English Language: Examining Learners’ Problems

Posted: August 29th, 2013

English Language: Examining Learners’ Problems






English Language: Examining Learners’ Problems


Question 1 Sentence level – (20% of total marks)

1.1 Noun Groups

Underline the noun groups in the following text and circle the main noun (if there is one) in each group. Finally, mark nouns which are used as countable (C) or uncountable (U).

Grilling is a     fierce   (U) and uncompromising   technique ,  (C) since the   food   (C) is cooked by direct exposure (C) to intense   heat    (U). Only prime   cuts    (C) of   meat  (C) can stand up to the barrage of heat  (U)  and still emerge juicy and tender. These    steaks   (C),   chops   (C)  and  cutlets  (C) are the obvious  choice   (C), although a cheaper   cut  (C) can be braised first, then grilled to give it a crisp exterior  (C).

Fish (c) presents no such   problems   (C), however, since it is never tough. Even the cheaper, oily  fish   (C) such as sardines (C) are good cooked in this way. (Parrott, 2002).


1.2 Verb Groups and Clauses

Circle the verb groups in the following passage and then mark the clauses // . Finally, identify the different types of clauses whether they are statements (S), questions (Q) or imperatives (I).

The Dry Cleaning Process

Why do people use dry cleaners?(Q)

We often find stains on our clothes. If you have a stain that  doesn’t come out , don’t wash  it in the machine//(I). Take it to the dry cleaners//(S). It isn’t expensive these days and it  will save you  time and effort//(S).

Is dry-cleaning safe? (Q)

These days accidents are rare and most people are  not afraid to use  dry cleaning // (S).

How does it work? (Q)

SWhen you drop your clothes off at the cleaners, they are  tagged  by the employee with a little label which  doesn’t get removed  until the clothes are collected by the customer// (S). This method  is used so they don’t get  lost// (S). Clothes are also  examined for missing buttons, tears, etc. that the dry cleaner might be blamed for otherwise// (S). The date is also noted when they were dropped off//(S) and what date they can be picked up by the customer. An invoice is generated, and information about the order – including the customer’s name, address and phone number – is entered into a computer// (S). This helps to keep  track of the order// (S).

Why are some stains pre-treated? (Q)

Pre-treating stains is similar to the procedure which is used at home when a stain remover  is applied  to stains prior to washing them. When a garment is stained don’t leave it to set // (I). Apply water for wet stains or a solvent for dry stains. Then, gently tap and blot both sides of the fabric with a soft cloth so the stain ‘bleeds off’ onto the cloth. Then, rinse the fabric, let it dry and your cleaner will do the rest. If you don’t know what to do  when a stain happens, call your cleaner and ask him or her what to apply.// (I)

Then where do the clothes go? (Q)

The clothes are put in a machine and are cleaned with a solvent// (S). Some clothes don’t need any further treatment, but some need post-spotting treatment when any lingering stains are removed. Once the clothing has been dry cleaned,// (I) it goes through a quality check and the order is re-assembled //(I). This means the clothing is bundled together for the customer to pick up  //(S). Don’t forget, every order is identified by a coloured tag with a number on it so the person who reassembles the order know which shirts and which slacks go together and to whom they belong. At the end of the process, the clothes are pressed, folded and packaged     // (S). (Parrott, 2002)


Question 2 – Identifying Problems (20% of total marks)

a. Correct the mistakes in the following sentences. Then give a simple explanation that you could give to students to explain the mistakes.i

i)             She explained me how to operate the machine, so I not sure what is the problem.

She explained to me on how I could operate the machine, so I am not sure what the problem is.

The first clause of the sentence should have preposition ‘to’ between ‘explained’ and ‘me’. This preposition directs one to whom the explanation was given to. The verb ‘am’ should be put between ‘I’ and ‘not’ and the verb ‘is’ be put at the end of the sentence in order to create emphasis and make the clause be a statement rather than a question.

ii)                  She said she’ll come tomorrow so I waited all day. She no come.

