A Case Study of an English Teacher’s Classroom Speech Errors

2017-09-23 23:18孙美玲
中学课程辅导·教学研究 2017年11期


Abstract: This thesis first introduces the significance of the case study of an English teachers classroom speech errors. It then concludes a classification of speech errors mainly to explore whether those types of speech errors are in the transcript of the record, that is, pauses, repeats, false starts, corrections, interjections, stutters and slips of the tongue which include shifts, exchanges, anticipations, perseverations, additions, deletions, substitutions and blends. Finally, it finds that the frequency of different speech errors is different, and the causes are various and suggestions must be given to reduce English teachers speech errors.

Key words: speech errors; English teacher; case study

一、 Introduction

In Fromkin and his co-authors view, everyone, in most cases, is likely to make speech errors in which we deviate in some way from the intended utterance(285). In our daily life, it is quite common to make speech errors even if someone is a language teacher.

There are many experts who study speech errors; nevertheless, few of them study English teachers speech errors in class specifically. The study on this project can help improve English teachers oral English and teaching ability, and the development of foreign language teaching in schools.

In this case study, the author is mainly to explore an English teachers possible types of speech errors in class, discuss the possible causes of her making speech errors, give suggestions to reduce her speech errors, and provide researchers with a real case for further study.

二、Classification of speech errors

Yan Yus thesis “On Classification and Causes of Speech Errors” agreed that speech errors could be classified into seven types: pauses, repeats, false starts, corrections, interjections, stutters and slips of the tongue(135). This classification was actually quoted from H. Clark and V. Clarks book “Psychology and Language: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics” in the 1977 edition. Many experts agreed H. Clark and E. Clarks classification.

Carroll divided slips of the tongue into eight major types and gave each type an example alongside the words.

The author of this thesis combines Carrolls classification of slips of the tongue and Yan Yu, H. Clark and E. Clarks classification of speech errors, because their classifications are famous and frequently quoted and analysed.

三、Case study

After listening to the tape, the English teachers speech was transformed into writing materials in order that it could be better analyzed.endprint

1. PausesThe teacher in this case did make some speech errors of pauses, influencing the fluency of her spoken language. Nevertheless, the speech of a teacher in class is so different from a natural speech in daily communication. For instance, in the class, to make her words better understood, the teacher slowed down her speed on purpose. Therefore, only those clear and obvious speech errors will be pointed out.

1)Silent pauses

(1) “If you read paragraph two// carefully, you will find this paragraph is all about the damage, so the world was at an end.”

(2) “A// big earthquake happened in// Tang Shan, Hebei on// July twenty eighth nineteen seventy six.”

2) Filled pauses

Filled pauses were very common in this lesson. Sometimes the students were a little bit noisy, which could cause the teachers speech errors. When the teacher was instructing them to make a sentence, they made noises. The teachers fluent speech was forced to be paused,

(3) “Would you please, shh, would you please make a sentence by using these words, these words?”

(4) “And what about paragraph two? Which sentence? En, Zhao Ye, you please.”

(5) “En, Wu Cuicui.”

(6) “Which sentence? En, which sentence?”

(7) “You can also write ‘help. Er, ‘hope was not lost is also right.”

(8) “Did you find something? Aha, ‘before, ‘during and ‘after”.

(9) “…This passage is written, is written by the order of time, hum, by the order of time.”

2 .RepeatsAs has been mentioned above, repeats are repetition of a word or several words when it is unnecessary, just like “the flower flower is beautiful”. In the class the teacher had to repeat some words to make sure most of the students could understand the questions or write down some important words and phrases.

(10) “Pay attention to the red words. Pay attention to the red words.”

(11) “Make a sentence. Make a sentence by using these words.”

(12) “… In unit three ‘Journey down the Mekong, is there any topic sentence? Is there any topic sentence?”

(13) “… Would you please make a sentence by using these words, these words?”

(14) “You know in unit three, in unit three ‘Journey down the Mekong.”

(15) “Actually the second one: it seemed as if the world was at an end, was at en end.”

(16) “So it is also about the damage, also about the damage.”

