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The Effects of Auto-Correction on Students’ Written English in the University of Buea

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International: $20
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Qualitative research
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 MS Word & PDF

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This project was aimed at examining the effects of auto-correction on students’ written English. It examined four research questions, which sought to explore the relationship between auto-correction and students’ written English.

Data was collected from level 200 to 500 students from five faculties (Arts, SMS, Education, Science and Technology and Engineering) in the University of Buea through questionnaires and a spelling drill test. The research was conducted on 50 respondents between the age of 15 to 26.

The findings revealed that out of fifty (50) respondents who took part, only sixteen (16) were able to pass the test. This might be due to the student’s excessive reliance on auto-correction, lack of interest in mastering the spellings of words since their gadgets often play the role of reference when doubt arises about a word’s spelling. The findings have pedagogic implication.



Background of the Study

Auto-correction continues to be one of the daunting challenges affecting writing skills. The growing use of auto-correction on smartphones and other electronic devices has created more problems in some educational sectors than it has solved.

Work began as early as the 1960s on computer techniques for automatic spelling correction and automatic text recognition, and it has continued up to date. Opinions about English orthography vary over the widest possible range.

Some see it as a burden to school children and their teachers (Pitman 1969), a block on the path to literacy (Dewey 1971), an obstacle to foreign learners of English and a persistent nuisance to writers, typists and printers. However, it is necessary to look at the origin of auto-correction.

The word “autocorrect” was first used by Dean Hachamovitch. When Hachamovitch first joined Microsoft, he was given a job on the Word team. As Hachamovitch saw it, the main thing that people do on a word processor is typing and in his estimation, it was a matter of “a little bit of creativity.”

The notion of autocorrect was born when Hachamovitch began thinking about functionality that already existed in Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word had a “glossary” that could be used as a sort of auto-expander. Hachamovitch realized that this glossary could be used far more aggressively to correct common mistakes.

He drew up a little code that would allow you to press the left arrow and F3 at any time and immediately replace teh with the. He realized that since English words are space-delimited, the space bar itself could trigger the replacement, to make correction automatic!

Hachamovitch and his team drew up a list of common errors over the years which they went on to solve many of the thorniest. Separate would automatically change to separate. Accidental cap locks would adjust immediately (making dEAR gREG into Dear Greg) for example. Since then, the use of autocorrect has spread like wildfire.

In recent years, educators and computer-assisted language leaming(CALL) researchers have studied the potential advantages of using electronic devices as a teaching/learning tool in improving language skills. Research has revealed that CALL offers an innovative and effective alternative for language educators (Warshauer and Healey (1998); Bush and Terry, 1997).

Studies suggest that there has been an increased emphasis on technology to facilitate language learning at all levels of education (Chapelle, 2001; Stepp-Greany, 2002). They provide immediate feedback, letting students know whether what they wrote is correct or not. If they are not well done, the program leads students to correct them.

The question is whether auto-correction has actually improved the writing skills of its users. Researchers have to a certain degree, undermined the negative effects of auto-correction in written English. No matter how beneficial it may be, it is still disadvantageous to some of its users.

One concern is that auto-correction will form a lazy, or even an incapable writer or speller. Ever since the beginning of time, people have had to develop communication skills before executing them, but with an auto-correct system, anyone can construct a readable sentence without really having to think grammatically about what they are trying to write.

Whether a student has been taught in school how to write, will their skills be diminished by a system that constantly fixes all of their mistakes for them? In some instances, remembering how to spell correctly while writing in class, essays or writing on the spot poses a problem to certain students.

It’s not like they skipped out on practising vocabulary lessons through elementary and middle school, but it is because they rely on auto-correct on a daily basis. When asked to do so manually, some feel a sense of insecurity and doubt when writing.

It is from the foregoing background that this work sets itself. It sought to find out the effect of auto-correction on students’ written English. It is also to investigate the extent to which students in the University of Buea rely on auto-correction when writing English and if this reliance has affected their written English.

Statement of the Problem

Information and technology have spread like wildfire and the use of electronic devices has become the order of the day. The use of smartphones, ipads, laptops, computers etc in the world today is not a strange phenomenon.

However, the use of auto-correction has been seen as a mixed blessing. Many students seem to rely on it when communicating via electronic devices and this has had an effect on their writing skills. When you type misspelt words, the spell-check automatically correct the word.

In this way, it acts as a spelling guide to the writer and reduces the chances of errors. In some cases, a word could be underlined or the entire sentence showing a grammatical error. This again serves as a signal to the writer who will right-click on it for adjustments.

The problem is that when asked to spell these same words manually, there is bound to be mistaken from some users since there is no word hint. Although auto-correction works correctly, it does not teach spelling and how to use grammar properly.

In some cases when you are writing and have misused grammar, auto-correction may not be able to discern what you meant to write. So there may be situations that will give suggestions that may mislead what you intended to write.

When in a hurry, auto-correction may not also correct all mistakes as already anticipated in the mind. So if the writer does not proofread what was written before submission, he might write something else not only with a wrong spelling but a different meaning.

The end result will be that people who depend on it too much end up struggling as far as vocabulary is concerned. This is where the study situates itself to find out the effect of auto-correction on students’ written English.

Objectives of the Study

The study will have the following objectives:

  1. To investigate the effect of auto-correction on written English.
  2. To examine the extent to which students at the University of Buea rely on auto-correction when writing English.
  3. To investigate the reasons why students use auto-correction.
  4. To find out the extent to which the reliance on auto-correction has affected the written English of students at the University of Buea.

Research Questions

This following research questions will guide the study:

  1. What is the effect of auto-correction on students’ written English?
  2. Why do students use auto-correction?
  3. To what extent do students at the University of Buea rely on auto-correction when writing English?
  4. To what extent has the reliance on auto-correction affected their written English?
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