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Malaysia is one of the Asian countries that has been adopting a bilingual system of

education. In the case of Malaysia, the national language is Bahasa Malaysia and the
government has agreed on English language as an additional language to be in the education
system. With reference to the Malaysia education system, English is placed as the second
language (Gill, 2002) in line with the education policy. English language is made a
compulsory subject at all levels of education.
The common problem of English Second Language (ESL) students is the tense of
their writing specifically the consistency of these tenses. The understanding of tense and
many students have considerable difficulty with the English tense system. As with, other
areas of the grammar, difficulties may arise from the nature of the system itself or from
difference between the students mother tongue. Mistakes relating to tense may be made for a
number of reasons. ESL students may be unsure how to form the present or past tense of
certain verbs or may simply be uncertain about whether certain sections of their essay should
be written in present or past tense.
Explicit or implicit method of teaching are the considerable method to be used by
teachers to teach the students. The method can best present material and optimally learnable
for the different students is considered to use during the teaching activities. This also very
much applies to the work of Krashen(1994) who used the explicit and implicit criteria for his
distinction between language learning and language acquisition. The goal was to gain a
clearer understanding of how effectively they learned. Therefore, choosing the right method
of teaching will allow the students to understand more clearly.
Errors committed by students learning the English language can happen at any level.
However, using tenses can be very difficult, for several reasons. Some languages (unlike
English) do not have a tense system. If a language does not have a tense system, it will be
harder for you to use tenses correctly in English. On the importance of grammar for second
language learners, Foppoli (2011) insist that it is indeed really important; quoting that
grammar is the foundation of a language. Therefore, the students must know how to use the
simple present and past tense correctly.
Error analysis is relatively new technique used in the study of second language
learning, but it has been proven to be a useful tool for discovering the types of errors made by

second language learners and examining the causes of these errors. Meanwhile, Corder
(1978) as cited in Ho (2003:2) has published an article distinguishing mistakes with errors
where the former refers to unsystematic errors of learners as opposed to the systematic
errors of learners from which we are able to reconstruct their knowledge of the language to
date. Therefore, the teacher can analyze the errors and study the strategies to improve the
students understanding.
The objectives of this study are:

to identify the areas where students commit most errors on the use of the
simple present tense.


to identify the areas where students commit most errors on the use of the past


the best ways to correct the students errors with respect to the use of the
simple present tense and the simple past tense.


aims to find out some sources of errors committed by the students and thirdly,
it aims to find effective ways to tackle or solve the errors.


Problem Statement
In terms of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), students faced with same logical

problems faced in the process of acquiring the first language. Furthermore, this learning is
also influenced, either positively or negatively by the first language. The students often
thought that learning Simple Present Tense and Past Tense were difficult. This assumption
made the students afraid and not motivated to study.
As a result, most of the students were afraid to ask the points that they did not
understand to the teacher. This situation made the students passive in their learning process.
The students enthusiasm was much related to the technique used by the teacher in
transferring the lesson. The students would not become interested in learning if the technique
used was monotonous. It made the learning process, not effective. Based on this statement,
English teachers should think critically in order to find creative approaches in teaching The
Simple Present Tense and The Past Tense.


Significance of the Study

This study is an attempt to provide and overview of the most common errors

committed by ESL learners in written form. ESL students are taught Present Tense and Past
Tense much more than any other language aspects, especially in formal classroom context.
However, there is the need for learners to be informed on the common errors they commit. In
addition, it is worthwhile for teachers to know the causes of the same errors committed by
students so that ways to minimize them could be figured out. Although this study is not
focused on the need to give feedback on the errors, the teacher would still give the feedback
for the sake of learning procedure in class.


Data Collection is an important aspect of any type of research study. Inaccurate data

collection can impact the result of a study and ultimately lead to invalid results. There are two
types of data collection:

Quantitative data collection method

Qualitative data collection method

Technique of Collecting Data

Technique of collecting data in this research is using qualitative and quantitative data.
Qualitative is derived from observation within the physical activity in the classroom and
interview to be presented to the teacher. On the other side, the quantitative data in this
research use the questionnaire.
a. Interview
Before implementing Classroom Action Research (CAR) teacher conducts the
interview to find out the students interest in English language before
considering the method to be used for teaching the present tense and the past
tense. By doing this teacher will be able know the level of the students. (see
Appendix 1)

Research Instrument.
The research instrument used to collect the required data from sample for this

qualitative interview. Interview session a window to reach students insight and thoughts. The
process is useful in making comprehensive interpretation of the subject matter being studied.

