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Contrastive Analysis And Error Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1012 words Published: 28th Apr 2017

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Contrastive analysis is a method to distinguish between what are needed and not needed to learn by the second language learner by evaluating languages (M.Gass & Selinker, 2008). In addition, contrastive analysis is a technique to identify whether two languages have something in common which assess both similarities and differences in languages, conforming to the belief in language universals. (Johnson, 1999). Both statements indicate that contrastive analysis holds a principle which is important in order to identify what are required by the second learner and what are not. If there is no familiar characteristic in the languages, then it is not necessary to compare the languages. While much could be said about comparing languages, a more important aspect is about influence from L2 in L1. “Contrastive analysis stresses the influence of the mother tongue in learning a second language in phonological, morphological, lexical and syntactic levels. It holds that second language would be affected by first language” (Jie, 2008, p. 36). On the same score, Wardhaugh asserts that first language of second language learners can clarify all “errors” that are constantly made them. These arguments prove that the common mistakes make by the second language learner are explainable in the first language if there is a relation in both languages. Indeed, this idea is conform to the rule of contrastive analysis which believes in language universal. On the other hand, contrastive analysis is used to identify one language origin and connection between the languages with other languages if it does. In Robert Lado’s words (1957:p.2): “The ‘fundamental assumption’ is transfer; ‘individuals tend to transfer the forms and meanings, and the distribution of forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture”. I agree with Robert Lado since the second language learner tends to use direct translation to make a complete sentence. However, this might become a problem when the placement of the part of speech is not the same. For example, Malaysian who use Malay language as their first language and English as their second language might have a problem in placing the adjective. This is because in Malay language, adjective is put after the noun, such as;

“Rumah yang cantik”

but in English, adjective is placed before noun, for instance

“A beautiful house”

(adj) (Noun)

This may cause confusion for the second learner but if they make a sentence, it is still understandable. The degree of clarity of the sentence can be a positive transfer of negative transfer. This example is supported by Jie (2008):

“In the course of language learning, L1 learning habits will be transferred into L2 learning habits. Therefore, in the case of L1 transfer into L2, if structures in the MT have their corresponding structures in the TL and L1 habits can be successfully used in the L2, learners would transfer similar properties successfully and that would result in positive transfer. Contrastingly, in the case of negative transfer or interference, certain elements of the MT have no corresponding counterparts in the TL, L1 habits would cause errors in the L2, and learners would transfer inappropriate properties of L1”

It is important to know that L2 learners be likely to apply their L1 grammatical system in L2 grammar (Smith, 1994). They would opt for L2 words those they familiar, blending them using L2 grammar to formulate a sentence. For example; a Malay speaker would say;

“Saya makan epal semalam”

(Pronoun) (Verb) (Noun) (Adverb)

Or in English;

“Yesterday, I ate the apple”

(Adverb) (Pronoun) (Verb) (Determiner) (Noun)

If the L2 learners apply Smith argument, they would say;

“I ate apple yesterday”

As mentioned earlier, this statement is logical at one point but in other point, it shows that errors and transferred inappropriate properties those made by L2 learners are noticeable and this should apply the rule of contrastive analysis. However, this analysis has disadvantages. In Susan M. Gass and Larry Selinker words, they believe that this analysis is questioned because of the concept of difficulty as the basic theory of the contrastive analysis is concerning the difficultness. If an error is made by a person, this shows that the person has problem in some area, not because of the native language. Thus, we cannot presume that fluency of a L2 learner in L2 is depending on the nature of L1. There are more aspects that related to this matter. “There are other factors that may influence the process of acquisition such as innate principle of language, attitude, motivation, aptitude, age, other language known…” (M.Gass & Selinker, 2008). Next, contrastive analysis cannot detect some difficulties experienced by the L2 learners. For example, “Je vois les/elle/la/le” . “I see them/her/her/him”(this phrase is not possible in French) (Choi, 2009).

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Error analysis is “a type of linguistic analysis that focuses on the errors learners make” (M.Gass & Selinker, 2008). This analysis is almost the same with the weak version of contrastive analysis which is comparing the errors which made by L2 learners. However, error analysis is not evaluating the errors with L2 native language, but it compares with the target language. ” Error analysis provides a broader range of possible explanations than contrastive analysis for researchers/teachers to use account for errors, as the latter only attributed errors to the native language” (M.Gass & Selinker, 2008). I do agree with Gass and Selinker because as Corder (1967) says that by producing errors, it shows that the learners are progressing and participating.


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