What are the Top Seven Errors Made by ESL Learners?

Mistakes are occasional slips or lapses; the speakers know the rule but are not able to perform or follow it. Meanwhile, errors are caused by gaps in the learner's knowledge; they (ie learners) do not know what is correct (Bhela, 1999).

Teachers of English as a Second Language should be able to distinguish mistakes from errors. It seems wiser to address errors than mistakes so most ESL researchers spend time on identifying, describing, and classifying errors. Some may even further investigate the effects these errors have on readers or listeners. Great minds think alike so you must be thinking how serious are the errors made by ESL speakers/writers. 

Anju Giri, a researcher from Nepal, attempted to throw some light on the gravity of the grammatical errors committed by Nepali ESL learners. She found out that these are the top seven categories of errors made by Nepali ESL students, as evaluated by 100 UK speakers, 100 US speakers, 100 Australians, 100 Indians and 200 Nepali teachers:

  1. Adjectives
  2. Word Class
  3. Auxiliary
  4. Word Order
  5. Affixation
  6. Mood
  7. Verb + Particle 

Based on above findings, let's reflect upon our ESL teaching practice and learning experience:

  • Which error among these seven areas causes the most serious misunderstanding?
  • What are the criteria for judging the seriousness of errors in speech and writing? Frequency? Comprehensibility? The Irritation factor?
  • Knowing these criteria, how are we going to plan and design ESL lessons? 
Designed by Neil Yamit