Ghent University (BE) & University of Granada (SP) (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Page: 7994 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
In the acquisition of foreign languages, it is a challenge to achieve a near-native level, particularly in academic contexts. This is certainly important in the case of future foreign language teachers, because they are responsible to transfer their knowledge. In this sense, a continuous formation is needed in order to acquire an academic level. However, most of these students finished their university studies without the required language level. In fact, they are not subjected to language proficiency tests, and therefore their writing, speaking and listening levels are poorly known. In addition, the frequency and types of written errors made by university students, beginning teachers of French as a foreign language (FFL), holding a different master’s degree is still unknown. For this reason, the aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the frequency and types of written errors in essays made by Spanish postgraduate students in FFL teacher training holding a master’s degree in French philology or in French translation studies.

The data for this study was obtained from essays written by all the students of a Postgraduate program in FFL teacher training (n=45) at the University of Granada (Spain). The students had all acquired their master’s degree in French philology (n=30, group UGR 1) or in translation (n=15, group UGR 2). Our control group consisted of French native speakers (n=4, group UGR 3) who also followed the teacher training program. The frequency and types of errors were analysed in all the essays. For this study, following types of written errors were evaluated:
(1) spelling mistakes;
(2) grammar errors;
(3) vocabulary errors;
(4) discourse errors and
(5) content errors.

In addition, the following subtypes of errors were considered: omission, misselection, overinclusion and order.

The text length of the analyzed essays ranged from 177 to 692 words with a mean of 360.31. The mean length of group UGR 1 (372.7 words) was slightly higher than the group UGR 2 (335.53 words) but they were still under the maximum established length of 400 words. In addition, both UGR 1 and 2 showed lower mean length in comparison to the group UGR 3 (490.75 words). This study revealed a different hierarchy of frequency of error types by group. Categorizing all these errors, we found that spelling errors were the most common for the students of group UGR 1 while group UGR 2 committed more grammar errors, and the number of lexical errors was similar for both groups. Finally, discourse and content errors were the most infrequent in both groups.

These results allowed us to confirm that both groups dominate discourse organization in FFL. However, despite the fact that the students have acquired master’s degrees in FFL, there are still differences between these two groups and compared to the control group. The overall results suggest that most of the postgraduate students did not reach a near-native written level as far as the frequency of written errors is concerned.

In conclusion, the presence of these written errors could have a negative impact in the professional performance of these beginning teachers of FFL. In addition, during their teacher training it would be useful to incorporate different writing activities and personalised feedback. Finally, these results suggest that it is necessary to design novel didactic strategies at the undergraduate and postgraduate programs focusing on the improvement of writing skills and lexical richness.
French as a foreign language, teacher training, acquisition of foreign languages, writing, error analysis.