English Project Topics

Problems of the Use of Articles by Learners of English Language as a Second Language

Problems of the Use of Articles by Learners of English Language as a Second Language



This study was undertaking to explore the problems of the use of articles by learners of English language as a second language L2. Given that Nigerian Education are experiencing an influx of students of different ethnic groups who speak English as a second or even third language, it is imperative for academic advisors who specialize in TESL to understand the major language difficulties of these students. Many of the students schooling in Akwa Ibom State are Ibibiomites and they speak Ibibio as their first language, this means that their most frequent language problem is in the area of articles. It is an exploratory study, which targets a major language area that does not exist in Ibibio namely, the use of articles, and to develop an appropriate teaching method, central to which is the notion of count-ability. It is anticipated that this study will inform learners, and will have implications for teachers of English Language as (L2).  Different approaches to the teaching of articles have attempted to overcome this problem. By encouraging students to address the notion of count-ability and to identify specific uses of articles in English, this study was able to improve students understanding of this difficult area and guide them to a more accurate usage of the English article system.

Nevertheless, it is possible, for teachers to make a positive contribution to learners knowledge in this important area. In almost any piece of writing submitted by a non-native speaker of English, three things will often indicate that the writer is working in a second language: the choice of tense and aspect, the subject and verb agreements, and the use of articles the, a, an, While verb problems can largely be overcome and the mistakes in agreements eliminated by careful proofreading, the problems with articles frequently remain. Since articles rank among the five most common words in the English language errors in this area are highly noticeable to native speakers.

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1.1 Background to the Study

The acquisition of English grammatical articles has been of considerable concern since early 1970s. For native speakers, the proper use of English articles is acquired unconsciously and at an early stage (Master 1997). However, English language learners, especially those whose first languages (L1) do not have the equivalent article systems, tend to have difficulty acquiring English articles (Ionin and Montrul 2010).

This study explored the problems of the use of English article by English language learners whose L1 has, or does not have, the equivalence of English article system. Article ‘the’ was used for different   purposes. The major use of the definite article ‘the’ was to demonstrate that the noun referred to a particular example of something (Richards and Platt 2002).

According to (Yotsukura 2012) and (Palmer, 2013), there were two types of zero ‘article’. Yotsukura found it necessary to separate two types of noun phrase (NP) occurring without visible articles, which he defined as the zero forms. This is consistent with believe of (Palmer 2011), (Sinclair, 2009), (Chesterman, 2009), and (Master 2009), who separated zero indefinite, with mass and plural and null definite, with singular proper nouns and some singular count nouns.  However, no unified theory of English articles was yet available (Chesterman, 2009). This study was governed by the definition mentioned above and focuses on ‘a’ or an, the, and zero article.

Articles such as ‘a’ and ‘the’ are the most commonly used words in English, and yet their usage is in fact surprisingly complex. Part of the complexity can be attributed to the fact that the English article system does not consist of one-to-one form and meaning relationships. This complexity poses a number of challenges for L2 learners of English (Andersen 2004). This is true even for those learners who have studied for years. According to (Master 2009), Students use of articles “bear little or no resemblance to established English practice; the students seem to use articles almost randomly”. This paper offers one approach to this issue by attempting to reveal and examine L2 learners’ meta-linguistic knowledge with regard to the use of articles. In doing so, we may better understand the nature of L2 learners’ problems with articles and thus lay the groundwork for addressing such problems.

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1.2 Statement of the Problem

Overtime, it has been observed that learners of English as L2 have issues in making use of articles in sentences as a result of difference in grammatical structure. It is for this reason that this study attempts to examine problems of the use of English articles by learners of English as a second language in Akwa Ibom State. Although it is assumed that many second language (L2) learners have trouble in the using of article properly, the primary causes of their difficulties as a problem is what the paper intends to investigate.

1.3. Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to explore the problems of the use of articles by learners of English language as a second languageL2. Although it is well known that many second language (L2) learners have trouble using articles properly, the primary causes of their difficulties remain unclear. This study addresses this problem by examining the knowledge of the English article system that learners employ when selecting articles in a given situation.

1.4. Significance of the study

The present study is significant because it aims to provide evidence on the positive relationship between exposure to English language articles and how they are used. Moreover, it intends to concentrate on other studies where outside classroom activities are assessed with reference to their possible relationship with in-class performance. Additionally, it provides information for further research on the problems of the use of English articles by L2.


 1.5 Research Questions

This study tries to answer the following questions.

  1. To what extent does exposure to L1 affect the use of article in learning L2 as a second language?
  2. What is the relationship between exposures to English language articles in developing the use of articles?
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1.6 Limitation of the study

This research was undertaken to explore the problems of the use of articles in English by second language learners.

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