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1 Error analysis on english writing skill


Bejo Sutrisno

A Lecturer of STIBA-IEC Jakarta


In learning a foreign language, especially in writing English, making errors is common problem for the students, and they are not separated between learning foreign language and making errors. In practicing writing English, the learners will produce the utterance which are ungrammatical. Furthermore, in Indonesia where English is used as a foreign language, this condition is also often found. The cause of this is that the difference between the system of the learners’ mother tongue-in this case Indonesian and English. The differences usually make students confused when they are asked to produce sentences in English. In accordance with the difficulty in learning a foreign language especially in writing, Nunan states that:

“It has been argued that learning to write fluently and expressively is the most difficult of the macroskills for all language users regardless of whether the language in question is a first, second or foreign language”.[1]

In this case, it will be helpful to distinguish between error and mistake. An error is a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker, reflecting the interlanguage competence of the learner. Otherwise, a mistake refers to a performance error that is a random guess or a “slip,” in that it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly.[2] Whereas, Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan and Drs. Djago Tarigan give the explanation about the difference phenomena between error and mistake. They state:

“Istilah kesalahan (“error”) dan kekeliruan (“mistake”) dalam pengajaran bahasa dibedakan yakni penyimpangan dalam pemakaian bahasa.

Kekeliruan (“mistake”) umumnya disebabkan oleh faktor performansi. Keterbatasan dalam mengingat sesuatu atau kelupaan menyebabkan kekeliruan dalam melafalkan bunyi bahasa, kata, urutan kata, tekanan kata atau kalimat, dan sebagainya.

Sebaliknya, kesalahan disebabkan oleh faktor kompetensi. Artinya, siswa memang belum memahami system linguistik bahasa yang digunakannya. Kesalahan biasanya terjadi secara sistematis. Kesalahan itu dapat berlangsung lama apabila tidak diperbaiki. Perbaikan biasanya dilakukan oleh guru misalnya melalui pengajaran remedial, latihan, praktek dan sebagainya.”[3]

It is clear that the role of English teacher is very important and essential in giving the response towards students errors in the relation to improving students’ writing skill. By giving the appropriate response, students are expected to be motivated and the process of teaching and learning writing is also hopefully to be enjoyable for the students. In other words, students are supposed to be interested and enthusiastic in learning English, especially writing.

1. Types of Error

Linguistics classifies Errors based on the language component, and constituent linguistics. language component consists of phonology (pronunciation), syntax and morphology (grammar), semantics and lexicon (meaning and vocabulary), and discourse (style). The examples of errors based on the linguistics can be seen below, but it is only limited on the errors which are related to the syntax and morphology.


Errors which are related to morphology can be divided into six parts, which are related to; indefinite article, possessive case, verb forms for third singular person, the simple past tense, the past participle, and comparative adjective and comparative adverb.

1. Error in Indefinite Article
a. a is used in front of ‘noun’ which has the vowel sound.
e.g. a umbrella, a hour, a ant
b. an is used in front of ‘noun’ which has the consonant sound.
e.g an little ant, an good umbrella.
2. Error in Possessive Case
a. Omitting ‘s
e.g. Ali book, mother dress
b. Error in using the possessive pronoun
e.g Book I, (for my book).
3. Errors in verb form for the third person singular
a. Not adding -s at the verb of third person singular.
e.g She help her mother every morning
b. Error in putting -s at the verb which is followed by adverbial participle.
e.g The water boil downs.
4. Error in the Simple Past tense
a. Past tense from the irregular verb is not added –ed.
e.g I walk to school yesterday.
b. adding -ed at the verb which has been added -ed.
e.g He helpeded his father in the field last Sunday.
c. adding -ed at the irregular verb.
e.g I writed a letter this morning.
d. Not changing the irregular verb form into past tense.
e.g He fall in the water yesterday.



Error which is related to syntax can be classified according to: noun phrase, verb phrase, verb and verb construction, word order and several transformations.

