AN ASSESSMENT OF SPELLING ERRORS IN WRITTEN ENGLISH LANGUAGE OF JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS
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Background to the Study
Language is a system of conventional spoken, manual or written symbols by means of which human beings, as member of a social group and participants in it’s culture, express themselves.
The functions of language include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression and emotional release.
Henry sweet (2010) stated “language is the expression of ideas by means of speech-sounds combined into words. Words are combined into taughts”.
Bernard Bloch and George L. Trager (2010) formulated the following definition:
“A language is e system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates”.
Any succinct definition of language makes a number of presuppositions and begs a number of questions.
The first, for example, puts excessive weight on “taught”, and the second uses “arbitrary” in a specialized, though legimate, way.
Nigeria being a multilingual country with over four hundred (400) languages already, received an additional language which is English language in the sixteenth century from the Great Britain, by the colonial masters whom were in Nigeria to propagate Christianity, trade and take over the entire Nigerian administration.
This marks the introduction of the English language in the Nigerian history and thus added to the multilingual existence of the Nigerians.
Medubi (2013) posits that English language came into Nigeria with the British settlers (in the sixteenth century) whose expansionist programmes saw them colonise a good number of countries all over the world.
The interaction of the British settlers and the Nigerian natives resulted in birth of pidgin, a broken form of English that ease communication difficulties between the two peoples.
However, with the complete appropriation of the Nigerian land as a colonial territory, Britain introduced the English language as the lani of administration.
During these times also, the missionaries who needed to communicate with converts introduced the learning of English language for Bible reading, thus, forming the rudiments of the educational system (Medubi, 2013).
This laid the foundation of literacy skills of reading and writing in the English language curriculum in Nigeria.
English language occupies a prominent place in the Nigerian school curriculum to the extent that it is stated in Federal Ministry of Education secondary Education Curriculum (2007) that no student can proceed to the tertiary level without a credit pass in English Language.
As one of the legacies bequeathed to Nigerians by the British, it will be very difficult to do away with it because it is the major medium of instruction in our schools, business transaction, and communication both nationally and internationally.
The term ‘curriculum’ has different interpretations among scholars.
Olorundare (2003) viewed curriculum as the sum total of all experiences a pupil undergoes in school.
Offorma(2006) defined curriculum as a structured series of learning experiences intended for the education of the learner.
Ivowi(2008) viewed curriculum as a tool designed for educating a person in order to change the orientation behavior, actions and values to that of a good person whose concern is not only to develop self but also the world around.
To Epo and Osam (2009), curriculum is a graded course of different subject taken from the nursery school to the university.
Thus all what students do or learn at school from the day they are admitted into school to the day they leave school may be referred to as curriculum.
It is a continuous process of a conscious insight into the life of the society by the school with a view to bring about improvement.
In the light of the above definitions, certain steps are vital in the formation of effective and attainable mains, goals and objectives of a curriculum which the English language curriculum adopted.
The English language curriculum for the secondary school was designed generally towards the achievement level of a high level of proficiency in the Nigerian students’ use of English language.
The English language curriculum in both basic and post basic levels of education encompasses several areas such as: reading/comprehension, speech, vocabulary development, handwriting, phonics instruction, composition/creative writing, summary writing, lexis/structure, oral English/pronunciation among others.
All these areas have their aims and objectives. On the goals and objectives of English language curriculum, Amuseghan (2007) stated that one would expect English as a second language (ESL) learner in the Nigerian context, after nine or twelve solid years of learning English and using it for instruction at the primary and secondary levels to become academically, linguistically and communicatively competent in social contexts beyond the school, which is the ultimate goal of the prescribed English language curriculum as the secondary level.
There has been an increase in spelling research in the past years due to importance spelling has on literacy acquisition (e.g. Conrad, 2008; Kwong & Varnhagen, 2005; Treiman & Bourassa, 2000).
Spelling is important for literacy because of its close relationships with reading and writing.
