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SOME ERRORS IN SECOND LANGUAGEACQUISITION(第二语言习得中的一些错误)
作者:李正国    文章来源:本站原创    点击数:    更新时间:2010-11-2             ★★★   【字体:

Summary: This treatise discusses some errors, which Chinese students will easily make in their second language acquisition, and some ways to correct them.

Key words: error; the second language acquisition; interference; overgeneralization.

For Chinese middle school students learning English means, according to the theory of linguistics, the second language acquisition. That is, after the period of their children’s acquisition of their mother tongue, they are learning the second language, which is learnt in manageable sequence, that is, syllabus and course books. But consciously or unconsciously, they will make many errors in the second language acquisition because of the apply of their mother tongue. The following are some errors many Chinese students will frequently make in their learning, or their acquisition.

Errors in vocabularies:

(a) When some verbs are changed in their past tense or past participle forms, students often neglect their irregular forms because they overgeneralize the changing rules. Such as

stand---standed   do---doed   go---goed   come---comed                                                              and so on.

The same errors will be made in the process of the second language acquisition. Such as                                      understand---understanded  undo---undoed   become---becomed  undergo---undergoed

They are making the error of overgeneralization.

(b) When they are learning new words, they will misinterpret their lexical meanings. Take the word “wise” and “clever” for example. The exact meaning of the word “wise” is “having or showing experience, knowledge, good judgement, prudence.” but that of the one “clever” is “quick in learning and understanding things; skillful” or “(of things done) showing ability and skill”. But for most of the Chinese students, the two words both mean “cong ming de” in Chinese. So they often make such ridiculous sentence as “My little sister

/brother is very wise though she/he is five years old.” Of course it is right for them to make the remark “My little sister/brother is clever though she/he is five years old”.

(c) Another misuse made by Chinese students is because of the difference between the culture of Britain or America and China. The word “orphan” means “person(especially a child) who has lost one or both of its parents by death” in western countries. But it means “(1) a child who has lost its father by death; (2) a child who has lost both of its parents by death.” according to “Modern Chinese Dictionary”. This means the word “orphan” in Chinese refers to a child, not an adult, who has lost its father or both of its parents by death. Consequently a child who has only lost its mother by death cannot be called an orphan in the real sense of the English word but many Chinese middle school students do so.

(d) When students use a word to express themselves, they are often interfered by the thoughts of their mother tongue. He often uses or may use the sentence “I lost my rice bowl yesterday.” instead of the remark “I lost my job yesterday”.

Also, many students may tell the teacher “I am glad to serve for my classmates.” or ask him, “May I have a day off? My sister will marry with a doctor tomorrow.” When they say so, they are thinking in Chinese, not in English. They don’t realize that either of the above prepositions “for” or “with” in the two examples can be deleted.

The way for students to avoid the above errors is very simple. That is they have to consult an English-English dictionary and pay more attention to the uses of the words that they are using.

Errors in patterns:

(a) The above vocabulary errors “do—doed, go---goed, ……” can be considered in patterns because their past tenses can be used as predicates in sentences. So can the other errors. Many Chinese students will make such error sentences as both “Mary goed to hospital yesterday.” and “The orphan’s father is now drinking.”

(b) Besides the above errors in patterns in the acquisition, some other errors will frequently be made. In the patterns “prevent somebody from doing something” and “It is worth while doing/to do something”, the prepositions “from” and “of” and the conjunction “while” will be easily neglected by Chinese students because of the interference of their mother tongue. So as in the sentences “I don’t want to come back here ever again.” The infinitive particle “to” is often neglected.

(c) When the exercises of making sentences is being done, some errors will occur because of overgeneralization. From the sentences “Mary advised me to give up smoking.” and “Mary told me to give up smoking.” The error remark “Mary suggested me to give up smoking.” will come up. And from the pattern “The teacher gave his students some explanations.” the error “ The teacher explained his students some uses of the word.” will arise. Of course the error “Jane is dressing a red jacket today.” will come out from the remark “Jane is wearing a red jacket today.” All the above error sentences are examples of overgeneralization, which are the effects of particular learning strategies on items with the target language.

