Error correction – Yitzha Sarwono

What are language errors? Well, the definition may be a bit blurry just as it may be a bit technical, but we can say they’re often mistakes people make, things that deviate from standard grammar.

For early learners in my classes in Jakarta, Indonesia, one common error that I’ve seen involves the use of verbs. It happens because they haven’t got the full grasp of the language yet. For example, they’ll say “I don’t writing a book” or “I go to hospital yesterday”. Another thing that I normally meet in my class is the mistake involving the difference between it’s confusing and I’m confused or it’s interesting versus I’m interested. This leads to mistakes like I am boring today which is something many of my students have said when they try to express how they feel. They don’t even realize the mistake they’re making or what they’re really saying by making it.

So how do I deal with such mistakes? I always tell my students that they’re learning English because they want to learn the art of communicating in English, so in order for the other party to understand what they want to say, they have to make sure they have said the right thing. Therefore whenever I find an error in one of their sentences that causes a difference in meaning, I write it on board and ask them to translate it with me from Bahasa Indonesian into English. I tell them that in order to know whether they have said what they intended to say, it helps to translate it into their native language: that way they can fully understand where they went wrong. It works very well for my class, because then we can laugh at our mistakes.

As teachers, no matter what subject that we teach, we will see students making mistakes in doing their tasks. In English, you know that the errors can lead to different understanding on what is being talked about. Wrong use of words or grammar can surely lead to miscommunication. That is why it is essential for students to learn the proper use of English – because the purpose of learning a language is to understand the art of communication. But do I get upset about their mistakes? Surely not. That is the beauty of learning. As someone once said: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”