What if the language teacher in the young learners ESL classroom treated ‘errors’, such as we just saw, as being evidence that the language was being acquired and that the child was forming generalisations? How would that facilitate the acquisition of the language? It is probable that the young learner would be more willing to take the risk of being wrong and would be freer and more uninhibited in developing the new language, English.
What happens in the classroom where the teacher is concerned both with the accuracy and fluency of the second language, as most of us are? Many language researchers feel that both these goals cannot realistically be achieved in the early stages of learning. Fortunately, they do not need to be achieved simultaneously in order to ultimately produce effective speakers. It is also well-documented among second language researchers that learners in classrooms in which accuracy is the priority tend to develop very little proficiency in the second language. In such classrooms, teachers tend to see themselves as guardians of the language and feel that the main reason for being there is to ensure correctness. They often feel that if students are allowed to make mistakes at the beginning level, they are doomed to a lifetime of linguistic errors.
Again, considerable research in the area of error correction seems to support the idea that increased direct correction does not lead to greater accuracy in the target language, although there are an equal amount of studies suggesting the opposite is true. Furthermore, error correction techniques need to be studied within a context of the “whole student” and factors such as motivation, attitude, anxiety levels, age, and many others, need to be taken into account.
Modelling or repeating what the child has said, but in correct form, is one way to correct indirectly. The child learning both a first and second language acquires language best through meaningful input directly addressed to her or him.