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The issue of the subject-verb agreement is quite meaningful for the linguistic society of present days, the difficulties learners of the English language experience in this field are quite common and frequent, this is why this problem has been explored and highlighted by many scholars all over the world.
This problem has several layers and can be researched from different points of view. Subject-verb agreement difficulties have attracted the attention of many outstanding linguists, who study the most significant errors the students make in this area and work on the solution to simplify the procedure of teaching the theory and practice of the agreement.
The problems related to the subject-verb agreement have been examined by many educators and researchers. For example, one can mention the study carried out by Siti Stapa and Mohd Izahar (2010). In particular, these scholars focus on the errors made by Malaysian ESL learners. Their research indicates that these errors occur primarily due to linguistic differences.
One should mention that in some languages, there are no forms that can distinguish the singular and plural forms of the verb. For example, one can speak about such a language as Bahasa Malaysia. Thus, these people can use the singular form of the verb, instead of the plural form.
For example, they can utter the following phrase, “Now, people are not looking for an appropriate job but a stable one” (Stapa & Izahar, 2000, p. 67). These mistakes can significantly impair their written and oral communication. Thus, it is critical to consider the differences between the two languages.
Additionally, there are many students who speak non-standard dialects of the English language, such as Ebonics (Baxter, 2007, p. 149). Such learners perceive themselves as native speakers; nevertheless, they can also violate the rules of subject-verb agreement. Therefore, their academic writing style can be significantly impaired. Such people need to do remedial exercises to overcome this difficulty. This is one of the points that can be made.
Apart from that, the researcher notes that the errors related to the subject-verb agreement can arise due to some language impairments. For instance, the study by Judith Rispens and Pieter Been (2007) suggest that these errors can occur due to dyslexia (301).
These problems should be mitigated during childhood or adolescence; otherwise, these deficiencies can result in significant challenges for learners in the future, especially when they may study in colleges or universities. Therefore, the needs of such students should also be taken into consideration by educators.
In turn, much attention is paid to the development of instructional methods that can help students avoid making mistakes. In particular, the article written by Gang Ping argues that learners should see that subject can take a variety of forms. By providing these examples, a teacher can demonstrate complex situations that can give rise to mistakes.
For example, one can speak about the use of quantifiers such “a third of,” “the majority of,” “a couple of,” and many other expressions that pose challenges to students (Ping, 2012, p. 138). Moreover, learners should be taught to analyze the structure of sentences because such activities can assist them in avoiding many errors.
Therefore, various remedial exercises can be offered to college students who make such mistakes. This goal can be achieved during their first year of college. Apart from that, it is vital to raise students’ awareness about this risk of such errors. These are some of the aspects can be distinguished.
On the whole, these examples indicate the problems related to subject-verb agreement pose a serious challenge to educators, and there are many attempts to identify their underlying causes. Among them, one can distinguish linguistic differences, speech impairments, or the use of non-standard dialects.
Moreover, educators attempt to introduce instructional methods that can benefit students. It is critical to focus on the development of remedial exercise that can assist learners. As a result, their communicative abilities can be significantly increased. These are the main findings of the literature review.
The methodology of this research is based on the interviews conducted using the questionnaires containing twelve questions each; the data will be collected by the participants and sent for processing. After the data is collected and processed, the new information will allow further examination, and the conclusions will be made.
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The participants of this research are ten teachers who are involved in working in high schools. All of the teachers are from different schools and are not co-workers — the schools where the participant’s work are located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The study will be targeted at the students that are currently attending their twelfth year of the school – basically, high school students.
All the teachers that take part in the research have bachelor degrees from different universities. Most of them graduated from universities that are located in Saudi Arabia. These teachers will help conduct the research and assist in the process of data collection.
The main instrument for the data collection does by the teachers of Arabic high schools will be a questionnaire consisting of questions of various types designed to provide different forms of data for the further examination of the problem. For the research, I have compiled twelve questions about different aspects of the difficulties related to the subject-verb agreement.
The questions are designed to provide statistical information about the amount of errors made by students of Saudi Arabian high schools, the theoretical and practical knowledge the students have about the rules of the subject-verb agreement, and the relationship between the subject-verb agreement issues the students have to face in English and their native language, the differences between this two language concerning the field of the research.
The answers to the questions are expected to give more data about the difficulties Arabic students face while studying English and how well they cope with the problems of subject-verb agreement in different types of sentences.
All the questions will be distributed to the teachers that take part in the research. The teachers will help collect the data based on the students’ answers to the twelve basic questions. The answers to the twelve questions are expected to provide a description of the problems that Arabic students of high schools experience working with subject-verb agreement in the English language.
Besides, these answers are supposed to give more ground for the explanation of the reasons for the issues the students may be dealing with.
Finally, the information collected from the answers to the twelve research questions of this study will make prediction or discovery of future difficulties possible, this will help to work out techniques to avoid most common errors made by students using shifting the way the theory is being taught, or practice is being conducted. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches will be demonstrated during this research.
The forms of data collected during the study will be different – the questionnaire will provide numeric data for the statistical research and narrative data, based on observations and interviews with the focus group.
Limitations of the Research
The limitations of this study are determined by the focus group that will take part in the interviews. The research is designed to target only Arabic students of the twelfth year, studying English in Riyadh. For better statistics and validity of the research more information is needed, and the information has to be collected from the schools located in other cities of Saudi Arabia to create statistics of wider range and offer a more reliable conclusion.
Besides, the focus group of the research is very generic, limited by age and geographical location. More limitations of this research are presented by the definition of the subject-verb agreement and several most common errors Arabic students from Riyadh tend to make learning English as a foreign language.
The importance of the research is based on the popularity of the problems in the field of subject-verb agreement and the difficulties that frequently make the process of learning more complicated and success of the teaching subject-verb agreement less achievable.
It is a known fact that even experienced English learners and people that practice spoke and written English quite often tend to make errors in the sentences with the subject-verb agreement. This is why this issue has to be studied properly to eliminate as many of the potential errors as possible.
Baxter, M. (2007). Addressing the Needs of Students Who Speak a Nonstandard English Dialect. Adult Basic Education & Literacy Journal, 1(3), 145-150.
Ping, G. (2012). An Alternative method of teaching subject verb agreement. English Teacher, 41(2), 130-143.
Rispens, J., & Been, P. (2007). Subject-verb agreement and phonological processing in developmental dyslexia and specific language impairment (SLI): a closer look. International Journal Of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(3), 293-305.
Stapa, S., & Izahar, O. (2010). Analysis of errors in subject-verb agreement among Malaysian ESL learners. 3L: Southeast Asian Journal Of English Language Studies, 16(1), 56-73.