulay & Burt, 1972; Ellis, 1983; Richards, 1974; Selinker, 1972; Silveira, 1999). As Ellis (2003) notes there are good reasons to study learners' errors. First, they tell us why learners make errors and provide us with useful information on learner language. Secondly, the types of errors learners make can help teachers. Thirdly, "paradoxically, it is possible that making errors may actually help learners to learn when they self-correct the errors they make" (p. 15).

Studying any kind of deviation, from a selected norm of language performance, regardless of its cause(s), paves the way for remedial actions in the process of error correction (Corder, 1981). It also helps teachers and learners in finding the areas of weakness in which learners have difficulty in producing the second/foreign language (Dulay, Burt, & Krashen, 1982).

Brown (2000) believes that the occurrence of errors in L2 learners' production is inevitable. He adds that if learners neither make errors nor receive any feedback on their errors, their acquisition process will be impeded. These errors, deemed meaningful and systematic, are of outmost importance to researchers and teachers of L2 writing (Benson, 1980; Chen, 2006; Li & Chan, 1998; Ferris & Hedgcock, 2005; Leki, 1992, Frodesen, 1991; Hirokawa, 1986; Kao, 1999; Lin, 2002; Neumann, 1977; Tseng, 1980; Silva, 1993; Ying, 1987; Yu & Atkinson, 1988). …

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