Problems of Tense Errors in English Essays: A Study of the Situation among SS3 Students

Abstract: This study examined the Problems of Tense Errors in English Essays: A Study of the Situation among SS3 Students in Eastern Obolo Local Government Area. Three research question were raised in line with the specific objectives of the study. The study adopted the quasi-experimental research design. The population of the study comprised all senior secondary school students in the study area. A sample size of 120 ss2 students was used for the study. The major instrument for data collection was “English Language Essay Test [ELET]. The data collected were analyzed using frequency counts and simple percentages. The result showed that students made errors in the use of tenses of verb in their sentences. Errors were observed in the use of present tense, past tense and future tense.

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An average of 3.8 cases of tense errors were recorded prescript. It was concluded that the students examined were still in competent in the use of English tense. It was recommended among others that students should be encouraged to speak English Language quite often in and outside the classroom to improve their ability to achieve communication in the Language.


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1.1       Background to the Study

The importance of English Language acquisition as a stepping – stone for proficiency in other school subjects cannot be over-emphasized. The knowledge is important both for educational, economical and national development of a country. The importance of English Language as a school subject derives mainly from its utilitarian value to the larger Nigerian society. English is the official Language of administration and commerce. In recognition of the importance of English Language for enhancing educational attainment as well as for improving communication ability of citizens, the government had made the subject a core subject (FGN, 2004).

It is also compulsory for students to have credit in English Language before entering the university. This also explains why many parents go off their way to see that their children passed at credit level or above in English Language. Nigerian, like most sub- Saharan countries, is blessed with many indigenous Languages but the English Language continues to play a pivotal role in day-to- day transaction of Nigerians. As a result of this rather unfortunate case of linguistic imperialism, the ministry of Education has made it a policy for the English Language to be taught from kindergarten to the university level.

In addition, it is also medium of instruction in almost all subjects. Afful  (2007) observed that apart from English Language being used as an official Language or Lingua Franca in Nigeria, it is an important means of inter- ethnic communication internally and a source of communication internally and a source of communication with the international community – politics, trade, and science. Afful’s assertion, with regard to the importance of the English Language in Nigeria has been buttressed by Quagie (2010), who, in extolling the role of English positoes that he is yet to read or see any written manifestoes of political parties in other Nigerian Language. This is very unfortunate as the majority of the population is not very literate in English.

However, it is important to mention that not withstand the status of the English Language in Nigeria, not much has been done to improve upon how the Language is taught and learned, let alone spoken as one would have expected. In this regard, mention can be made of how issues surrounding the teaching and learning of the Language in Nigeria continue to pose challenges to teachers and other academics. Indeed, one of such problems is the wrong use of tenses in written and spoken communication which might not be unconnected with the influence of mother- tongue. It should be borne in mind that errors in the use of tenses are not peculiar to students only but the teachers of the language who are not well vested with the knowledge of the Language do make similar errors. This development however, must have accounted for the poor performance of students in the subject in public examinations which is fast becoming a recurring decimal if left unchecked.

1.2       Statement of the Problem.

The recurrent poor performance of students is English Language is causing some concern among English Language teachers, school administrators, parents and the general public. Teachers have put up noble and spirited efforts aimed at identifying the major problem associated with learning of English Language in schools. Despite all these efforts, the problem of poor achievement in English Language has continued to rear its head in the nations public examinations. Many scholars have attributed the incidence of students’ failure in the subject to ineffective method of teaching the subject and poor reading culture among students which as culminated in the poor knowledge of the subject by the students. Accordingly, it has been observed that students being second Language Learners find it complicated to speak or write good English owing to the influence of mother tongue. (Problems of Tense Errors in English Essays: A Study of the Situation among SS3 Students).

Most students have problems in differentiating between past, present and future tenses in their daily communication and essays. They end up mixing up tenses in their essays which account for their poor performance in public examinations. It is against this background therefore, that this study “Tense Errors in the English Essays of secondary school students in Eastern Obolo Local Government Area ’’ became imperative.

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