Use of Articles in Learning English as a Foreign Language: A Study of Iranian English Undergraduates

Document Type: Research Paper


University of Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran


The significance of error analysis for the learner, the teacher and the researcher is now widely recognized. Earlier studies of error analysis concentrated on intersystematic comparison of the “native language” and the “target language” and drew the required data largely from intuitions and impressionistic observations. This study was conducted on the basis of the following observations: (1) to restrict to the study of one area viz articles. (2) to avoid comparison in terms of the systems of native and target language. In this study the major areas of difficulties that students face in the target language, i.e. the occurrence of articles in different syntactic features was examined and an attempt was made to establish a hierarchy of difficulties 40 undergraduates faced in the use of articles. For testing the correct retrieval, a slightly modified version of Leacok’s essay ‘My Financial Career’ was prepared. It included sufficient examples of almost all the important uses of articles. The test was given to the subjects in the form of a running text. The responses of the subjects were analysed in terms of noun or noun phrases preceded by articles, noun or noun-phrases preceded by no article, and grammatical categories other than noun or noun-phrases proceeded by no article. The findings revealed that most of the errors the students committed were due to the nature as well as the grammatical complexity of the articles in English, i.e. L1 independent which cannot be explained in terms of transfer from the native language. It was also found that students’ competence using anaphoric reference is far greater than using cataphoric reference. The findings are interpreted to have pedagogical implications for syllabus designers and EFL teachers. 


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