KNOWLEDGE ON THE CAUSES AND SOLUTION OF TENSE ERRORS IN ENGLISH ESSAYS OF SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
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Most parts of Nigeria and indeed the whole world are inhibited by diverse linguistic families and communities. This diversity of language within a given community also means that people have linguistic choices as regard which language to use in a given context. Diversity of a language leads to the unavoidable concept of multilingualism among speech communities. It is expected that people either partially or completely shift in their speech. An individual choice of language is determined by different factors: who is spoken to, what is the topic of discussion, where is the place of discussion, etc. these are some of determining factors for language shift. Language shift refers to a process in which the speakers of one language begin to use a second language for more functions. Anthony (2007) explained that language shift can be understood based on a social strategies through which an individual or group compete for positions of linguistic prestige. Similarly, Baker (1996) said that language shift is used in the literature to refer to a downward movement. That is, there is lessening of the number of speakers in a population, a loss in language proficiency, or decreasing use of that language in different domains. Whether a language is being shifted or not, one needs to be at least near efficient in order to communicate perform credibly well in the language of instruction. Achieving effectiveness in communication requires communicative competence which is the mastery of the knowledge of language and the ability to use the knowledge in actual communication (Canale, 1983; Canale and Swain, 1980). The knowledge of the language or linguistic competence encompasses mastery of lexis, grammar and the sound system of language. While linguistic competence needs to be complemented by sociolinguistic strategy and discourse competencies for effective communication to take place. A search of literature on error analysis of spoken texts in English indicated a near-absence of attention in this domain. Studies on spoken English tend to deal with areas such as speaking skills (Lourdunathan and Menon, 2005; Ramesh et al., 2006), student‟s reluctance to speak in English classes (Jassem and Jassem, 1997). Linguistic accuracy of spoken language may be more difficult to study because of the nature of speech. McCarthy (1998) wrote about real dialogues which do not look neat with well-formed sentences. According to Bartram and Walton (2002) accuracy in spoken English refers to “utterances as near to a native speaker‟s as possible”. Brumfit (1984) referred to the accuracy of the language content to include: grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. However, the grammatical accuracy in spoken language is different from written language. Beattie (1983) stated that “spontaneous speech is unlike written text; it contains many mistakes, sentences are usually brief” cited in Halliday (1986). Brown (2003) highlighted the inappropriateness of requiring students to use complete sentences when they speak and points out why the notion of utterances rather than sentences are used for describing spoken discourse. Brown (ibid) went on to stress that the grammar of spoken colloquial English does not impose the use of complete sentences, making utterances such as “Your family?” and “Ya wanna come along?” appropriate. Despite the adjustments which need to be made in studies in grammatical and social causes of errors in spoken language, such research would serve a pedagogic purpose by showing educators what learners have learned and what they have not yet mastered in spoken English. Similarly, this research will be a source of counseling to many Nigerian students especially those with negative attitude towards English since failure to communicate efficiently in the language of science and technology is tantamount to a total failure in other areas of human endeavor.
Statement of the problem
English plays an important role in the educational system of Nigeria and it is crucial at the level of learning. It is the language of formal instruction in schools. Therefore, an individual who wishes to reach the peak of his/her educational career in Nigeria needs to have proper knowledge of English language. Yet a look at the performance in the written English by the students in higher institutions in Nigeria has been rated low. In most developing nations in general, and Nigeria in particular, the educational system is not well developed as to ensure that students are properly trained to use the language appropriately with regards to their ability to accomplish intelligibility from primary to even secondary school level. It is obvious to hear in their conversations being characterized by a lot of problems in the use of grammar, thereby affecting their overall performance in school. If the quality of English spoken by students is still poor, there will be a downfall in the scientific and technological development of the country. To this extend, this work will examine the particular problem of misuse of grammar emerging from inadequacies of English language acquisition.