Induced errors - sources and pedagogical deductions

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2004

15 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents


1. Induced errors
1.1 Errors induced by teachers: teacher-talk and deficiencies in other fields
1.2 Material-induced errors
1.3 Exercise-based induced errors
1.4 Errors induced by pedagogical and methodological priorities
1.5 Look-up errors
1.6 Errors induced by poetic deviations

2. Pedagogical Deductions


Internet source


The following work discusses a specific type of error in the second language classroom – induced errors. Regarding this category of error a wide range of reasons can elicit their committal.

A definition of the term ‘induced errors’ as well as a description of its distinctive features will be provided before the different types of errors and their sources are going to be discussed in detail.

Since the course Errors in Second Language Learning was designed for future teachers, the section on induced errors and their sources will be followed by pedagogical deductions concerning the avoidance or at least reduction of induced errors.

1. Induced errors

Stenson uses the term ‘induced errors’ to refer to learner errors “that result more from the classroom situation than from either the students’ incomplete competence in English grammar or first language interference.” She points out that errors can easily be caused by the structure of a classroom situation, for instance, by the way a teacher gives definitions, explanations or arranges practice opportunities (Stenson, 1983: 256-262). Stenson as well as James explain the distinction of induced errors from spontaneously made errors (cf. Stenson, 1983: 256 / James, 1998: 189). To the scientists, a production of such errors in spontaneous speech is rather doubtful.

In the following section possible sources of induced errors will be discussed in detail.

1.1 Errors induced by teachers: teacher-talk and deficiencies in other fields

James uses the term ‘teacher-talk induced errors’ to describe one category of induced errors (cf. James, 1998: 191). Since teachers’ language deficiencies - which can elicit erroneous use of language - don’t only occur in spoken language, this section should not be restricted to the talk itself but also deal with errors in writing, the definition of lexical items and others. Although, the committal of errors in the former field seem less likely due to a better possibility of verifying correctness.

One of the many roles of a teacher is to provide models of the standard target language in class. There is a chance that teachers may not be good models of the target language with regard to the way they speak, write or generally teach the language. Therefore, some of the errors being committed by students could be teacher-induced. For example, if he uses the following expression:

The student must work *more harder.

(cf. bin Mohamed Ali 1996). It is very likely that such an error in a language teacher’s speech or writing will be adopted and reproduced by students.

Modeling the standard of a target language, though, is sometimes a problem even for native speakers. “As for NNS teachers of a language, their command of the TL is often a cause for grave concern, and in many places young trainees’ expertise in up-to-date methodology is far in excess of their command of the TL itself (James, 1998: 191).”[1] According to the extent they are described in literature, teacher-induced errors seem to be the most common source of induced errors. Generally the amount of discussed sub-categories of induced errors fluctuated, whereas the lacking command of the target language as a cause of errors was discussed in all works which dealt with error analysis.[2] Apparently, problems mainly occur in the following fields: pronunciation, spelling and the explanation of vocabulary, grammar or rules concerning the language. Stenson points out, for instance, that teachers may mislead their students by the way they define a lexical item, or by the order in which they present materials. She uses the following example to illustrate the problem: the word worship was given as general word for pray. According to Stenson students immediately attached to the new word the same preposition that they knew to be required with the familiar one, and began speaking of worshipping to God. The problem she sees with these kinds of errors is that habits “[…] which may develop from such analogies between two related items seem especially difficult to break […] (Stenson, 1983: 256-57).” Additionally, grammatical errors may be induced through insufficient or faulty explanations by a teacher. Again Stenson provides an example from her classroom research. She reports that a teacher defined as if more or less synonymous with like into sentences with as if and then asked students to transform sentences with like into sentences with as if (e.g. “He climbs like a monkey” into “He climbs as if he were a monkey”). Though, one student responded to the given sentence “She cries like a baby” with “She cries as if the baby cries” which would be an acceptable expression if like were really a synonym for as if (cf. Stenson, 1983: 259).

Insecurity regarding activities and language skills adequate to the performance of central roles of a teacher may result in the production of errors, which in turn could induce errors in students. James, with reference to a study by Moreira (1991)[3], describes the following roles as being central to the teacher’s profession: classroom manager, instructor, spontaneous communicator and resource person. Teaching activities associated with the above roles were observed by Moreira. In the mentioned study, those activities which most consistently led to problems with the language on the part of trainee teachers were listed. “The activities identified as being the most problem-causing were: setting out and changing tack in a lesson; dealing with the unexpected; using metalanguage; and directing the lesson (James, 1998: 192).” These difficulties the trainees faced manifested themselves in the language they used. Four categories of deficiencies were found. The most common one was error, namely the incorrect production of explanations of meaning and grammar as well as non-existent rules. Errors especially occurred when the trainees had to deal with the unexpected or had to talk about language. Secondly, deficiencies were manifested in the use of forms that are not ungrammatical but would be considered unnatural in the target language. This mainly happened when the teachers were operating in their organizer or communicator roles. A third problem was the language switch – it occurred when trainees faced difficulties in expressing the same meaning in the target language. Finally, there were instances in which the trainees’ language became confused and incoherent. This was taken as a sign of low confidence, uncertainty and vagueness on the part of the trainees (cf. James, 1998: 191-92).


[1] NNS = non-native speaker, TL = target language

[2] Besides literature which particularly dealt with error analysis I consulted works which discussed second language learning in general or even German linguistics. These works helped to detect further potential sources of induced errors such as those induced by poetic deviations.

[3] As will be seen in the bibliography, the original source was not available.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Induced errors - sources and pedagogical deductions
University of Potsdam  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
HS: Errors in Second Language Learning
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ISBN (Book)
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Induced, Errors, Second, Language, Learning
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Anja Dinter (Author), 2004, Induced errors - sources and pedagogical deductions, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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