Qualitative interview proves to be a more power tool for data collection as it can retrieve
information that cannot be retrieved by other modes of research instruments. In addition,
Anglea (2009) suggests that the questioning process in qualitative interviewing enable
researcher to explore into the minds of the sample and coherently gauge their perspectives on
issues being raised throughout the interviewing process..
The researcher will use a general interview guide and semi structured interview
approach. The two approaches are combined together to serve a better discovery for the
researcher to formulate the questions specifically related to the research questions and
requires the subjects to answer in sequential in order. By using this approach the questions
will be prepared beforehand thus this will ensure the researcher be on the right track with the
subject matter of the study during the interview session.
Table 2.1:

The Result of the interview.


Result/ Yes


1. Do like English language?



2. Do you read English story books?



3. Do you watch English movie?



4. Do you know what is present tense?



5. Do you know what is past tense?



6. Student felt motivated in learning English




7. Student have difficulty in using different

subjects in simple past tense



8. Student could not remember the formula of

the simple past tense.



9.The students do English exercise




10. The students use the simple past tense in

their life



Table 2.2

The Graf :Result of the interview.

Based on the result of the interview before implementing of CAR, the writer would
like to give some explanations. Referring to the result of the data, generally it was found that
students that students still have low motivation in learning the simple past tense and most of
them still have difficulties in using the simple past tense meaningfully.
The result of the interview revealed that from first statement and second, 56% (14
students) like English Language and 60% (15 students) like to read story books. The
statement number 3 and 4, 100% (25 students) like to watch movies and 52% (13 students)
knew the present tense. The statement 5 and 6 , 8% (32 students) knew what is past tense and
motivated to learn English. For statement 7 and 8 , 68% (17 students) have difficulty in using
different subjects in simple past tense and72% (18 students) could remember the formula of
past tense. For statement 9, 80% (20students) The students do English exercise individually.
For statement 10 showed that 8% (2 students) use the simple past tense in their life.
Regarding to the result above, it can be concluded that students ability and students
motivation in learning the English language especially the simple past tense and simple
present are still low and there was a need for the researcher to implement the explicit teaching
method in order to improve students ability and motivation.


Description and Justification of Methods of Grammar Insturction.

To answer the research question, it is important to select an appropriate research

method. This is a case study utilizing error analysis of learners writing performance,
specifically on Simple Present Tense and the Simple Past Tense as well as to find out the
frequencies of errors committed. Secondly, it aims to find out some sources of errors
committed by the learners and thirdly, it aims to find effective ways to tackle or solve the

The experiment was carried out with students in a Year 5 Bistari 1 at Sekolah

Kebangsaan Seri Chempaka, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. This class consists of 25 Malay students.
The total number of students who participated in this study was 25. The Year 5 class was in
the morning session. The mother tongues for these students were Bahasa Melayu. These
students were of below intermediate level based on their midterm result in the year 2014. The
school was located about 5km from the Kota Bharu town. It was a government aided school.
In general Year 5 Bistari 1 class has a good English skills, but lack of reading. The
other reasons for selecting this class are the researcher, teaches this class and it has the
average reading score. In the previous mid exam 4 of them got A and the average score was
60 is just a point above the C grade.

Research Instrument
There was only an instrument used in this study which was the students writing on a

given topic. The title of the essay was How I spent my last holiday and it is a guided essay.
The rationale of choosing the essay question because the question was undoubtedly valid for
students in terms of the context, theme as well as syllabus. Narrative essay was preferred
since it does not restrict the students use of language as well creativity upon performing the
language. After using explicit teaching method for teaching present tense in a half an hour,
the students were given 30 minutes to write an essay of 120 150 words in present tense.
After a week later, the teacher used the explicit method to teach past tense and write an essay
of the same topic. The writing took place during school session, specially in the two-period
English class.


Description the Method of Grammar Instruction

Grammar is an essential component that should be learnt in order to master a

language.If ones uses incorrect grammatical pattern in constructing a sentence, there a
tendency that the sentence will constitute different meaning from what it is intended, or even
Effective grammar instruction begins with what students already know about
grammar, and it helps them use this knowledge as they write. By connecting their knowledge
of oral to written language, teacher can demystify abstract grammatical terminology so that
students can write and read with greater competence and confidence. According to researcher
Calkins (1980) indicates that is more effective to teach punctuation, sentence variety, and
usage in the context of writing than approach the topic. Weaver (1998) writes, What all
students need is guidance in understanding and applying those aspects of grammar that are
the most relevant to writing.