She said that she would come the following day, so I waited the whole day but she did not come.

The contracted verb ‘she’ll’ should be changed in to ‘she would’ and the noun ‘tomorrow’ should be changed to the ‘following day’ since the statement is in reported speech. The action has already taken place. The adjective ‘all’ should be changed to ‘whole’ since the noun day is not in quantity form. The conjunction ‘but’ should be used in order to join the two sentences thus bringing in flow and a division to the clauses. The verb ‘did not’ should be used in place of ‘no’ since ‘come’ is an verb and not an noun.

iii)                My sister is English teacher. Many of Chinese students must study English for at least 6 years. They are really wanting to improve their English.

My sister is an English teacher. Many of the Chinese students must study English for at least six years since they really want to improve on their English.

The article ‘an should be added before the noun ‘English’ since ‘English teacher is descriptive of the teacher (adjective). The article ‘the’ should be added before the group noun ‘Chinese students’ since this are specific nouns. The number ‘six’ should be written in words, as these are formal sentences. The conjunction ‘since’ should be used in order to make the sentence flow. Due to the adverb ‘really’ the verb ‘wanting’ should be changed to ‘want’.


iv)                I want to discuss about the topic of food. Generally speaking, women are worried about her weight. The problem is a will power.

I want to discuss about the topic on food since women are worried about their weight while the problem is their will power.

The preposition ‘on should be used in place of the preposition ‘of’. The conjunction ‘since’ should be used in order to have sentence flow and  the term ‘generally speaking’ should be eliminated since it is used in informal speech. The pronoun ‘her’ should be replaced with ‘their’ since ‘women’ is in plural. The article ‘a’ should be replaced with the pronoun ‘their’ because the noun ‘will power’ is not countable.

v)                  My friend, he know much vocabularies because he is living in Australia for a long time.

My friend has a large vocabulary because he has lived in Australia for a long time.

The pronoun ‘he’ should be eliminated since a noun and a pronoun cannot be used consecutively. The verb ‘know’ should be changed to ‘knows’ since the noun “friend’ is in singular form and the action is continuous. Since vocabulary is uncountable, the adjective ‘much’ should be replaced by the adjective ‘large. Since this statement is an action that is still going on, ‘is living’ should be changed into present perfect simple form.

vi)                It is no matter it is American or Australia programs just it is a good program/show and she likes it then she would watch it.

It does not matter whether it is an American or an Australian program as long as it is a good program/show she will like then watch.

‘No cannot be used in this sentence because it is used infront of nouns. It is placed by ‘does not’. The conjunction ‘whether’ should be used between ‘matter’ and pronoun ‘it’ in order to bring a sence of comparison. Article ‘an’ should be added in front of the pronoun ‘Australia’ since it is general. The pronoun ‘programs’ should be put in its singular frorm. ‘Just’ should be replaced by ‘as long as’ in order to bring out the conditionality in the sentence. The conjunction ‘and’ should be eliminated since it interfered with the flow of the sentence. The auxiliary verb ‘will’ should be placed between the pronoun ‘she and the verb ‘like’. The ‘s’ in ‘like’ should also be eliminated since there is an auxiliary verb between the pronoun and the verb. The pronoun ‘it’ should be eliminated in order to avoid repetitiveness.

vii)              Will you go out this weekend? You better not to do that because you will have your exam next week.

Will you go out this weekend? You had better not do that because you are having your exam next week.

The auxiliary verb ‘had’ should be added between ‘you’ and ‘better in order to show action. The preposition ‘to’, is not necessary in this sentence. The pronoun ‘that’ should be put between ‘do’ and ‘because’ in order to indicate the idea of going out during the weekend. ‘You will have’ should be changed to ‘you are having’ since this is a present progressive form since this is a future action.

viii)            He is eager to marry to Asian women. Especially he likes Japanese women.  I don’t know why Australian men like Japanese women. I saw a lot of couple a man is Australian and a woman is Japanese.

