The other day I came across a wonderful article written by Penny MacDonald in the Complutense Journal of English Studies entitled ‘”We all make mistakes!”. Analysing an Error-coded Corpus of Spanish University Students’ Written English’.
As teachers, and especially as Cambridge exam preparation teachers, we’re always looking for ways to help our students overcome the difficulties presented to them by their L1 language. MacDonald examined Spanish students’ writing pieces at the university level, at CEFR levels A2 to C2, and found that particularly at C1 level the most common grammar error was misuse of prepositions and overuse of articles.
Obviously, this article only looked at writing pieces, however I believe the same would probably hold true for spoken assessment, too.
At least in the case of course books, prepositions, in particular, seem to be somewhat looked over and rushed through as it’s presumed that students have a firm grasp on them by that point. In contrast, this article clearly affirms the idea that this area must be practised more. As should articles. But with time being a scarce resource, how can we help students practice these areas?
Self-study, of course! I’m a big believer in not only teaching kids in the traditional sense but also getting them to think for themselves and realise that after B1 level, they must be disciplined and participate in self-study, otherwise the course is going to be particularly hard for them.
I’ll be trying out a few activities in my classes over the next few weeks to reinforce these grammar points with my C1 students and I’ll report back on how we got on! Don’t forget to check out Penny MacDonald’s article to find out what other grammar mistakes are most commonly made at each CEFR level.