Explicit Approach
In the grammar learning process, there are two major processes that might happen,

these are explicit and implicit grammatical knowledge. Explicit grammar knowledge refer to
a conscious knowledge of grammatical forms and their meaning (Purpura, 2004). This
knowledge helps the intake and the development of implicit language, and is used to monitor
language output. Explicit knowledge is commonly accessed slowly through controlled
processing although at some extent it can be automatized. DeKeyser (1995) indicates that this
explicit grammatical instruction involves the explanation of rule or request to focus on
grammatical feature. The instructions can happen both deductively, where the learners are
presented examples first then to generate rules and make generalizations.

Implicit Approach
Implicit learning is learning without conscious attention or awareness (Brown,

2007). In addition, implicit learning occurs without attention to learn and without awareness
of what has been learned (Brown, 2007). Implicit learning a passive process, where students
are exposed to information, ad acquire knowledges of that information simply through that
exposure. Implicit teaching involves teaching a certain topic in a suggestive or implied
manner; the objective is not plainly expressed. Implicit teaching closely related to inductive
teaching, which means that rules are inferred from examples presented first.


Method used for this study

English tenses are one of the major problems for Malaysian learners in learning

English. Therefore, an appropriate teaching strategy to help the learners in understanding

those English tenses is urgently needed. For that reason, this study aims to introduce explicit
method. The explicit method is applied in order to make the learners remember the rules of
English tenses.
The explicit method of teaching is used for this study. The approach starts with the
presentation and explanation of the rules, and then it is followed by the examples of the
sentences using the rules. On the other hand, the explanation is completed with discrete
sentences, and it is followed by samples of sentences by learners to confirm their

Each teaching stragegy has its own strengths and benefit. Based on the

researchers experience in implementing this strategy for teaching English tense three are
some benefits and problems in implementing it. In order to be able to implement this strategy
well, teachers who are going to apply this strategy should know the benefits and the problems
that they may find during the implementation of ths strategy. By knowing the benefits and the
problems, teachers will be able to adjust this strategy based on the situation that faced by the

Analysis of essays: Use of Present Tense

Simple Present Tense is one of tenses that is important to be mastered by the students.

Wrong perception of Simple Present Tense will effect the students ability in constructing or
understanding Simple Present Tense sentences. Simple Present Tense is tense denting an
action happening in this time. This tense is used to talk about things in general. We are not
only thinking about now, but it is used to say something is true in general.


Data Analysis

Grammartical Errors Commitited by ESL Learners in Writting

Table 4.1 : Errors Committed in Simple Present Tense


Types of Errors

No of Students
committed errors
Total (25 students


1 The rule of affirmative



2 Subject verb agreement



3 Errors in using verb



The table shows three types of grammatical errors identified based on the students
narrative writing . Subject verb Agreement and Errors in using verb are the most frequent
types of error being committed and followed by The rule of affirmative. Table 4.1 also
indicates the presence of errors in students writing as individuals. This finding reveals that
every student commits at least three errors in the use of Present Tense.
Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

My father drive to the strawberry park. (drives)

There were many strawberry plants and fruits.(are)
I swim and plays with my friend. (play)
My grandmother bring nasi lemak and fried noodles.(brings)
We packing our things and put it in the car. (pack)
We promised to come again next holiday. (promise)
My siblings and I is very excited. (are)
My grandmother cook our favourite food.(cooks)
After that, my grandfather take us to waterfall. (takes)
We are eat it and enjoy ourselves. (eat)
We goes to my mothers village. (go)
My grandparents is very happy. (are)
I enjoyed myself at the village. (enjoy)

1. The rule of Affirmative Simple Present Tense

Subject + linking verb + noun phrase
My grandparents is very happy. Wrong
My grandparents are very happy. Correct
My siblings and I is very excited. Wrong
My siblings and I are very excited. Correct
There were many strawberries plants and fruits. (wrong)
There are many strawberries plants and fruits. (correct)

Subject- Verb- Agreement

a) Singular subjects go with singular verb.
b) Plural subjects go with plural verbs.

My father drive to the strawberry park. (wrong)

My father drives to the strawberries park. (correct)
My grandmother cook our favourite food. (wrong)
My grandmother cooks our favourite food. (correct)
We goes to my mothers village. (wrong)
We go to our mothers village. (correct)
We are eat it and enjoy ourselves. (wrong)
We eat it and enjoy ourselves. (correct)
My father drive to the strawberries park.(wrong)
My father drives to the the strawberries. (correct)
My grandmother cook our favourite food. (wrong)
My grandmother cooks our favourite food. (correct)
Errors in using verb.

