Error Analysis of the Written English Paragraphs of Bangladeshi EFL Learners

 *Sushmita Rani


This study aims to examine and analyze the error in written paragraph in English of the undergraduate students of different private universities of Bangladesh through gradual English learning courses though a lot of studies had been done on this topic. This study focuses on identifying major area of error in written English of Bangladeshi EFL learners with 13 years background in English. By checking, diagnosing, identifying, categorizing, analyzing the error of the sample writing of different private university students and by evaluating it, our ELT teachers can retrieve an insight in the hypothesis of the feedback conducted by this longitudinal study which will help them to develop material and design the courses according to their up growing demands and appropriate to the era for teaching English as a foreign language. Selinker (1992) in (Ho, 2003) states that errors are indispensable to learners since the making of errors can be regarded as ‘a device the learner uses in order to learn.’ Thus, error is a proof that the student is learning. The error is the route that the student must pass to achieve the target language. 


 EA (Error Analysis), Treatment of error, Error Taxonomy, Evaluate, Improvement.

 1. Introduction 

Actually Error Analysis is like building and developing a hypothesis to the pile of errors reflecting the competence of the learners. Doing error is the outcome of learning process and error analysis provides the means and procedures learners used in the field of discovery of English Language. Brown (1993: 205) differentiates between mistakes and errors. A mistake refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or slip in that it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly. All people make mistakes, in both native and second language situations. Native speakers are normally capable of recognizing and correcting such mistakes, which are not the result of a deficiency in competence but the result of some sort of breakdown in the process of production. Corder in Larsen (1992) claims that a mistake is a random performance slip caused by fatigue, excitement, etc. and therefore can be readily self-corrected. Actually Language learning is like learning swimming where learners benefit from the frequent mistakes generated by process of learning and sometime negative aspects may be the outcome of frequent mistakes done by the learners when they give up learning. But it is an important aspect in the field of Writing Skill in English Language Teaching. This paper will try to concentrate a brief study on more recent errors done by the EFL students of university levels of Bangladesh.

2. Literature Review

According to Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (1992), a student makes mistakes and errors when s/he is writing. Mistakes happen due to lack of attention, fatigue or carelessness. They can be self-corrected when attention is called. Errors are the use of linguistic items in a way that a learner of the language regards them as showing faulty or incomplete learning. They occur because the leaner does not know what is correct, and thus errors cannot be self-corrected. Richard (1985:95) described errors as follows:” The use of a linguistic item in a way which affluent or native speaker of the language regards as showing faulty or incomplete action.”Gass and Selinker (2001) claimed that errors are systematic. They occur repeatedly and not recognized by the learner. Hence, only the teacher or researcher could locate them, the learner wouldn’t. To conclude, mistakes are not a result of deficiency in competence. They are considered as slips of the pen or the tongue. They are lapses, but errors are different from mistakes. They occur because the learners do not know what is correct. They are due to incomplete acquisition of the language.

Give up………..Failure

Try——->Error——>Feedback——->New Attempt——–>Desired Goal                                                                           

 [Jonna Huang: Error Analysis in English Teaching: A Review of Studies 2008 PP 2]

In the middle of the 20th century, when Behaviorist Psychology and Structuralism were very popular, Contrastive Analysis was very widely accepted in language teaching. CA was considered as a remedy for language teaching problems. As a result of the popularity of this approach, a series of contrastive studies began to appear and they were usually pedagogical and aimed at analyzing learners’ errors. Brown (2000: 208) stated that “the principal barrier to the second language system is the interference of the first language system with the second language system,” It is considered that interference is the result of CA and it causes errors.

EA is a branch of applied linguistics. It has two functions. One of them is theoretical and the other is practical. The theoretical area of EA has its place in methodology. It describes the learner’s knowledge of the target language. It helps the researcher find out the nature of the psychological processes and the relation between the knowledge and the teaching the learner has been receiving. According to Corder (1981:47), mismatch is a problem of diagnosis because the degree of mismatch is a quantitative assessment whereas the nature of mismatch is a qualitative assessment. It involves the study of the nature of the learner’s knowledge of the language.