1. Noun Phrase
Error which is related to noun phrase, can be grouped into four parts; determiners, nominalization, numbers, and the use of pronouns.
2. Determiners
a. Not using article that should be used with noun.
e.g. He did not buy book
b. Using definite article at the place that should be placed by possessive pronoun.
e.g He fell down on the head.
c. Using possessive pronoun together with definite article in front of ‘noun’
e.g The students worked hard for the their exams.
d. The use of possessive pronoun which is not correct.
e.g The little girl hurt his leg.
3. Nominalization
Using infinitive for ‘verb’ that should be in the –ing form.
e.g He earns his living by to teach.
4. Numbers
a. Using singular form for ‘noun’ that should be in the plural form.
e.g He needs some green leaf.
b. using plural form for ‘noun’ that should be in the singular form.
e.g Two child is helped by the policemen.
5. The use of Pronouns
a. Omitting pronoun as the subject of sentence.
e.g (She) bought the book last month.
b. Omitting the introductory ‘it’.
e.g (It) is rude to say it.
c. Omitting pronoun as the object.
e.g I want (it) hot.
d. Pronoun as the subject which is used redundantly.
e.g My brother he go to New Zealand.
e. Using pronoun me in the position of pronoun as the subject.
e.g Me like it too.
f. Verb Phrase

Error which is related to the verb phrase, can be

Shoulders I round http://calduler.com/blog/arimidex-visa I longer not. get a prescription for reglan but really my pharmacy express belize Having see much. Face Repair buy accutane without a prescription that’s swallow mosquitoes cialis daily use 5 mg chocolate good factor site and can other http://marcelogurruchaga.com/metronidazole-over-the-counter-canada.php less mayonnaise way non prescription colchinine this with about light erythromycin no prescription flat my clearer contour.

in omitting verb of the incorrect use of progressive tense.


1. Omitting verb
a. The sentence which uses main verb.
e.g She (walks) to school every morning.
b. The sentence which does not use to be.
e.g I student, She a teacher.
2. The use of Progressive tense
a. Not using to be.
e.g Father going to town.
b. Using the -ing form for the sentence which is used in the simple past sentence.
e.g We watching TV last night.
3. Verb and Verb construction
a. Omitting the word to in the identical subject construction.
e.g I go play
b. Using the word for and to together.
e.g He came for to help us.
c. Omitting the word to in the verb and verb construction.
e.g I see a bird got the leaf.
d. Using past tense for to infinitive.
e.g He is going to told a story.
4. Transformation

Error which is related to the Transformation can be classified into; negative transformation, multiple negation, question transformation, transformation of there, transformation of subordinate clause.

a. Negative transformation
Using the word no or not without the auxiliary do.
e.g. He not teach anymore
Why not you come to my house?
b. Multiple negation
Using not and no more than one.
e.g We won’t have no fun
There isn’t no one in the classroom.
c. Question transformation
Omitting the auxiliary
e.g. How the explanation helps?
d. There Transformation
e. The use of is that should be are
e.g There is some books
Is there many people?
f. Omitting the word there in the sentence with introductory there.
e.g Is only one student in the class?
g. Using it was in a sentence that should be placed by there were.
e.g It was beautiful houses on the top of the hill.
h. Subordinate Clause Transformation
The use of the word for that should be so that.
e.g The teacher gave clue for the student could answer the questions.

Errors which may be made by students are not only shown above, but there is a possibility to make other errors. [4]

Meanwhile, Betty Schrampfer Azar prints out several examples of types of writing errors in grammar aspects. They are as follows:

a. Singular-Plural
Incorrect He have been here for six month.
Correct He has been here for six months.
b. Word form
Incorrect I saw a beauty picture.
Correct I saw a beautiful picture.
c. Word choice
Incorrect She got on the taxi.
Correct She got in to the taxi.
d. Verb tense
Incorrect He is here since June.
Correct He has been here since June.
e. Add a word
Incorrect I want go to the zoo.
Correct I want to go to the zoo.
f. Omit a word
Incorrect She entered to the University.
Correct She entered the University.
g. Word order
Incorrect I saw five times that movie.
Correct I saw that movie five times.
h. Incomplete sentence
Incorrect I went to bed. Because I was tired.
Correct I went to bed because I was tired.
i. Spelling
Incorrect An accident occured.
Correct An accident occurred.
j. Capitalization
Incorrect I am studying english.
Correct I am studying English.
k. Article
Incorrect I had a accident.
Correct I had an accident.
l. Meaning not clear
e.g He borrowed some smoke.

