By S. P. Corder
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Extra resources for Error Analysis and Interlanguage
There are two possible reasons for this: 1 that the nature of the data or the manner in which they are presented is defective in some way, which makes it impossible for the learner to take them in, or 2 while the data are adequate, the state of the learning device is such that it cannot take them in. In other words, the learner has to know certain things before he can learn something new. If we then attempt to teach him something before he is ready for it, the result will be confusion, false hypotheses, and what we could call redundant 'errors'.
For that, as I have said, we need to know the nature of the mismatch. In the example given it requires a description of the demands of the academic learning situation in terms of communicative skills. I am glad to say that there are now several groups working on such an analysis. It also requires a technique for analysing the student's 'knowledge of the language', not just his 'knowledge of the code' (which is what our present tests can measure). It is now time to turn to my second topic, that of error analysis.
Textual data cannot be regarded as a representative sample of the learner's language. Quite apart from the paucity of textual data, to which I have already referred, the sample is biased. This happens in two ways: by external constraint and internal constraint. g. free composition, guided composition, retold stories, etc. Secondly, the learner himself will place limitations upon the data we work with, by selecting from his actual repertoire, where possible, only those aspects of his knowledge which, rightly or wrongly, he has most confidence in.