Guest post – correcting errors in spoken English

A few days ago I wrote a short post about correcting errors in spoken English.

This morning I received an email with a teacher’s thoughts on this subject which I have included here as a guest post.

Khazin teaches English in Indonesia and we have had some very interesting chats by email and Skype.

I hope one day he will also write a guest post about his experiences as an English teacher in Indonesia.

Thank you, Khazin, for your permission to include your thoughts on error correction here.

Correcting Students’ Speech Errors (by Khazin)

All people sometimes make speech errors caused mostly by Shift, Exchange, Anticipation, Preservation, Addition, Deletion, Substitution, Blend or other causes.

For example, one of my students said, ”Ok my friends, I am going to talk about regelion now” (religion). During the 1992 campaign, President George Bush began his remarks for one speech by saying, ”I don’t want to run the risk of ruining what is a lovely recession.” (reception) (Newsweek,1992).

Many teachers are trying to find a model of correcting the students’ speech errors. The problem is when and how they should correct the speech errors of learners in their classroom. This problem has also become the most difficult question among teachers.

Teachers must be careful to administer students’ error treatment. If the teachers make too much correction of the students’ speech errors, the students will feel that their English is too bad, making them unmotivated to go on speaking. But if the teachers do not correct their speech errors, especially their pronunciation, I am afraid the wrong pronunciation will fossilize.

Brown (2000) stated that too much negative cognitive feedback – barrage of interruption, corrections, and overt attention to malformations – often leads learners to shut off their attempts at their communication. They perceive that so much is wrong with their production that there is a little hope of getting anything right.

On the other hand, too much positive feedback – willingness of the teacher-hearer to let errors go uncorrected, to indicate understanding when understanding may not have occurred – serves to reinforce the errors of the speaker-learner. The result is the persistence, and perhaps the eventual fossilization of such errors.

Some students like and hope their errors are corrected as soon as possible but the others do not. Some students do not like to be interrupted when they are speaking. They think that the interruption will make what are in their mind disappear. Krashen and Terrell (1983) recommend no direct treatment of errors at all.

In short, I would like to say that teachers ought to be close to the students in order that they know who the students are. They should know what the students are like and what they expect from the teachers. Never let the students make wrong pronunciation to avoid them from wrong pronunciation fossilization. And don’t “kill” the students’ willingness to express their opinion.

Image by chrisscheupp

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