Error Analysis: Implications for the Teaching of Foreign Languages


  • Barbara von Wittich

  • Barbara von Wittich (Ph.D., Iowa State University) is Associate Professor of German at Iowa State University, Ames.


ABSTRACT The analysis of high frequencies of identical errors made on the Pimsleur German Writing Proficiency Test revealed common learner strategies and pointed to certain aspects of the target language which need more emphasis and, perhaps, better implementation. The errors were analyzed with regard to item difficulty, the amount of previous instruction in the target language, and general competence as reflected by total raw score. An analysis of the distribution of the morphological, lexical, and syntactical deviations from the norm was made for each test item with regard to error frequency and variance. The deviations from the norm revealed as main sources of error: negative transfer from the native tongue, overgeneralization of rules concerning the target language, and cue-copying. The analysis of error approximation to the norm led to the conclusion that the “degree” of error may be indicative of the learner's stage on the interlanguage continuum. The research was based on the analysis of 8729 errors made by 308 Iowa State University students testing out of first year German.