He is eager to marry an Asian woman. He especially likes Japanese women. Although I do not know why Australian men like Japanese women, I have seen many couples where the man is an Australian and the woman Japanese.

The preposition ‘to’ should be replaced by the article ‘an’ since the noun ‘Asian woman’ is specific. The pronoun ‘he’ should come before the adverb ‘especially’ which comes before the verb ‘likes’. The conjunction ‘although’ is used to join the two sentences and the contracted verb ‘don’t’ is replaced by ‘do not’. The comma separates the two clauses and the conjunction ‘where’ is used t show the relationship in the clause. The adjective ‘a lot’ is replaced by ‘many’ since couples are countable.

ix)                He is 25 years old. His job is a shop assistance. He is from England. He has an Australian citizenship.

He is twenty-five years old and he has a job working as a shop assistant. He is from England although he has an Australian citizenship.

The number ‘25’ should be written in word since this is a formal statement. The conjunction ‘and’ should be used in order to give flow to the sentences. Since the two sentences are being joined, ‘his job is a’ should be changed to ‘he has a job’ and the verb ‘working’ added. The conjunction ‘although’ should be added in order to make up two clauses instead of two sentences.


x)                  I intend work more hard than last term. My marks will be more better. I want to succeed the exam, so I must be more diligence.

I intend to work harder than last term so that my marks will be better. I want to pass the exam, so I must be more diligent.

The preposition ‘to’ should be added between ‘intend’ and ‘work’ since two verbs cannot follow each other consecutively. The comparative of the adjective ‘hard’ is harder. The conjunction ‘so that’ should be used to join the two sentences in order to provide a flow in the sentence. The adjective ‘more’ should be eliminated since two comparatives cannot be used consecutively. The verb ‘pass’ should be used in place of ‘succeed’ and the noun ‘diligence’ should be replaced by ‘diligent’ so that it is in its comparative form.

Question 3 – Learners’ Problems: Written Text  (40% of total marks)

3.1          Read the following written text. It was a report of an interview on views about marriage and relationships written for the lecturer. The student was 22 years old and had learnt English for several years but had only been in Australia for three months. Identify her main strengths and main needs in terms of grammar. Comment on:

–              structure of the writing and how well the student gets the message across

–              the clausal structure

–              the verbal groups and noun groups

–              the lexis

–              specific problems


This task of this week is talking about marriage with people who were born in Australia. I make a summary of survey as follow.

Brian, Australian, works in Optus Company. He is thirty-six years old single Australian, but now he live with his girlfriend, Erin. For him, living together before marriage is a good idea because they at least can know each other more and decide whether go for marriage. Otherwise, divorce is just wasting time. After he and Erin live together for a while, he would think about marriage seriously. He thinks marriage would change his role because he is not alone anymore. His wife always supports him, cares about him and looks after him, so he needs to do the same thing and return with all his effort. He believes that marriage is happy. He thinks couple should be friend and be partner for living. Couple should have good communication and come to a compromise for each other. Each member of family should spend more time with family and manage the relationship with heart. Therefore, the most important things for a successful marriage are trust each other and communication.

Moreover, Brian thinks that same-sex marriage is a human right. He has some friends with same-sex partner. As long as they enjoy the relationship and not violate other people, people in Australia have opened-mind for same-sex partner. Mardi Gras for gay take place in March every year in Australia. Same-sex marriage is legal in Australia that is an open country. Besides, Australians have cross-cultural marriages. It is a good thing to Australian future for absorbing different culture benefit. Many Asian people marry Australian. Nationality is not a problem anymore for Australian when getting married. Nowadays Australia looks like a cross-cultural country.

I find that Australian’s idea of marriage is different to Chinese’s idea. Australian thinks that living together before marriage is a good and common thing. For Chinese, living together before marriage is not general situation in society. Moreover, some people in Australia think that boyfriend and girlfriend can live together, even have children without marriage. I feel very surprised when I know having children without marriage is general phenomenon in Australia. It is illegal for Chinese society to have children without marriage. There could be a difference in marriage according to cultural background.


