Difficulties of Iraqi EFL Learners with Substance Errors in Writing

Mohanad Qasim Mohammed


The present research adopts an empirical method by studying substance errors in the argumentative composition writing of Iraqi EFL learners. The participants in this study are 70 Iraqi EFL learners (31 males and 39 females) majoring in English from 4 classes and 3 grades (grade 2, 3, and 4) in the University of AL-Mustansirih in Iraq. The writing errors are identified and classified into categories and sub-categories according to a revised version of James (2001) error classification. The analysis of the writing task shows that Iraqi EFL learners have problems in substance areas. The common types of substance errors are spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. As for the frequency findings of substance errors, we found that the totality of substance errors are 855 times, which divide into three categories. The highest frequency of substance errors is spelling errors, which account for 49% of the totality of errors.  Moreover, a new phenomenon is that learners overuse the space between parts of compound words and split the word into two words as in “every thing” or “out side”. A further new phenomenon we identified is learners’ failure to separate the constituent words by fusing two separate words as in “feednews” or “infront”. This error changes two things. Firstly, it changes the form of the word. Secondly, it changes the meaning of the word in some cases. As to the possible causes of errors, it is noticed that in some writings in the findings these errors attributed to Arabic language transfer “first language”.


Substance errors, Iraqi EFL learners, L1 transfer

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