Language mistakes are a natural part of learning a language. When students make spoken or written mistakes, it is a sign that learning is happening. Mistakes also provide essential feedback for teachers as they show if students have grasped the topic or if the teacher should do some revision or reinforcement on the topic in subsequent lessons.
A ‘fossilized’ error is an error that has become a habit, part of a student’s repertoire and used subconsciously as if it were the correct form. A Linguistics professor once told our TESOL class that when it came to grammatical errors that learners make in developing their second language, the expression “practice makes perfect” should be revised to “practice makes permanent”. As he stated, “only perfect practice makes perfect”. He was a strong opponent of ‘accuracy over fluency’.
Everyone comes to teaching with underlying beliefs about what a language is and how a language is learned. To be reflective in teaching, it is important to examine beliefs: where they come from, if they are well-founded, and if they need to be challenged and possibly changed.
ESL teachers and students often have differing views on the importance of error correction. Some students insist that they want the teacher to note and correct all errors made at any time in a lesson. Some teachers want to encourage their students’ confidence and don’t feel comfortable correcting students as they feel corrections may interfere with the development of the students’ fluency in English. What’s a teacher to do?
Error correction is a very important part of teaching a language. ESL teachers have to know when to correct mistakes and how to do it effectively. This article will teach you why students make mistakes, how to reflect on the types of mistakes that students make, and what you can do to help them improve. You will also find various links to other resources on error correction in the ESL classroom.