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03

09

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Sticky error of "plural-s"

This is my posting on the discussion board of "Second Language Acquisition" course of TESOL program. It's fresh from the press, so to speak ;-) Hope you enjoy reading it.

The article presented in the last session is interesting in a sense that both comprehension-based instruction (CBI) and production-based instruction (PBI) are effective for incidental learning, and that features which require a degree of cognitive reorganization on the part of learners, such as "plural-s" to Japanese learners of English, might be best achieved by the task where the recognition of a given feature is the central to its accomplishment. As English teachers are all aware, "plural-s" is always a sticky error of Japanese learners mainly because there is no equivalent notion of singular-plural nouns in their L1. Additionally, since the absence of plural-s may not cause a serious consequence, meaning “the recognition of a given feature is NOT the central to its accomplishment”, Japanese learners won’t take the omission of plural-s very seriously. Coincidentally, the data that I brought to the last session exemplify this phase of learner language development.

The learner is a good speaker of English and she has a strong listening skill as well. She apparently looks like a competent L2 users, but once she starts writing in English, you’ll have to revise evaluation of her proficiency. She has acquired tenses, relative clauses, passive voice and other complicated grammatical features which could be ranked much later in the illustrations in Table 6.4 in the textbook p. 125, “Morpheme accuracy order, from earliest to latest mastery”. However, she constantly omits plural-s as in “There are many place”. The tendency of her error is explained that she omits plural-s after a modifying adjective before noun. The error itself is not surprising to me at all because low and intermediate level learners almost always omit plural-s in that position or wherever. What surprised me is that a good English user like her still cannot get rid of this careless production error until now. I presume that Individual difference or Crosslinguistic influences overpowered the predicted order of acquisition in this case.

For this production error, I think that PBI is not sufficient because she could have overcome the error by now if PBI had been effective enough. What I can do as her teacher is to raise the learner's awareness of the error and have her identify the patter thereof. Then, PBI focused on this particular feature is to be implemented. Most importantly, however, the learner has to be determined to eradicate the error by the tenacoius practice of “focus on form” and “monitor herself”.


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Aya

Author:Aya
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