The field of EA in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) was established in the 1970s by Corder and colleagues. A widely-available survey can be found in chapter eight of Brown (2000). A key finding of EA has been that many learner errors were produced by learners misunderstanding the rules of the new language. EA is a type of linguistic study that focuses on the errors learners make. It consists of a comparison between the errors made in TL and within that TL itself. Corder is the “father” of EA (the EA with the “new look”). It was in his article entitled “The significance of learner errors” (1967) that EA took a new turn. Errors used to be “flaws” that needed to be eradicated. Corder (1967) presented a completely different point of view. He contended that those errors are “important in and of themselves”. In his opinion, systematically analyzing errors made by language learners makes it possible to determine areas that need reinforcement in teaching. EA emphasizes “the significance of errors in learners’ interlanguage system” (Brown 1994:204). The term interlanguage introduced by Selinker (1972), refers to the systematic knowledge of an L2 which is independent on both the learner’s L1 and the TL. Nemser (1974: 55) referred to it as the Approximate System, and Corder (1967) as the Idiosyncratic Dialect or Transitional Competence. According to Corder (1967), EA has two objects: one theoretical and another applied. The theoretical object is to understand what and how a learner learns when he studies an L2. The applied object is to enable the learner to learn more efficiently by using the knowledge of his dialect for pedagogical purposes. At the same time, the investigation of errors can serve two purposes, diagnostic (to in-point the problem) and prognostic (to make plans to solve a problem). Corder (1967) said that it is diagnostic because it can tell us the learner’s grasp of a language at any given point during the learning process. It is also prognostic because it can tell the teacher to modify learning materials to meet the learners’ problems. A research has limitations of providing only a partial picture of learner language; and having a substantive nature in that it does not take into account avoidance strategy in SLA, since EA only investigates what learners do. Learners who avoided the sentence structures which they found difficult due to the differences between their native language and TL may be viewed to have no difficulty. This was pointed out by Brown (1994) and Ellis (1996).

Though a lot of studies have been conducted on this topic, the main tone of this writing is to introduce with the recent error of Bangladeshi EFL learners’ in the writing paragraphs.  470 paragraphs have been checked and the findings are given here.

3. Objective of the study

 The objective of the study is –

  1. To identify the recent errors of written paragraphs of undergraduate level students of Bangladesh.
  2. Categorize all the mistakes of written paragraphs into different varieties of error taxonomy.
  • Understanding the strategy of the learner.
  1. To design material and syllabus after analyzing their needs.
  2. To focus on the pedagogical implications to overcomes such errors.

 4. Methodology

4:1: Location

The location of the study is in some recognized private and public universities of Dhaka city in Bangladesh as Dhaka is the center for higher studies in Bangladesh. The students of different universities of first or second year graduates are the targets to generate written paragraph on varieties of creative topics in English.

 4.2: Participants

Participants are randomly selected from different private universities and public universities in Bangladesh at undergraduate level. Private universities students are selected from different private universities like Daffodil International University, State University, American International University and Stamford University. Some students from public universities like University of Dhaka, Jagonnath University and Jahangirnagar University are randomly selected for having written test scripts. Among the 470 students (59.57%), 280 students are male and the other 190 students are females (40.43). All the participants are from non-English speaking backgrounds.

4.3: Instrument

One instrument is utilized to collect data for this research-

  1. Sample paragraphs on different kinds of reflective and creative writing.

4.4: Procedure

Students are administered to write down paragraphs on different creative topics as a lottery and they need generate product writing just like exam hall. They were required to complete their writing within 30 minutes and minimum 150 words. As they had written on particular creative topics selected by the teacher, they did not have the scope to copy from each other. All the 470 paragraphs were handwritten distributed on a definite answer script. After collecting the scripts, the three steps specified by Corder (1974) are followed:

  1. Collection of sample errors
  2. Identification of errors
  3. Description of errors
  4. Evaluation of errors

 4.4.1: Identifying error/ results

Table 1 shows the analysis of the errors based on the type of errors, number of errors, percentage and mean values of errors committed by the participants. 