(d) Article neglection, or article deletion, is another common error made by the Chinese students because of the interference of their mother tongue. In Chinese there is no article particularly needed in a sentence. But not in English. So some errors such as “We love country.” “Horse is useful.” and “Car didn’t want to start.” will frequently turn up in students exercises. All the above patterns have the errors of shortage of a definite word “our/the”, “A/The” or “The”.

(C) Errors in numbers:

The errors in numbers will be coming out as following:

(a) In Chinese there is not any plural form in nouns, such as “shu”, “ren” and so on, while in English there does be. In Chinese there are some classifiers, or measure words, such as “ben”, “ge” and so on. We say  “liang ben shu” and “shi zhang zhi” or “wu ge ren” in Chinese. We won’t say “liang ben shus”, “shi zhang zhis” or “wu ge rens” but we must, in English, say “two books”, “ten pieces of paper” and “five persons” otherwise we are wrong in using the words. Many Chinese middle students will use “two book”, “ten paper” or “five person” instead of the correct ones by the interference of their acquisition of first language.

(b) In English verbs have their single, plural forms or personal forms. Take the verb “be” for example in the following patterns:

I am a teacher. (“am”: the first personal single form of the verb “be”)

You are a student. (“are”: the second personal single form of “be”)

He/She is a student. (“is”: the third personal single form of “be”)

We are doctors. (“are”: the first personal plural form of the verb “be”)

You/They are doctors. (“are”: the second and third plural form)

But the Chinese students often neglect these changing forms of the verb “be” in their second language acquisition.

The following error is more frequently seen in their exercise from the correct remark “We go to school every day”:

(6) Mary go to school every day. (In this sentence, the verb “go” should be used as “goes”, the third personal single form in the present indefinite tense.)

(c) Some nouns are difficult for Chinese students to know their different forms, class or collective, such as “class”, “family”, “government”, “team” and so on. Take the noun “family” for example. When it is used as a class noun, it must be followed by a plural verb while when as a collective one, by a single verb. The following sentences are good examples to define the above:“My family are early risers.” and“Almost every family in the village has a man in the army.”

(d) Countable and uncountable nouns are also difficult for Chinese students to understand, especially abstract nouns, such as “difficulty”, “difference”. When the word “difficulty” means “the state or quality of being difficult”, it is uncountable. But when it means “something difficult, hard to do or understand”, it is countable. So it is hard for Chinese students to learn or to use correctly the following sentences with the word “difficulty”:

Do you have any difficulty in understanding spoken English?

There was some difficulty in getting everybody here in time.

If you knew the difficulties, I am in.

Mary’s father raised difficulties when she said she wanted to marry a poor school teacher.

They often misuse the different forms of the word ‘difficulty”.

(D) The basic way to avoid the above errors.

We have discussed some errors that Chinese students have frequently made and some ways to correct them in their second language acquisition. But to correct thoroughly the errors in their acquisition, the students should listen more to the radio, TV and tapes and to English-speakers, talk as much as possible with others, especially with foreigners, read more originals in English and write more in English. In one word, they should imitate the English-speaking natives as much as possible in order to get the right language intuition. The errors will certainly be disappeared in their acquisition as time goes on.

References:

Language Research Institute in Chinese Academy of Social Science, 1994, “Modern Chinese Dictionary”, Commercial affairs Press;

A.S. Hornby, E.V. Gatenby & H. Wakefield, 1978, “The Advanced Learner’s dictionary, English-English-Chinese”, Oxford University Press;

Zhang Yunfei & Zhou Xiqian, 1985, “An Introduction To Modern English Lexicology”, Beijing Normal University Press;

Dai Weidong, He Zhaoxiong & Hua Jun, 1989, “A Concise Course on Linguistics for Students of English”, Shanghai Foreign Educational Press.   

                                                               (1620 words)

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