Article Errors in the English Writing of Advanced L1 Arabic Learners: The Role of Transfer

| February 21, 2011
Title
Article Errors in the English Writing of Advanced L1 Arabic Learners: The Role of Transfer

Keywords: article error, Arabic learners, generic reference, transfer, English writing

Authors
Peter Crompton
American University of Sharjah

Bio Data
Peter Crompton has been teaching at AUS since 2006. He has previously taught in universities in England, China, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Lithuania. He holds a PhD in Linguistics from Lancaster University. He teaches English for academic purposes and applied linguistics and his research interests are written discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, learner corpora, and academic writing.

Abstract
The problems encountered by English learners whose mother tongue does not have an article system have been researched extensively. The problems encountered by learners whose mother tongue does have an article system, such as Arabic, have been studied less. This article describes an enquiry into article system errors in a corpus of English writing by tertiary-level L1 Arabic speakers. Frequencies of articles are compared with those in native English and non-native English speaker corpora. A detailed account is given of the commonest types of errors, classified according to the mis-use of each article. It is found that the commonest errors involve mis-use of the definite article for generic reference. The strong likelihood that these errors are caused by L1 transfer, rather than an interlanguage developmental order, is argued by a comparison of the forms of generic reference in English and Arabic. It is suggested that even for learners of English with mother-tongues which have an article system, such as Arabic, L1 transfer may be a problem and as such could be usefully addressed in language instruction.

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Category: Teaching Articles, Volume 50