Table: 1 (Taxonomy of error)

Item Type of errors Number of errors Percentage Mean
1. Singular/ plural form 812 8.28% 1.72
2. Form of verb 670 6.83% 1.42
3. Tense of verbs 780 7.95% 1.65
4. Misuse of ‘be’ verb 1042 10.62 2.21
5. Choice of words 517 5.27% 1.10
6. Subject verb agreement 795 8.10% 1.69
7. Construction of sentences 954 9.72% 2.02
8. Word order 573 5.84% 1.21
9. Preposition 618 6.30% 1.31
10. Article 435 4.43% 0.92
11. Capitalization 135 1.37% 0.28
12. Spelling 747 7.61% 1.58
13. Wrong/ Misused word 651 6.63% 1.38
14. Missing Space 146 1.48% 0.31
15. Missing Word 201 2.04% 0.42
16. Punctuation 78 0.79% 0.16
17. Word Form 96 0.97% 0.20
18. Verb Form 555 5.66% 1.18
19. Total 9805 100% 20.76

Description of the errors

Checking the percentage of errors, the result shows that the most common errors done the students in the field of Misuse of Be Verb (10.62%) followed by construction of sentences (9.72%), Singular/ Plural form (8.28%), Subject Verb Agreement (8.10%), Tense of Verbs (7.95%), Spelling (7.61%), Form of Verbs (6.83%), Wrong/ Misused word(6.63%),  preposition (6.30%), word order (5.84%), Verb Form (5.66%), Choice of Words (5.27%) and article (4.43%). These 13 most common errors with specific examples from the taxonomy of errors are shown in the following Table 2.

The next 5 less noticeable errors from table 1 are Missing Word (2.04%), Missing Space (1.48%), Capitalization (1.37%), Word Form (0.97%) and Punctuation (.16%) which will shown elaborately with specific examples in Table 3.

Table: 2

Most common errors with specific examples from the descending order

Definition and error classification


Identification of error Correct sentences and explanation of rules
1.      Construction of sentences


Our nation many gross loss in this day. Our nation faces gross loss in each sector of our country
2.      Singular/plural form


Every people join in the Boishakhi fair. Every person joins in the Boishakhi Fair.
3.      Subject- verb agreement The folk is walking in the same path. The folk are walking in the same path.
4.      Misuse of ‘be’ verb I) Now a day we are face hartal.

II) In this day we are see a lot of problem.

I) Now a day we face hartal.

II) In this day we see a lot of problem.

5.      Tense of verbs


They go home yesterday. They went home yesterday.
6.      Spelling


Our leaders become very carrgy.

Training colleges for teachers must be restricted to more extesive


Our leaders become very crazy.

Training colleges for teachers must be restricted to more extensive


7.      Form of verbs


They ignores everyone’s request to not do it. They ignore everyone’s request not to do it.
8.      Wrong or misused words


This loss can not be feel by anything.

The hole matter becomes worse.

This loss cannot be filled by anything.

The whole matter becomes worse.

9.      Preposition


The citizen continuously suffers to skin diseases. The citizen continuously suffers from skin diseases.
10. Word order


Also is daily need official work. Official work is also a daily need.
11. Verb form


In hartal, students are also suffered.


In hartal, students suffer also.

My first task is to strive to enhance food security in my country


12. Choice of words I thundered after the news of success.

The countryside is so beautiful.

I excited after the news of success.

The countryside is very beautiful.

13. Article


Advertisements have become a important part of modern business


Advertisements have become an important part of modern business.


 Table 3:


Definition and error classification


Identification of error Correct sentences and explanation of rules
Missing word


My first task ___to strive to enhance food security in my country


My first task is to strive to enhance food security in my country


Missing space


They request everyone not to do it__ cause picketer’s ignorance many people have to count loss. They request everyone not to do it.  Because of picketer’s ignorance many people have to count loss.
Capitalization problem


in our country there have more than 16 million people. In our country there have more than 16 million people.
Word form/ morphology


I can accept his arrogant after the achievement. I can accept his arrogance after the achievement.


But opposition party cannot go in advance with their demands__they want to raise disorder in the society. But opposition party cannot go in advance with their demands. They want to raise disorder in the society

 The results of the study discovered that the errors done by the participants are basically grammatical. They have principal problems of constructing sentences, ignorance of using right choice of words, weak vocabulary, over use of be verb. Very few of the participants have the problem of article, punctuation, capitalization, missing space. Hence, we can conclude that these participants have problems in acquiring normal grammatical rules in English. As some of them from the private universities have more weak background in acquiring English Language skills rather than public universities. So much care should be needed in the primary and high school levels of English what is somehow lacked in those levels. 

