Fixing Mistakes in Students’ English

(A posting on fixing mistakes in students’ English; fragment of a presentation paper)

Li (1999) suggests that three aspects, namely, phonology, lexis and grammar, as well as elements of communicative competence to be incorporated into the region English curriculum be carefully and wisely interpreted. Otherwise, our English teaching will produce students who use their English with a lot of undesired mistakes. We certainly would not want that to happen. Therefore, as far as fixing mistakes is concerned, the following is proposed:

Firstly, mistakes in grammar at the sentential level must constantly be corrected no matter how easily they persist to occur. Antoni and Gunawan (2005) in this respect offer examples of students’ presentate, I am agree, I have to take my mother to the hospital, and I am flu to be corrected into present, I agree, I had to take my mother to the hospital, and I am having a flu. This applies also to other grammatical aspects such as run-on sentences, diction or choice of words, phrase-forming and collocation, clauses, and parallelism.

Secondly, mistakes at the discoursal level must also be equally tackled. This usually concerns coherence and cohesion, transitional markers including punctuation marks, relevant versus irrelevant ideas, discourse development, and logic. Antoni and Radiana (2001) inspired by alwasilah (1993: 78) proposes 3 steps in creating a discourse so that it conforms to the aspects required to make it organized. They are: formulating what we want to say, arranging the idea syntactically, and writing the idea down.

Thirdly, mistakes in syllabic stress and intonation should be handled this way: teachers should teach words in their minimal pairs or groups by putting them in context and then training students to say them. Using the above-mentioned words, one example can be: When he was in Korea, he was just a mail carrier then a courier. Even so, he might as well consider it a good career. As for words having different classes or parts of speech, teachers should still put them in context before training them to students. Using the words above, an example can be something like: I was not content with the content of his paper. Concerning exclusive words, teachers should also put them in context beforehand rather than simply drilling them directly. Employing the words above, an example is: He chose psychology as his major.

Fourthly, in oral discourse, teachers should know and teach discourse strategies typical and characteristic of our own culture and norms that can safely be adopted into English. Antoni and Gunawan (2005) present examples of students’ where are you going?, I want to thank God for the opportunity given to me to present this essay…, and I am sorry if I made mistakes in my presentation. Mistakes are from me, the truth is from God… to be understood as typically pragmatic (that is, of Indonesian cultural norms and values) and therefore to be accepted. In support of this, Kirkpatrick (2000) endorses an example of English-translated Minang dialogue, provided by Rusdi Thaib, an ex-PhD student at Curtain University, Perth, Australia, who is a Minang.

To conclude, even though English is now owned by any country, in this respect, Indonesia, which can use it in ways appropriate to its own context, it does not, still, have to mean that we have to teach and use it in such a way that it sounds silly with regards to such aspects as rules of grammar and discourse. It is in the aspect of local pragmatic norms more that we can be creative, appropriately incorporating our own norms and values that others will have to understand and accept as uniquely ours and us.

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