Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Thai EFL Students' Writing Errors in Different Text Types: The Interference of the First Language

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Thai EFL Students' Writing Errors in Different Text Types: The Interference of the First Language

Article excerpt


This study aimed at analyzing writing errors caused by the interference of the Thai language, regarded as the first language (L1), in three writing genres, namely narration, description, and comparison/contrast. 120 English paragraphs written by 40 second year English major students were analyzed by using Error Analysis (EA).The results revealed that the first language interference errors fell into 16 categories: verb tense, word choice, sentence structure, article, preposition, modal/auxiliary, singular/plural form, fragment, verb form, pronoun, run-on sentence, infinitive/gerund, transition, subject-verb agreement, parallel structure, and comparison structure, respectively, and the number of frequent errors made in each type of written tasks was apparently different. In narration, the five most frequent errors found were verb tense, word choice, sentence structure, preposition, and modal/auxiliary, respectively, while the five most frequent errors in description and comparison/contrast were article, sentence structure, word choice, singular/plural form, and subject-verb agreement, respectively. Interestingly, in the narrative and descriptive paragraphs, comparison structure was found to be the least frequent error, whereas it became the 10th frequent error in comparison/contrast writing. It was apparent that a genre did affect writing errors as different text types required different structural features. It could be concluded that to enhance students' grammatical and lexical accuracy, a second language (L2) writing teacher should take into consideration L1 interference categories in different genres.

Keywords: writing errors, first language interference, L2 writing

1. Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Of the four English skills, writing has been found to be the most difficult for EFL learners to master, especially in Thai universities where English is mainly taught as a compulsory subject, since writing in a second language requires both syntactic and semantic knowledge. Weigle (2002) points out, "The process of text generation, or encoding internal representations (ideas) into written texts, may be disrupted by the need for lengthy searches for appropriate lexical and syntactic choices" (p. 36). Clearly understood, the insufficiency of linguistic knowledge or limited language competence has negative impact on writing proficiency as well as L2 writing quality.

Ironically, even though writing is perceived to be the hardest skill to acquire, it is becoming more demanding in the age of entire communication via email and other communicative technologies. Santos (2000) explains that there are three reasons making writing increasingly essential which are 1) more international linguists are promoting writing as their field of specialization, 2) more articles and journals are being published in English, and 3) more international students are pursuing their degrees in English speaking countries. Besides, Chen (2007) states that owing to the age of globalization, the world seems to be smaller because of the perception of unlimited communication. For this reason, all members of global institutions, for their own benefits in terms of education and business cooperation, have to stay connected with one another. In order to comprehensibly express thoughts and opinions, apart from oral interaction, writing is considered crucial. On account of its importance, many colleges and universities thus offer more writing courses, for example, Writing for Specific Purposes, Academic Writing, Paragraph Writing, and so forth to students who need to improve their writing. Silva (2000) notes that a number of second language writing specialists are very much required due to the increasing demands of English writing courses. From Silva's notion, a question like "Why are so many L2 writing specialists needed?" may be raised. To reasonably answer, among four English skills, writing has been perceived as the most difficult to teach as well as to study on account that a writing teacher has to devote considerably more time, energy, and expertise in order to help a group of student writers effectively develop their skills. …

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