  1. Treatment of error

Though errors are ignored in communicative approach based classroom activity, it cannot be avoided in the writing skill. And “Correction” refers to bring student skill based product in an unmistaken level. And “Grammar refers to the collection of basic morphological and syntactical rules which govern basis well formedness of the Target language.” And “Improvement refers to the process of bringing the composition to a higher level which violates rhetorical principals, ill-formedness in meaning, violates logic, using poor words, defects in style.”

  1. When the correction will be done, great considerations should be given to the students with improved expressions.
  2. The semantic should be cleared where the meaning is dubious.
  3. Consideration should be given to the extra linguistic facts.
  4. Unprivileged class of English language should be avoided in formal written English.
  5. The content should be given much more focus rather than the solo grammatical checking.
  1. General pedagogical implication

However the checking of grammar is a sheer necessity in the writing skill of language teaching. If the sources of errors are identified clearly, a remedial teaching style can be adopted easily.

Studying the nature of more recent errors enables English language teachers and researchers to have a better understanding of the linguistic domain where participants face the most difficulties while writing. The data provided by the analysis of participant’s errors will help teachers to design syllabus, develop testing style, to determine the teaching methodology with proper teaching material.

The identification of errors indicates that the learners have a vague knowledge on the basic rules of grammar without proper application of learning theories. If they had a better expertise and practice in their school level, they would have fewer mistakes in writing paragraphs in a university level. So the textbook designer of school level may have more focus on this writing skill in those levels in order to over this lacking.

Richard et al (1992) stated the studies relating to errors are carried out in order to (1) identify the causes of learners’ error and (2) obtain information on common difficulties in language learning as an aid to teaching materials. It can be inferred that language teaching cannot stand away from the findings of error analysis.

So it can be said that errors are inevitable part of Language learning and correction of errors is also an important strategy in language teaching. Though error correction sometimes becomes a large burden for the teacher while the teachers face a big sized class room (which is common picture in a country like Bangladesh), the teacher should give learner’s the privilege to check their errors by themselves to have a better understanding in the realm of errors.

 Limitations of the study

This Error Analysis has been conducted only in specific institutions from a definite area, Dhaka City. Though they are the leading private and public universities from Bangladesh, they cannot be the representative of the whole country. So the finding is confined in specific area of Bangladesh and it could not become the representative of the whole country. Considering the above-mentioned limitation, a further study can be conducted on a larger number of areas with larger quantities of participants in multiple locations of Bangladesh to get a more clear impression about the recent errors of Bangladeshi EFL learners.

  1. Conclusion

Though in this era of communicative approach errors are tolerated in the spoken English, errors in the writing is not allowed still in the realm of English Language Learning. So the feedback provided by this Error Analysis would help the ELT teachers, Practitioners and researchers to have a more recent impression of the errors of contemporary Bangladeshi EFL learners as errors serve as an important means for teachers and researchers to observe the learner’s learning process and learning strategies . As the internet technology, face book and sms technology develops in this present world, students feel more convenient to write the contracted form of English Lexis and grammar in their formal writing which actually pollutes the purity of formal writing English. And these errors become fossilized in the present English Language Context. As the Contrastive Analysis helps a Linguist to describe the problems of inter language errors, this is not provided here. And CA analysis become much older fashioned in this days also. Where the world talks about the eclectic approaches now, it would not be appropriate to discuss about CA analysis in this study. In the context of Bangladesh it becomes a culture to insert the contracted form of sms in the wring English and before being fossilized we should prevent it as language proficiency and appropriateness is concerned in formal writing. But the errors unconsciously conducted by the participants should be treated mildly by the teachers in sandwich method of encouraging the learners. Or the learner can be discouraged and will fail to learn. In our country especially in the large class of Bengali medium correction class is ignored for having a large number of students and for having a syllabus in communicative approach. After applying communicative approach in school and college level, grammar is vastly ignored. The communicative class work is less conducted because not having enough training or varieties of reasons. So the language teachers should emphasis much on the different processes of Error correction from the identifying errors to correction of errors.

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 (Ms. Sushmita Rani is a Lecturer, in Department of English at Daffodil International University, Bangaladesh.)



One response

  1. Good to read articles where writers reflect on their experiences in different learning contexts then critically evaluate these learning experiences in the context of their own teaching and learning contexts.

    Prof. Dr Maya Khemlani David
    CLMV Programme
    University of Malaya


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