(17) “This passage, this passage is written, is written by the order of time…”endprint

3. False startsFalse starts include retraced false starts and unretraced false starts. If one wants to correct his or her own wrong word, he or she might repeat one or several words before the corrected word or words. In this case study, the teacher made both speech errors.

1)Retraced false starts

Retraced false starts refer to repeating one or several words before the corrected word or words. One very obvious retraced false start that teacher made was that

(18) “… There are/ there is damage”.

2) Unretraced false starts

Unretraced false starts refer to no repetition before the corrected word or words. In this case study there was also a typical example.

(19) “Damage caused by a/ an earthquake”.

4. CorrectionsCorrections mean the speaker not only correct the word or words, but also adds marked words like “I mean”, “or rather”, and “that is”, etc. before the corrected word or words. However, in this case study, the teacher did not make such speech errors.

5. Interjections

Interjections mean that the speaker not only corrects the word or words, but also adds interjections before the corrected word or words, like “Give me the cup, oh, knife.” Nevertheless, there was no such type of speech errors.

6. StuttersAs has been mentioned above, stutter is a speech problem in which a person finds it difficult to stop from repeating the first consonant of some words, for instance, the f- f- flower is beautiful. Luckily, the teacher in this case study doesnt have this problem.

7. Slips of the TongueThere are in total eight types of slips of the tongue in Carrolls classification. However, not each of those types can find its corresponding examples in this teachers class. In this case study, only examples of deletions, substitutions and additions can be found.


In Carrolls classification, deletions are a type of slips of tongue when a person leaves some linguistic material out in oral English.

(20) “We learn many disasters, especially the earthquake.”

(21) “Review it by yourself.”

(22) “Just write down ‘damage during the earthquake is OK.”

In all, there are three deletions in this case study.


Substitutions occur when one segment is replaced by an intruder, as mentioned above. In this case study, this kind of error is comparatively serious.

Having reviewed the lesson, the teacher said,endprint

(23) “Today, we will going to learn a real case.”

(24) “Divide them into three parts”,

(25) “Many strange things happened before an earthquake. So what are they?”

3) Additions

Additions add linguistic material. In the teachers class, when she wanted to stress two important words and draw the students attention, she said

(26) “pay attention to the ‘in and ‘on.

It is found that filled pauses and repeats are the most common speech errors, and there are three deletions and three substitutions. There is only one silent pause, one retraced false start, one unretraced false start, and one addition. And the numbers of other types of speech errors are zero. Totally, the teacher made 26 speech errors.

四、Causes and suggestions

Some experts have studied the reasons of speech errors from different aspects but the most acceptable one hasnt been found yet. As for psychological reasons, the classroom atmosphere, the teachers mood, etc. play an important role. As for linguistic reasons, her English spoken ability and the preparation before class influenced her performance.

After interviewing the teacher, the author found that the teacher didnt make enough preparation for her class. She wrote her speech down and recited the key sentences rather than all of the speech. When she could not remember her words, she became nervous and made speech errors. She also said that she needed more oral English courses in her university. The students noises also made the teacher nervous. She also said that she could not remember all the students names, so when she asked them to answer questions, she tended to make speech errors, too.

Some suggestions can be taken to reduce English teachers speech errors in class to improve their teaching effectiveness.

First, try to find some partners practicing the class together and then comment on each others presentation. Practice makes perfect. From the observation of the teachers, those who bravely their lessons before teammates for many times did much better than those who are too shy and only practiced for just one or two times in public.

Second, record the audio of their own English class and then analyze the records. The teachers can record their own English lesson, then listen to the records, find out the speech errors and analyze them. It is important to find ones own errors and try to reduce them.

Third, try to be more familiar with the situation of the whole class. If the teachers cannot remember the students names when they want to invite students to answer questions, they will feel nervous and thus make more speech errors.

Works Cited

[1]Carroll, David W. Psychology of Language. 3rd ed. Wisconsin: Cole Publishing Company, 1999. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press and Cole Learning Asia, 2000.

[2]Clark, Herbert H., & Eve V. Clark. Psychology and Language: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977.

[3]Fromkin, Victoria, et al. An Introduction to Language. 8 th ed. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2007.


[5][Yan Yu. “On Classification and Causes of Speech Errors.” Journal of Social Science of Jiamusi University 1(2005): 135-136.]endprint

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