We promised to come again next holiday. (wrong)

We promise to come again next holiday. (right)


I enjoyed myself at the village. (wrong)

I enjoy myself at the village. (correct)


We packing our things and put it in the car. (wrong)

We pack our things and put it in the car. (correct)
Students cannot learn language without first systematically committed errors.

Evaluation of errors is designed to reduce, revise and devise remedial lessons in teaching
learning.The result indicate that there is a lack of competence and knowledge of grammar
among the students. There is an indication shows that the students are trying their best to
improve in writing essay. This is a good achievement from their previous writing.

Analysis of essays : Use of Past Tense

Past Tense is used to talk about activities or situations that began and ended in the past. The

use of Simple Past is to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the
past ( e.g., yesterday, last night, two days ago, in 1990) (Azar, 1992:18). It is also for actions
completed in the past at a definite time. The simple past tense usually talks about an action or
situation in the past.

Data Analysis

Grammartical Errors Committed by ESL Learners in Writing

Table 5.1 : Errors Committed in Past Tense


Types of Errors

No of Students


Committed errors
Total (25 students)

The errors of Simpe Past Tense in regular




The errors of past tense in irregular verb




The Past Tense of verb be



The table shows three types of grammatical errors identified based on students narrative writing. The
errors of Past Tense in regular verb, the errors of Past Tense in irregular verb and The Past Tense verb
to be.
A) The errors of Simple Past Tense in regular verb.
i) Last school holiday, my family and I go to my fathers villange. (wrong)
Last school holiday, my family and I went to my fathers village. (correct)
ii)My garandmother cook our favourite. (wrong)
My grandmother cooked our favourite dish. (correct)
iii)I pluck a mangoteens fruits. (wrong)
I plucked the mangosteen fruits. (correct)
iv) I promise to come here at next school holiday. (wrong)
I promised to come here on next school holiday. (correct)
The simple past form ends in ed for regular verb. Most verbs are regular, but many common verbs
have irregular past form.
B. The errors of past tense in irregular verb.

The simple past form of some verbs does not end in ed or d. Such verbs are called irregular
verbs. Irregular verb is verbs which are not very common in modern English but may be found in
i) My mother and grandmother buy food for us. (wrong)
My mother and grandmother bought food for us. (correct)
ii) Later grandfather take us to waterfall. (wrong)
Later grandfather took us to waterfall. (correct)
iii) I eat the mangosteens with my grandfather. (wrong)
I ate the mangosteens with my grandfather. (correct)
iv) I see many types of Bthere. (wrong)
I saw many types of fruits there.
v) We were ate it and enjoy ourselves. (wrong)
We ate and enjoyed ourselves. (correct)
The simple past of each irregular verb must therefore be learned; because once this is done
there is no difficulty in determining whether a verb is regular or irregular.
C. The Past Tense of Verb be
We use to be was and were in past tense. Was is the simple past form or simple past tense form of am
and is. We use was with the subject pronouns I, he, she, and it, and with singular nouns.
Were is the simple past form of are. We use were with subject pronouns you, we, and they, and
with plural nouns.
i) We were ate it and enjoy ourselves. (wrong)
We were eating and enjoying ourselves. (correct)
We ate and enjoyed ourselves. (correct)
ii) I was enjoyed myself there. (wrong)
I was enjoying myself there. (correct)

I enjoyed myself there. (correct)

The first two sentences show errors on the use of Verbs in relation to Past Continuous
Tense. However, the obvious problem is that the form verb + ing is not applied appropriatey
since the student should have used Past Tense or Past Continuous Tense.
Teacher should point out the students errors and they are expected to understand, take
note of them, and then they could improve on their writing without repeating the same errors.
In other words, the errors should be put into context so that the students would have clear
view on the courses of errors as well as learning the correct concept of particular grammar

A majority of primary school learners have some problems in using tenses, especially

simple present tense and past tense. As a people either talk about their present life and talk
about their past, it is evident that tense usage is one of the crucial elements of language. That
is why teachers point out all the most important factors about tenses, because elements of
English tenses sometimes change according to the time and speakers point of view. This
study has shown that explicit method of teaching showed a better result. In explicit teaching
method, students heard the rules and example sentences of a given struchture performing
better than implicit method. Analysis of the students work demonstrated a wide range of
grammatical errors.The results highlighted a prepondence or errors related to verb usage,
subject verb agreement, the rule of affirmative, the errors of past tense in irregaular verb. The
error results are interesting and provide insight into areas requiring special attention in the
classroom. Therefore, teacher should also highlight certain rules in second language and
Malay that are not appropriate to be used when they write in English. This is to ensure that
the students apply correct strategies while writing in Enlgih and hence, decrease the
occurrence of errors.

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