Fossilized Errors 1

Why do we need to correct students?

If we don’t correct student errors, they will continue to make them and this could become ingrained because they think they are right.

This is known as a ‘fossilized error’.

When do we correct students?

If we correct every error during classroom time, it may take away
time for what we have planned to achieve. The aim of the lesson is
important here. If the lesson has specific lexical or grammatical aims,
these should be the focus when errors are made. Errors made outside the
aims allow the teacher to see what can be focused on and planned for
future lessons but doesn’t need immediate correction at the time.

What type of errors do students make?

  • Lexical (choice of words, collocation, morphology)
  • Grammatical (incorrect tense usage, syntax, omission of auxiliary verbs, etc.)
  • Phonological (pronunciation in both speaking and listening)

What are the reasons for student errors?

  • Students haven’t learnt it yet but are trying.
  • Students have been introduced to it but have been lazy in reinforcing it.
  • Students didn’t fully understand the teacher’s introduction to the target language.
  • L1 interference (students are using their own language to try and express it in English).

Example: Liverpool –
/rɪbæpu:/ (Japanese pronunciation); /lɪvəpu:l/ (natural English
pronunciation). This error happens because Japanese does not have a
distinct difference between /l/ and /r/ sounds.

How can we correct student errors?

  • Mark written paper corrections in green or blue. Red can look ‘wrong’ to a learner.
  • Phonological errors can be practised by drilling and repetition from the teacher’s spoken model.
  • Grammatical errors can be addressed by a reintroduction in context.
    Sometimes a teacher must accept responsibility for a student’s

Why are student errors an advantage in learning?

Although errors can be a result of laziness, they can also be a
result of effort because the student is trying to advance and take the
language to higher, expressive levels. If this is the case, praise for
effort breeds confidence and motivates the student to further improve
his or her language skills.

You can read more about grammatical and lexical mistakes below.

Fossilized Errors 2

Fossilized Errors 3

Pete Bright, LOS Consultant