Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Perception and Production of Thai Learners on English Prepositions

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Perception and Production of Thai Learners on English Prepositions

Article excerpt


In this paper, I adopt Best's (2001) Perceptual Assimilation Model (PAM) to account for how Thai learners acquire English prepositions in prepositional phrases and propose the ranking order of English preposition acquisition into three different categories. The ranking is as follows: Category A is a one-to-one semantic mapping between English and Thai prepositions, therefore ranked first suggesting that they would be the easiest to be acquired. Category B is a one-to-many semantic mapping between English and Thai prepositions. Acquisition of Category B should be more difficult than Category A because one English preposition can have more than one correspondence in Thai. Category C is one-to-null mapping between English and Thai prepositions. A preposition that exists in one language can be null in another language. Category C would rank the lowest in tenus of acquisition.

The participants consisted of 20 graduate students in the MA program at a university in Bangkok. They were placed into medium (8-10) and low (6-7) proficiency levels of English by a placement test called the Language and Instructor System (ELLIS) administered via computer. The two tests used in this study were a graimnatical judgment test for English prepositions and a writing test. The two tests were exactly parallel in each item. The correlation between their awareness in spotting incorrect prepositions and the ability to use correct ones were measured using Pearson's correlation coefficient.

The results were consistent with the ranking proposed here. It showed that L2 Thai acquirers of English prepositions were able to judge graimnatical and ungrammatical sentences correctly with respect to the ranking A»B»C. However, no significant difference of the correlation between perception and production in all categories was found. The results further revealed that both medium and low proficient participants were able to perceive and produce dependent prepositions more accurately than independent prepositions.

Keywords: syntax acquisition of English prepositions, Thai L2 acquirers, ranking order

1. Introduction

1.1 Background and Rationale

How Thai students learn English as a foreign language has been long studied with respect to their phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic errors during the course of their learning (Bennui, 2008; Intratat, 2001; Noojan, 1999; Thep-Akrapong, 2005; Tawilapakul, 2002). Explanations usually fall into three basic categories: frequency of errors, types of errors, and causes of errors. The findings are based on two analyses: contrastive analysis, which focuses on similarities and differences between native language and target language (Buren, 1984) and error analysis, which focuses on identifying patterns of errors in interlanguage graimnar (Selinker, 1972). However, the theory of universal graimnar and second language acquisition turn to principles and parameters of UG in that UG is accessible in both LI and L2 acquisition (Felix, 1991) while Tsimpli and Roussou (1991) argues that in some circumstances UG is not accessible with some functional categories in L2 acquisition, be it tense, modals, agreement, plurals, determiners and prepositions (Finney, 2005). This is because functional categories are independent of UG. If this hypothesis holds, second language learners will not have direct access to them. In light of much research on second language acquisition, we are led to be convinced. A number of works; for instance, have investigated how English language learners from Asian speaking countries have acquired English prepositions by adopting CA and EA with participants whose first language are Asian languages (i.e., Kim & Aim, 2003; Castro, 2013; Al Khotaba, 2013). Kim and Aim's work looked at how Asian speakers acquire English prepositions following the Natural Approach proposed by Krashen and Terrell (1983).

Most participants, regardless of their proficiency level, chose the correct answers on the must-be-used prepositions. …

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