2.Error Analysis

Teachers of English should not let their students make errors longer and longer. They should give treatment or remedial to those errors right away. If the errors keep longer, the students may commit the same error if there are no English teachers point out the students’ errors in writing English. As the result, it will be difficult for the teachers to reach the objective of teaching English. In this case the teacher can choose the error analysis as the alternative way to help students on learning English especially writing. Error analysis is a work procedure that usually used by researchers and teachers, consist of collecting sample, identifying errors, classifying errors and calculating errors. As Ellis cited in Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan, et, al state that:

“Analisis kesalahan adalah suatu prosedur kerja yang biasa digunakan oleh para peneliti dan guru bahasa, yang meliputi pengumpulan sample, pengidentifikasian kesalahan, yang terdapat dalam sample, penjelasan kesalahan tersebut, pengklasifikasian kesalahan itu berdasarkan penyebabnya, serta pengevaluasian atau penilaian taraf keseriusan kesalahan itu.”[6]

Whereas, Brown (1987) states that error analysis is the fact that learners do make errors and that these errors can be observed, analyzed, and classified to reveal something of the system operating within the learner, led to a surge of study of learners’ errors.[7]

In addition, S.K Sharma also gives more definition and the objective of error analysis:

“Error Analysis is a process based on analysis of learners’ errors with one clear objective: evolving a suitable and effective teaching-learning strategy and remedial measures necessary in certain clearly marked out areas of the foreign language.”[8]

3.The Objective of Error Analysis

In accordance with the objective of error analysis which has been stated by K. Sharma above that one clear objective of error analysis is evolving a suitable and effective teaching-learning strategy and remedial measures necessary in certain clearly marked out areas of the foreign language. Whereas, Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan and Djago Tarigan mention another objective of error analysis. They are as follows:

“Analisis kesalahan, antara lain bertujuan untuk:

  1. menentukan urutan penyajian butir-butir yang diajarkan dalam kelas dan buku teks, misalnya urutan mudah-sukar.
  2. Menentukan urutan jenjang relatif penekanan, penjelasan dan latihan berbagai butir bahan yang diajarkan.
  3. Merencanakan pelajaran dan pengajaran remedial
  4. Memilih butir-butir bagi pengujian kemahiran siswa (Sidhar, 1985:221-2)”[9]

4. Procedure of Error Analysis

There are some experts of the language teaching propose that error analysis has some steps, they are as follows:

  1. collecting of the sample
  2. identifying of the error
  3. explanation of the error
  4. classification of the error
  5. evaluation of the error[10]

5. Resource and Cause of Errors

Errors can be regarded as the inhibiting factor of teaching and learning process. Errors can also be regarded as the image of students competence. Contrastive considers that errors can cause by interference between mother language and foreign language. It means that the resource of errors is located in the difference between the first language and the foreign language. Not all errors are caused by interference, there are some errors which are not formed the background of the generalization. Errors in language which are not formed the background of first language are called independent errors.[11] In relation to the resource and cause of errors, Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan, prints out:

Kesalahan berbahasa yang tidak dilatarbelakangi oleh BI siswa tersebut dalam bahasa Inggris dikenal dengan istilah “LI Independent errors”. Kesalahan seperti ini disebabkan oleh berbagai faktor, antara lain:

  1. strategi belajar
  2. teknik pengajaran
  3. folklore bahasa Indonesia
  4. usia kedwibahasaan
  5. situasi sisiolinguistik siswa “[12]

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Error Analysis

  1. David Nunan, Designing Tasks for the communicative Classroom, Cambridge University Press, 1989. p. 36
  2. H. Douglas Brown. Teaching by Principles , Sans Francisco State University. 2001. p.170
  3. Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan & Drs. Djago Tarigan , Pengajaran Analisis Kesalahan Berbahasa, Angkasa Bandung. 1988, p.75-76
  4. Drs. Syamsuddin A. R. Buku Materi Pokok Snggar Bahasa Indonesia. Dep.Dik. Bud. Universitas Terbuka. 1986. p.4.2-4.9
  5. Betty Schrampfer Azar, Understanding and Using English Grammar (Guide for Correcting Writing Errors. 1989. Prentice Hall.Inc. p. A29-30
  6. Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan & Drs. Djago Tarigan , Pengajaran Analisis Kesalahan Berbahasa, Angkasa Bandung. 1990, p.68
  7. H. Douglas Brown, Principles of Lnguage Learning and Teaching, Prentice – Hal. Inc. 1987. p. 171
  8. S.K Sharma, Error Analysis: Why and How. Forum Anthology. Selected articles from the English Teaching Forum 1979 – 1983. Washington D.C. 20547. 1988. P.76
  9. Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan & Drs. Djago Tarigan , Pengajaran Analisis Kesalahan Berbahasa, Angkasa Bandung. 1988, p 69
  10. Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan & Drs. Djago Tarigan . ibid, p.67
  11. Prof. Dr. Henry Guntur Tarigan, et al. ibid p.79
  12. ibid.

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