Spelling supports reading because two processes are reciprocally related and they both follow a similar course of acquisition (Ehri, 2000).Spelling supports writing.
This is because “spelling and text production in later grades will require that students can automatically and legibly write alphabet letters and match sounds in words to associated spelling patterns”(Ritchey, 2008, p.44).
Spelling also plays an important role in our daily lives.
It is necessary in various occasions which range from undemanding tasks such as: filing alphabetically; looking up words in a phone book, dictionary, writing notes that others can read; and even playing parlor games(2005).
Spelling is a complex cognitive activity in which several mental processes are involved.
Spelling also plays an important role in every learners live.
This is because Part of what determines a learner’s proficiency in English language is his/her ability to spell correctly for accurate expression.
No matter how fluent a speaker may be, without a good mastering of spelling, it will be considered a great error.
According to Wiktionary, error is the state, quality, or condition of being wrong.
In applied linguistics, an error is a deviation from accepted rules of a language made by a learner of a second language.
Richards and Schmidt (2002:pg.184) define error analysis as” the study and analysis of the errors made by second language learners.
” Another view of error analysis is given by Brown (1989, cited by Hashim, 2002:43), when he defines error analysis as the process of observing, analyzing, and classifying the deviations of the rules of the second language and then to reveal the systems operated by a learner.
Brown (2000):217) also insists that “mistakes must be carefully distinguished from errors of a second language learner”.
He defines an error as “a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker” which also reflects the competence of the learner.
He continues to explain that” a mistake refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or a ‘slip’, in that it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly” and ” mistakes, when attention is called to them, can be self-corrected.
Brown (2002:220) differentiate between covert and overt errors.
They define covert errors to be grammatically correct but not interpretable within the context of communication, whereas overt errors refer to the obviously ungrammatical utterances.
Brown (2000: 217) also insists that “mistakes must be carefully distinguished from errors of a second language learner”.
He defines an error as “a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker” which also reflects the competence of the learner.
He continues to explain that “a mistake refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or a ‘slip’, in that it is a failure to utilize a known system correctly” and “mistakes, when attention is called to them, can be self-corrected”.
Errors, on the other hand, often indicate the learner’s competence in the target language and they are ‘evidence’ which can reflect the learner’s language proficiency.
“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 learner’s error, called error analysis” (ibid.: 218).
This is the next topic of discussion in the following sections. 2.3.4 Goals and definitions of Error Analysis Error Analysis is a theory replacing the Contrastive Analysis, which was abandoned by linguists and teachers due to its in effectivity and unreliability.
EA also belongs to applied linguistics but it has no interest in explaining the process of L2 acquisition. It is rather “a 17 methodology for dealing with data.”
Error Analysis Error analysis is an activity to reveal errors found in writing and speaking (Hasyim, 2002, p.43).
Similarly, Barzegar (2013) stated “error analysis is a procedure used both researcher and teachers which involves collecting samples of learner language, identifying the error in the sample, describing these errors, classifying them according to their nature and causes, and evaluating their seriousness” (p. 322).
The other definition states that error analysis is a type of linguistic analysis that focuses on the errors learners make (AbiSamr 12 The other opinion comes from Hasyim (2002) who stated that Error analysis is advantageous for both learners and teachers.
Besides, benefit for students, error analysis is needed to show them in what aspect in grammar which is difficult for them, while for teachers, it is required to evaluate themselves whether they are successful or not in teaching.
Thus, error analysis should not be neglected in foreign language teaching. (p.42-43).
Thus, the definition explains that error analysis is a technique to investigate an error word and sentence in writing or speaking form.
Spelling Error Botley, Hakim and Dillah (2007) stated, “spelling error are highly ubiquitous and contentious features of second language learners’ written performance” (p.75).
The other definition of spelling error is given by Al-jarf (2010); he said “Any faulty words, faulty graphemes (single vowel, single consonant, vowel digraphs, consonant digraphs, phonogram, suffix or prefix) within a word are counted as an error.
Any graphemes that are added, deleted, substituted by another or reversed are counted as misspellings”. (p.9).
