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Reading: An Analysis of Errors in English Writing of Sinhala Speaking Undergraduates


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An Analysis of Errors in English Writing of Sinhala Speaking Undergraduates


Rohan Abeywickrama

Department of Languages, Faculty of Social Sciences and Languages, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, Belihuloya, LK
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Error analysis is a type of linguistic analysis that focuses on the errors learners make. It consists of a comparison between the errors made in the Target Language (TL) and that TL itself. For learners themselves, errors are ‘indispensable,’ since the making of errors can be regarded as a device the learner uses in order to learn. Researchers are interested in errors because they are believed to contain valuable information on the strategies that learners use to acquire a language. Hence, an error analysis is the best tool for describing and explaining errors made by speakers of other languages in order to know the sources of these errors and the reasons behind their continued occurrence year after year with different groups of learners.

This study focuses on errors in English essay writing of Sinhala speaking undergraduates in order to identify whether the L1 transfer is the major cause for errors in English writing of Sinhala undergraduates. If this were to be true, then it could be concluded that the reason behind all those errors is Negative L1 transfer/ Mother Tongue interference. This paper further attempts to identify and describe Sinhala speaking undergraduates’ errors in English essay writing and thereby make efforts to minimize the problems encountered in their English writing. Target Population were the selected Sinhala speaking undergraduates who are offering English as a Second language for their BA (General) Degree at the Universities of Kelaniya, Peradeniya and the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka.

For the selection of a corpus of language, following the guidelines offered by (Ellis, 1995) samples of written assignments were collected from 60 students who are in the first and the second academic years of their degree programmes. These students were provided with the topics ‘An Unforgettable Day in My Life’ or ‘My University Life’ and asked to write on them in 200 to 250 words. They were given sufficient time to write (Ellis, 1997). They started with an outline, then a first draft and a final draft.

This highly objective and outcome-oriented investigation reflects negative L1 transfer/interference is not the major cause for errors in the English writings of Sinhala speaking undergraduates. This would enable the academic researchers, language teachers, linguists to build up a further discussion on errors of Sinhala speakers’ English writing.

Key words: Errors; Undergraduates; Sinhala; Second Language; L1 Transfer


Sabaramuwa University Journal, Volume 9 Number 1; December 2010, pp 97-114

How to Cite: Abeywickrama, R., (2011). An Analysis of Errors in English Writing of Sinhala Speaking Undergraduates. Sabaragamuwa University Journal. 9(1), pp.97–114. DOI:
Published on 29 Oct 2011.
Peer Reviewed


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