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Spelling errors in Swedish university students’ English essays
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2017 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The English writing system is highly irregular due to the deficiency of correspondences between sounds and letters (Cook & Bassetti 2005). Nevertheless, English has over the last hundred years become a global language that is used as a first, second, or foreign language by an estimated 1.5 billion people (Crystal 2000). In second language acquisition (SLA), vocabulary learning is, together with syntax, central to language development and Ringbom (2007) argues that learning is based on formerly acquired knowledge. As the Swedish and English languages both originate from Germanic languages, they are said to be closely related. Learners of languages with many phonetically and orthographically similar words, e.g. Swedish learners of English, may perceive that the learning burden is relatively small. But, although the similarities may facilitate the learning process, they can also prove to be an obstacle. To ease the learning process for second language learners, it is crucial to make error analyses in order to identify the difficulties. 

This study investigates misspellings in written production made by Swedish university students learning English as a second language. The goal was to find out what kinds of spelling errors Swedish learners make and whether the errors can be a result from negative transfer from their first language. In order to perform the study, I used the Uppsala Student English Corpus (USE), a collection of essays from the Department of English, Uppsala University, spanning the years 1999–2001. The corpus consists of 1,489 essays written by 440 Swedish university students of English at three different levels.

The assumption was that Swedish learners make few spelling errors and that the errors are mainly found in longer, rarely used words and words with great similarity to Swedish words. The results show that the main part of the incorrect spellings consisted of space inaccuracies, such as any one - anyone or atleast - at least, confusion between some words spelled with double or single vowel, such as too - to and choose – chose, as well as words spelled with a capital first letter as english - English.

The limitations of the study are that the corpus is rather small for a thorough investigation and that the essays were written with access to dictionaries, which, needless to say, reduced the number of misspelled words. Also, when producing the texts, the students had the opportunity to use words and expressions they are familiar with, in comparison to regular vocabulary tests. On the other hand, the findings could indicate that students estimate their knowledge as higher than it is and consequently neglect to consult a dictionary.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. , 31 p.
Keyword [en]
Spelling, transfer, second language acquisition, Swedish learners of English
National Category
Languages and Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141787OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-141787DiVA: diva2:1088996
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2017-04-24 Created: 2017-04-18 Last updated: 2017-04-24Bibliographically approved

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
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  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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