The student is able to pass the message to the reader. Each idea about marriage is in a different paragraph. He starts with the heterosexual marriages where he talks about the cohabitation of Brian and Erin. He then talks about homosexual marriages in the second paragraph. Then he finally compares the Australian marriages with other cultures such as the Chinese marriages in the third paragraph.

There are clauses in the student’s summary although they have not been formed correctly. There is the wrong use of conjunctions and prepositions. For example, the student uses the conjunction ‘but’ in the second sentence of the first paragraph instead of using ‘although’.

The student has tried to use verb groups and noun groups although he has left out articles and other prepositions that support these groups. For example, the same sentence in the first paragraph read “ He is thirty six years old single Australian” instead of “He is a thirty-six year old single Australian”. In the use of the verb groups, there is a mixture in tenses or living out the auxiliary verbs. For example, still in the first paragraph, he states, “His wife always supports him, cares about him and looks after him”. He has left out ‘would’ between ‘wife’ and ‘always’.

The lexis of the summary is good. The vocabularies are appropriately used. However, there are a few errors such using a phrase such as “marriage is happy” instead of saying “there should be happiness in marriage”. There is no use of vulgar words.

Leaving out the articles, prepositions, using the wrong conjunctions and writing the verbs in the wrong form and tense are the recurring mistakes in the summary. For example, the student uses the verb ‘live’ instead of using ‘lives’. In another sentence, the students says “Divorce is just wasting time” instead of divorcing is a “waste of time. There is also the punctuation problem. The student sometimes has problems identifying where to put the commas and the full stops. The student also has trouble identifying the word to follow the punctuation marks.


3.2          Read the following written text. It was written by a 14 year old girl originally from Timor. She came to Australia six months before writing this text. She was non-literate in her first languages, Chinese and Tetum, and was therefore a beginner writer in English.  Comment on:

–              structure of the writing and how well the student gets the message across

–              the clausal structure

–              the verbal groups and noun groups

–              the lexis

–              specific problems


What suggestions would you make for her future support.  (Maximum one page)

I come from Timor when I come from Timor to Australia I can’t understand Englich After that I went to Victoria past school with my young borther, and, my sister. But victoria past were very full students. When my young borther is in victoria Past School. After that I stay home about two weeks. I No Went School. Then my sister took me to girl high school. Then I stay in girl high school about two weeks but I didnt know Englitsch After that my teacher took me went to collingwood Languag Center school for learning English. Then I met Po Mi at Collingwood Language center School and I stud in school teacher asked me I didn’t know after teacher said to Po Mi can you explain chinese for Mai Lin. The Po Mi explain chinese for me teacher asked how are you. Because I can’t answer good off No good because I didn’t know English. When I was first come to Collingwood Language Center School. Teacher teaching me about what coloure and teacher teaching when do come from and how old are you and teaching you one two three four up to one hundred.


The student has tried to pass the message across. One can follow what the student is trying to tell although it is with some difficulty. The ideas are written in order from when the time she first came to Australia, to her difficulty of getting a new school, to the teacher who offered to teach her how to count in English.

She has trouble making clauses. She has trouble knowing when to form clausal sentences and when to form simple sentences. She has trouble mixing the tenses thus making it hard for one to know the clauses and the simple sentences. She also wants to write about too many ideas within the same sentence. This makes the sentence too long and difficult to follow.

The student has tried to use verb groups although some have been used in the contracted form. For example, there is the use of ‘didn’t know’ instead of ‘did not’. Since the student has mixed too many ideas in a single sentence, there is the formation of inappropriate verbal clauses. For example “in school teacher asked me I didn’t know after teacher said to Po Mi can you explain chinese for Mai Lin”

The student has trouble with the lexis. The mixture of the nouns and incorporating too many nouns in one sentence distracts the flow of the words and the sentence. She also has trouble identifying which ones are the nouns and which ones are the verbs thus using the wrong noun modifiers.

