AN EVALUATION OF THE USE OF PAST PARTICIPLE TENSE IN SELECTED SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Background to the Study
Language is a unique endowment of man. It is an instrument of interaction which all human beings hold in common. Without language human societies may find it difficult to survive. This arises from the fact that they are in constant interaction with one another and language is an indispensable vehicle for such interaction (Anyanwu, 2002). Language helps man to communicate at several planes and in several ways, for several different purposes and for as many different times as he feels, needs, or is made to do so (Ajulo, 2002). In Nigeria, the language that serves these communicative functions across diverse ethnic groups is the English language Before its adoption as the nation’s second as well as official language, many indigenous languages like Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo had been in use for the consummation of the same human need of communication.
However, none of these indigenous languages was spoken by the majority of the people, thus making it possible for English to be used as the language for maintaining effective interaction across the linguistically divergent ethnic groups. In line with this, Ogbuehi (2001) aptly observes that the existence of many apparently unrelated languages made it imperative for English to be adopted as the official language in Nigeria since the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 1914.from the foregoing, it is deducible that the English language serves to bridge the communication divide which would have been occasioned by the multi-lingual nature of the Nigerian society.
Williams (2004) states that in Nigeria, English is used as a second language and a medium of instruction. It is the language of education, administration, commerce, politics, law, etc. Akabogu (2002) observes that in most nations, the dominant language is the language of government, business, education, the legal system, the learned professions, trade and commerce, the arts, culture and mobility of all kinds. In Nigeria, the only language that fits into this picture is the English language. Thus, Akabogu asserts that this enviable status of English places it ahead of other languages in its importance for purposes of communication.
Error analysis is an invaluable source of information to teachers. It provides information on students’ errors which in turn helps teachers to correct students’ errors and also improves the effectiveness of their teaching. The study of errors by themselves would have been misleading; the study of errors in contrast to the number of correct responses gives a good picture of which items are being mastered and which are not. Therefore, this study hopes to enlighten teachers on the errors that require remedial work so that time is not wasted on teaching grammar items which pose little or no problems to the majority of the students in relation to use grammar in general and particularly on tenses usage.
In making a sentence in English either written or spoken, tense plays a very important role. In English, each sentence always contains a tense. Tense is a verb form or a verb phrase used to express a time relationship. There are three verb forms usually used to express time relationships. They are: simple form, s – form, and past form. The simple form and the s – form are commonly called the simple present tense; and the past form is commonly called the simple past tense. In using English tenses the students will inevitably make errors either in oral or written form. According to the experience of the writer, the students usually make mistakes or even errors on tenses usage in verb forms, the use of vocabulary, and the use of time signals. The students sometimes do not understand, when the verb form will be used whether in present, past or future form.
Tense as defined by Yule (2006) “is the relationship between the form of the verb and the time of the action or the state it describes”. By tense we understand the correspondence between the form of the verb and our concept of tense. The word maintenance refers to the act of keeping standard form of language which is at most generally accepted for use in the government, the law, business, education, and literature. The main aim of teaching grammar in every language is to help students learn how to use grammatical structures accurately, meaningfully, and appropriately. The use of present perfect tense presents long term learning English language challenges to ESL students. For example, learning when it is appropriate to use the present perfect tense represents a formidable challenge for second language English learners.
According to Leech and Svartvik (2002) tense aspect concerns the manner in which a verbal action is experienced or regarded is complete or in progress. They have also formed tense aspect and maintenance as relax the happenings described by the verb to time in the past, present or future. The term aspect and tense overlap in meaning and this gives a great problem in English learning. The aspect refers to a grammatical category which reflects the way in which the verb action is regarded or experienced with respect to time. Unlike tense, aspect is not deictic, in the sense that it is not relative to the time of utterance.
Saadiyah (2009), opines that making mistakes or errors is a natural process of learning and must be considered as part of cognition. s. Moreover, it is understood that learning an L2 is a gradual process, during which mistakes are to be expected in all stages of learning. Ferris (2002) in Saadiyah (2009) states that mistakes will not disappear simply because they have been pointed out to the learners, contrary to what some language learners and teachers believe. Richards (2004) argues that many of the learners’ errors happen due to the strategies that they use in language acquisition, especially their L2. The problem includes the reciprocal interference of the target language items; i.e., negative effect of their prior knowledge of their L1 on their absorption of L2. In this situation, error analysis would allow teachers to figure out on what areas to be focused and what kind of attention is needed in an L2 classroom.
Riggeaback, Samuda and Wisniewiska (2007) are of the view that” English has two simple marked aspects: the progressive and the perfect”. The two aspect constructions of English (the perfective and the progressive) can be seen as realizing a basic construct between the action viewed as complete and the action viewed as in complete. English language to an L2 learner is full of problems more especially in maintenance of the tense. Maintenance of the tract of tense in using present perfect is peculiar. If someone makes too many mistakes, he could be difficult to understand, so a reasonable level of correctness through tense maintenance is important
There are three verb forms in English that are known as verbals. They are participles, gerunds and infinitives. They belong to the group of verbs called non-finite verbs. They are called verbal because they are derived from verbs and retain many of the characteristics of the verb, a verbal can take any kind of modifier or complement but cannot make a statement or act as a question. Very often, they are used as pure adjectives‟ and are placed directly before the nouns they modify. The following examples show the participle used as simple adjectives.
When the participle is used as a „predicative adjective it is found in the predicate and modifies the subject as in the following illustrations.
The game is exciting.
The book was interesting.
The rumour were starting
The participles modify game, book and rumour and they are forms of verb. A better understanding of participles will enable the students to differentiate between verbal that act as adjectives, understand verbs- regular and irregular and tenses.
As a result of this, it must be accorded primary importance in any teaching endeavour. Commenting on this point, O‟ cornor (1967) affirms that It is well known that a child of ten years old or less can learn a language perfectly if he is brought up surrounded by that language, no matter where he was born or who his parents are. In spite of the above axiom, the teaching and learning of English language in secondary schools is still being hindered by numerous problems which are instrumental to poor performance in most examinations. It is not strange that many users of English language are deficient in the effective use of participles and this is enough evidence to validate the claim that it is a problem area that demands great attention especially as much work has not been done in this area.
Statement of the Problem
English is a second language to our students and because of little provision made for the teaching of tenses especially past participles on the school time table, it is therefore difficult for the students to make effective use of participles in their written works. There is an overlap in the verb which poses a problem to learners of English as a second language. The present form of the verb ends in –ing and ed as the past form for regular verbs. Participles which are derived from the verbs have their present and past forms as ordinary verbs. The present participle form also ends in – ing and past participle form ends in –ed for regular verbs and en, -t and other ways for the various irregular verbs. This kind of similarity in form brings about difficulty in differentiating between verbs (present and past tenses) and participles. The problem of teaching the participle is certainly not simplified by the fact that this term is obviously a misnomer.
The student, accustomed to present tenses which indicate present time and past participle which indicates now present, now past, now future time… they insist on in calling the participle in-ing present no matter, what time it happens to be indicating.
With all the problems encountered in teaching and learning of participles, little research has been conducted in this area. The result is that some of the teachers are not quite informed and since one cannot give what one does not have; this study is designed to fill the yawning gap in order to provide a reliable date for both the teachers and students.