Spelling error usually occurs because the students cannot distinguish between letters and sound of the word when they write.
According to Perveen & Akram (2014), “Sounds, letters, word parts, word meaning, and word history are those elements which play the important role in learning to spell the words of English 13 language” (p.2605). Similarly,
“A single sound (or more correctly, a single phoneme) may have many different spelling (paw, poor, pore, pour, daughter, Sean), and the same spelling may have many different sound (or, word, information, worry, correspond)” (Harmer, 2001, p.256).
Spelling error still appears in large number in writing producing by learner; even drilling and training technique did in every school or university (Botley et al, 2007).
According to Benyo (2014), spelling errors are due to these sound problems.
The other statement, “One of the reasons that spelling is difficult for students of English is that the correspondence between the sound of a word and the way it is spelt is not always obvious (Harmer, 2001, p.271).
The other statement given by Al-zuoud & Kabilan, (2013) stated, many students produce misspelled word, which result in disconnected sentence.
The importance of spelling is not limited to individuals whose first language is English, but to English language learners as well.
The development of the English language learners’ spelling differs from those whose first language is English.
It has been well-established in literature today that unlike English monolinguals, language learners use knowledge of their first language when they learn to spell in English. Since language learners use their knowledge of their first language in learning to spell in English, the proficiency level of the first language is closely related the acquisition of second language spelling.
According to Brisk and Harrington (2000), “literacy skills are acquired only once through one language and then applied to new languages” (p. 4).
The problem of poor spelling seems to be ubiquitous.
It is apparent at all grade levels and in practically every school. When poor spelling is uncorrected for many students, they carry it with them into the work world or college classroom, where employers and professors must face it.
“Some people just aren’t good spellers,” one teacher excuses the problem, “just as some people aren’t good at math or history. The ability to spell well is a gift.”
“Her brothers weren’t good spellers, either,” another teacher might say, concluding that poor spelling must have a genetic cause.
To address the problem, however, we must recognize its magnitude, acknowledge people equate a Southern or Midwestern farm accent with ignorance.
Although neither assumption is necessarily valid, the stigma affects one’s image or reputation and often determines what one can achieve in life.
Do we continue to go through life denigrating and berating—or excusing—the poor spellers and blaming others for their predicament?
Do we continue to pass them along to the next higher grade, hoping that somewhere between our class and graduation someone will manage miraculously to “get through to” them and teach them how to spell? No, it is not a hopeless case, and no, we don’t have to resign ourselves to having poor spellers as a matter of course.
Not if we understand the factors that contribute to poor spelling and take the steps necessary to solve the problem.
The Contributing Factors Postulated No single cause can be cited for every poor speller’s predicament.
Rather, a plethora of factors contribute to the problem. For some people, one factor is predominant; for other people, several factors are involved in creating their problem.
An understanding of each factor will help teachers identify poor spellers, diagnose their predominating factors, and apply a proper solution.
Intelligence and Organizational Skills Marilyn vos Savant (2000) writes, “When your spelling is perfect, it is invisible— the reader has no reason to notice it unless it’s wrong.
But when it goes wrong, it spurs strong associations in the mind of the reader, even when he or she isn’t aware of them.
Although many people, knowingly or subconsciously, equate spelling ability with intelligence, that association does not seem to be validated by facts. “Spelling ability has nothing to do with intelligence,” Sorsby (1996) declared.
“It has a lot to do with developing a familiarity with words, an ability to recognize them and, equally important, a similar ability to recognize when they don’t ‘look right.’
” Although good spelling is a mark of a well-educated person, and the opposite can cost one a job, a raise, or a promotion, it is not necessarily a sign of low intelligence not to spell well.
Rather, vos Savant (2000) indicates that spelling ability is more closely related to “our organizational habits and other personality traits than our intelligence.
” Proving her claim, she found in a survey of 42,603 readers that “If you’re a top speller, you’re more likely to be more intelligent than average, better able to follow instructions than average, and more organized than average.