There is a lot of misspelling of nouns, wrong or no punctuation at all, wrong verb formation and sentence flow. The wrong use of the tenses makes it hard for one to follow the passage. One does not know whether she is talking about the past the present or in continuous tense.


The student should first be advised to know the right spelling. The writing of proper nouns should also be mastered. She should also be encouraged to write simple sentences instead of writing the complex ones. Each idea should be in its own sentence. She should also be familiarized with the proper use of adjectives, prepositions, amongst others. For example, she states “I No Went School” when she actually means, “I did not go to school”.

It is also important that she be taught how to make her thoughts to flow in order to deliver her message appropriately. It is also significance that she should be taught the use of tenses. Mixing the sentences is making the delivery of the message to be cumbersome.

Question 4  Texts for language teaching (10% of total marks)

Each of the following texts could form the basis of drawing students’ attention to specific features of the language. Read the texts and identify three aspects of language/ grammar which each text would foreground. Underline several  examples of each aspect of language/ grammar in the texts.

The Mummy’s Curse (Pragamtic)

The ancient Egyptians perfected the art of preserving dead bodies by mummifying (Semantics) them. They believed that the soul could survive only if the body remained intact.

The Egyptians preserved the bodies of the dead by first removing the brain, which was then thrown away.. The inner organs were removed  and put in special jars.  Finally the body was dried and stuffed with rags and wrapped in bandages, The process was called mummification (Semantics).

Strange stories about the magical powers of ancient mummies were very popular. One story tells of an Egyptian princess who had disobeyed her father, King Akhenaton, and was murdered. To prevent the girl’s spirit from travelling to the afterlife, the killers chopped off  (Syntax) her right hand and buried it separately. In 1890, a mummified hand was given to Lord Harrison and his wife by an Egyptian (Semantics) sheik.

Lord and Lady Harrison, having tried unsuccessfully (Sematics) to get rid of  (Synatax)the mummy’s hand, locked it in a safe. Thirty years later, terrified at noticing new flesh growing on the old bones, they put the hand in the fire. There was a clap of thunder (Syntax) as it caught fire. The door burst open and the princess’s ghost glided into the room.

She rescued her hand from the flames and disappeared. Whatever the truth of the story. Lord and Lady Harrison had to be treated for shock at a London hospital. Do you believe this?


ii. Pragmatics

iii. Syntax            (Parrott, 2002)

     Helen Keller

Helen Keller was a famous American who lived from 1880 – 1968. Although she was deaf. blind and mute (Phonology), she overcame (Semantics) her handicap, and went to university becoming a famous author and lecturer.

Helen Keller was born in Alabama, At the age of 19 months she became ill and lost her speech, sight and hearing (Phonology). From the age of seven Helen was taught by Annie Sullivan. Under Annie’s instruction Helen learned (Morphology) sign language by touch  (Phonology) and to use the Braille system to read  (Phonology). 1900 was a special year for her because she passed her exams and was allowed to enter university in 1904 (Morphology).

After university, Helen needed to find a way to make a living, so she wrote her autobiography (Semantics) The Story of My Life, She became involved in the suffragette movement and also worked on her voice, As a result her ability to speak and be understood improved greatly.

However, there were many financial problems to trouble her during her lifetime. In order to make ends meet she made many lecture tours, wrote several books, made a movie based on her life and even appeared in stage shows. Once again, she had refused to let circumstance defeat her.

Helen Keller died in 1968. During (Morphology) her lifetime (Semantics), she showed great courage in overcoming huge difficulties to live a full and famous life.

iv. Semantics

v. Phonology

vi. Morphology (Parrott, 2002).

Question 5 – Learner’s Problems: Spoken Language (10% of total marks)

Youssef is a second language learner who has been learning English for four years and Paul is a native speakers of English. Both boys listened to the teacher read a storybook called the Terrible Wild Grey Hairy Thing. They then recounted the story to the teacher who recorded and transcribed the first part of their retells.  Read through a summary of the original story below and then read through Paul’s and Youssef’s recounts. Finally answer the questions about Youssef’s spoken language.

