Analyzing Types of Writing Errors: An investigation of L1 Impact and Complexity of L2 on Middle School ESL Arab Students’ English Writing in Dubai National School, UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Writing for ESL learners is considered a complicated process which requires a linguistic analysis and synthesis. ESL students are affected by numerous factors, such as interference from their mother tongue and complexity of L2 writing system rules during the process of English writing. This study highlights ESL learners’ writing problems by analyzing the causes of their errors in writing English. To achieve the objectives of this study, the researcher used samples of English writings of 149 Arab ESL middle school students in Dubai National School in Dubai, UAE. In order to categorize the errors in their writing, the study depends on the following types of errors, namely: grammatical, lexical/ semantic, writing mechanics and word order. The students completed writing 250-word argumentative essays in 55 minutes in classroom. The researcher also presents a number of recommendations regarding the educational curriculum and teaching methods and a need to focus on the type of English writing teaching for UAE nationals in addition to recommendations for future research. The researcher examined the existing literature related to this area to investigate the impact of Arabic and complexity of English writing system on the quality of ESL writing of English. The researcher uses cross-linguistic and inter-linguistic theories as an approach in investigating ESL learners’ writing errors. However, there are other linguistic causes of errors (e.g. ignorance of rules, negative overgeneralization, erroneous assumptions about the language, etc.) and others which occur beyond the linguistic system (e.g. type of curriculum, teaching methods, motivation, learning strategies, etc.) Regarding the writing errors Emirati ESL learners in the current study made, grammatical errors make the most dominant error category (35%). Writing mechanics errors make (26.2%) and come in the second place. Finally, word order errors come in the 3rd place (25.7%). The study proved that L1 transfer, whether due to modern standard Arabic (MSA) or colloquial Arabic, and complexity of L2 writing system are the main sources of errors in English writing they made.
writing errors, Arab students’, United Arab Emirates (UAE), ESL learners, educational curriculum, UAE nationals