On the other hand, if you’re a bottom speller, your general intelligence and ability to follow directions are not likely to be lower than average, but you are more likely to be less organized.
Marsand and Griffith (1974) warn, “Memorizing the rules will not be of much help unless you apply them.”
7. Encourage the use of easily remembered helps such as, “Write i before e, except after c, or when sounded like a, as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh.’ ” 8. Emphasize handwriting legibility in students’ writing activities.
9. Encourage reading. 10. Have the students keep a notebook of their misspelled words or words that have given them trouble. Review them periodically, and practice spelling them regularly. 11.
Help students develop the habit of looking up words whenever they are uncertain of their correct spellings.
12. Teach, enforce, and encourage rigorous proofreading. 13. Provide opportunities for students to check their own (or others’) work. AVKO (2000) states, “Of all the spelling techniques currently employed, immediate student self-correction is generally the most effective.”
14. Make the spelling words relevant. Learn spelling within a context.” (Hamilton Public Library, 2004). Introduce words that they are actually using in their current reading or study or that are in the news.
Use words that include subjects that are of interest to them.
15. Study the etymology of words and roots, prefixes, and suffixes; and encourage students to learn the meanings of words.
16. Help students to form a mental picture of individual syllables and then to fit those pieces together into whole words. 17. Provide both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational rewards for successful spelling.
Do not punish poor spelling; encourage correct spelling.
18. Play crossword and Scrabble-type games to increase spelling ability and increase vocabulary.
19. Emphasize spelling across the curriculum and at all grade levels.
As a child learns meanings, stretching his vocabulary, he understands more of what he reads.
When he writes, he now has more words to choose from to find that perfect word. And because he has learned to spell by seeing and using patterns, he can come up with a word that he hasn’t been taught, just because it makes sense.
If spelling is only something the child sees as a random list of words to spell correctly on Friday’s test, he will miss all of these benefits.
” Conclusion In many of our schools today, formal spelling instruction ceases in the upper elementary grades.
In many other schools, spelling instruction is isolated as “the English teacher’s job,” and teachers of other subjects complain bitterly about students’ inability to spell correctly—but, feeling helpless, they do nothing about it.
Perhaps it is time to address the problem at all levels and across the entire curriculum.
The solution lies not in merely following the right rules in laying the right foundation in the early elementary grades; it lies in reinforcing those lessons throughout the child’s educational career.
It requires a team effort by everyone.
Statement of the Problem
Many researchers have written on the spelling error in the written English of Junior secondary schools.
In order to master literacy, one must not only be able to read and write, but to spell as well (MCardle, Chhabra, & Kapinus, 2008).
There has been an increase in spelling research in the past years due to the importance spelling has on literacy acquisition e.g (Conrad,2008, Kwong &Varnhagen,2005, Treiman & Brourassa, 2000).
Spelling is important for literacy because the two processes are reciprocally related and the both follow a similar course of acquisition (Ehri, 2000).
Spelling supports writing, this is because “text production in later grades will require that students can automatically and legibly write alphabet letters and match sound in words to associated spelling patterns”(Ritchey, 2008:44).
The researcher, having discovered the spelling errors in the written English in the works of many researchers, hereby focuses this research work on the spelling errors in the written English of junior secondary schools in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study focused on the analysis of spelling errors in written English of junior secondary schools students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria. The study found out:
1. The common spelling errors in written English of junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria.
2. To investigate the spelling errors in written English of Junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Nigeria based on gender.
3. To investigate the spelling errors in written English of junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State Nigeria based on school type.
4. To investigate the spelling errors in the written English of junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State Nigeria based on school location.
The following research questions were raised in order to guide the study.
1. What are the common spelling errors in the written English of Junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area Ogun State, Nigeria?
2. Is there any difference in the spelling errors found in the written English of male and female junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area Ogun State?
3. Is there any difference in the spelling errors found in the written English of private and public junior secondary school students in Abeokuta South Local Government Area Ogun State?