Original story – summary

The story is called the Terrible Wild Grey Hairy Thing. It is about a lady called Goodie who made a pile of sausages of all sizes to feed her family all winter. While she was hanging the sausages up on nails in the ceiling her baby trod on the cat, which screeched, jumped up and ‘whisker tickled’ Goodie’s leg. She fell, dropping the sausages everywhere. One sausage wedged behind a tool chest and stayed there. Her husband soon complained of the smell and they went on a hunt for the smell. They sniffed all over but couldn’t find it. Then Goodie began her spring-cleaning and with her husband found the sausage – now horrible and black with whiskers.  They were too frightened to kill the ‘monster’. The husband went for help, while Goodie locked herself in the bedroom. All the neighbours were too scared to kill it when a black dog rushed in attacked the ‘terrible wild grey hairy thing’ and ATE it.

Paul:  One day a fat lady was making some sausages  and she was making heaps and heaps of sausages .. she was making so many sausages that they would last her family for a year .. but she was putting them up on nails above her on the ceiling … and the baby was chasing the cat around at that time .. the cat jumped up and tickled the fat lady’s leg … so she fell down and all the sausages fell on the floor too… but there was one great one that got stuck behind a tool box and it stayed there for ages getting mouldy .. one day the fat lady did her spring cleaning and by that time the big sausage had gone mouldy and was growing whiskers…

Youssef:  Once upon a time the lady was making some sausages and she made a big fat one and she made a lot for winter … and for her family … so she got some of them and she start to hang them up on the wall and the baby accidentally step on the cat and he tickled the lady and she fell down and all the sausages fell all over the place .. and then one fell behind the tool box and the lady start to dust and it got dirty and it became a terrible big monster and there was a big smell .. and the lady start to check, she sniff the cat and she sniff the baby and she scrubbed and cleaned and smashed the pillows…

  1. What are the strengths of Youssef’s retell?

The retell is continuous thus allowing the reader to follow the story. One can understand the story. However, one who does not have the original story may misunderstand it. The wrong arrangement of words in some areas has passed the wrong information. For example, the sausage looked like a terrible big monster because it had stayed behind the toolbox for too long and not because the lady had done the dusting making the dust to fall on the sausage.

  1. Comment on Youssef’s verbal groups and use of verbs.

Youssef has the use of verb groups or although some are not used in their right tense. For example, he states “and she start to hang” instead of “and she started to hang”. Since to many words have been used without the use of the proper punctuations and the right conjunctions, there is a congestion of verb groups.


  1. Comment on Youssef’s use of adjectivals and articles.

He has tried to use the right adjectives although there are others he has used in the wrong way. For example, he uses “big smell” instead of “an awful smell”. The smell cannot be seen so one cannot determine how big it is. He has also tried to use the articles correctly although some articles are wrongly put. For example, he has used ‘the lady’ instead of ‘a lady’ at the beginning of the summary.

  1. Comment on Youssef’s lexis and noun groups.

The lexis needs improvement and so does the formation of noun groups. Using connectives too many times disrupts the formations of noun groups.


  1. Comment on Youssef’s use of adverbials and time phrases.

The adverbials have been properly used but the verbs following the verbs have not be used in their proper time form. For example, he says, “accidentally step” instead of “accidentally stepped”.


  1. Comment on Youssef’s range of clauses and connectives.

He is still poor in the connectives thus bringing a difficulty in the formation of clauses.

  1. Identify two areas of language you would focus on in teaching Youssef.

One area is the use of conjunctions. The conjunction ‘and’ has been used too many times thus interfering with the flow of the sentences. He should be taught on forming the verbs groups in their right tenses. He should also be taught about giving the summary of a story. There are parts where the original meaning of the story has been changed due to the wrong arrangement of words.


Expert paper writers are just a few clicks away

Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.

Calculate the price of your order

You will get a personal manager and a discount.
We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price: