A. “The Impossible Tenses”
She’s eat broccoli.
I’m expect a good time.
She did hike of a mountain.
I skating. and Skating. (In response to the question, “What did you do yesterday?”)
The third example would be grammatically ok if the preposition had been correct, but the tense error occurred, as those of this type tend to, in a situation where the student intended the simple past tense unmarked for emphasis.
B. Misuse of Tenses
This is mostly a matter of lack of mastery of verb tenses. Typical mistakes might involve, for example, writing the present perfect where the simple past was required.
C. The Definite and Indefinite Articles
One pattern of error that should be easy to eliminate is the definite article coupled with the name of a location: I went to the Seoul last Saturday.
Another common error involves speaking in general terms: You should read the English book. (a student’s advice on learning English), rather than the more customary “You should read English books.”
There are also three irregular situations (“I go to school/church on Fridays.” “I go home after church.”) that give rise to errors like these:
I go to the school on Fridays.
I go to the church on Sundays.
I go to the house after church.
Each of these errors was taken from university student assignments.
D. Lack of Prepositions & Pronouns
She lives husband. “She lives with her husband.”
E. Impossible Possessive Pronouns
She lives with she’s father.
F. Extraneous Prepositions
When I was in high school student…
This error would seem to be a conflation of two structures: “When I was in high school…” and “When I was a high school student…”; the interesting thing is just how many times I hear and read this on a regular basis—it is not an isolated mistake by one student.
G. Problems with Singulars and Plurals
1. Extra “s” on irregular plurals: childrens, mens, womens, people
2. Use of the singular to speak about a general situation: Gun and knife are dangerous. and I like comedy movie.
H. Use of “very” with Strong Adjectives
I felt very fantastic. rather than “I felt really fantastic.”
I. Use of Awkward Circumlocutions to Describe People and their Conditions
His height is tall. (X) He's tall!
My condition is not good. (X) “I’m not feeling well.”
Type 2. He is the runner who can run fast. for “He’s a fast runner.”
The juxtaposition of the article and the “one who does X” construction” creates the error.
J. Use of Awkward “To Me” Constructions”
This pizza’s taste is good to me. (X) “This pizza is good.” (Also see (I) above.) This error is quite ubiquitous.
Other examples: When I broke my arm, it was painful to me. for “It hurt.”
The movie was so exciting to her. Sometimes, it is appropriate to use the verb “to find” in such situations: “She found it interesting.”
K. Incorrect Idiom:
“She lost her weight.” (X) She lost weight.
Possibly this is a conflation of “She lost weight.” and “She lost her eraser.”
L. Incorrect Use of “Play” without an Object by an Adult Speaker
Adult speaking: I played with my friends. for “I hung out with my friends.”
I suspect this relates to the fact that Koreans are often given English education as children, where “play” is an appropriate part of the vocabulary, and are not taught that, in English, only children “play.” (Of course, adults “play sports” or “play instruments” or “play games.” This is an important mistake not only because potential listeners would be led to (incorrectly) question the maturity of the speaker, but also because of the potential sexual connotations sometimes inherent in “play” (without an object) when used by adults.
M. Incorrect Use of Adverbs
I slept lately today. (X) “I slept in.” or “I slept late.”
N. Incorrect Use of Prepositions
She did hike of a mountain.(X) She went hiking! or She hiked a mountain.
This sentence was also used previously as an example, and illustrates the fact that multiple errors are often found in the same sentence.
O. Incorrect Use of “My”
I met my friend for lunch.–when “my” incorrectly limits the number of friends a speaker has to one–rather than “I met a friend for lunch.”
P. Incorrect Introduction of the Members of a Group
My family is three: my father, mother, and me. and The group members are four.
Q. Specific Vocabulary Problems
1. “Funny” vs. “Fun” or “Interesting.”
I saw a comedy movie last night with my friend. It was very funny time. for “A friend and I saw a movie; it was a fun time.” Similarly, often, the speaker means to say “The movie was interesting.”
2. “Power” vs. “Energy”
This food gives me power. when “This food gives me energy.” would be preferable.
She makes me bright.(X) “She gives me energy.”
4. “Grade” vs. “Year”
I’m in third grade. when the speaker is a university student who means “third year.”
5. General Confusion between Verbs of Speaking: “Tell” “Say” “Talk” and “Speak”
6. General Confusion between Verbs of Desire and Anticipation: “Want,” “Hope,” “Expect”
I want that they are great movie actor forever. (X) “I hope that they will be great movie actors for a long time.”
I’m expect good time with my mom. (X) “I’m looking forward to a good time with my mom.”
“Expect” could be used in this construction, but I often find that “expect” is used by students when they really mean “anticipate” or “look forward to.”
7. General Confusion between Verbs of Seeing “Look” “See” and “Watch”
8. Incorrect Use of of words
First, you must reservation your ticket to Busan. You can reservate
on internet. I think that it is comfortable for you.
This sentence, taken from a response to a proficiency exam, illustrates a number of errors, including the substitution of “comfortable” for “convenient.”
9. Incorrect use of “Sorry to”
I was very sorry to her. for “I felt terrible, and apologized to her.”
10. Confusion of “loan” and “borrow”
He loaned it from her. when the context makes clear that “borrowed” was intended.
11. Incorrect Use of the Expression “Do you know X”
When most Korean learners of English use the expression Do you know X? “Have you heard of X” or “Do you know what X is?” is really what is required, “Do you know X?” usually being reserved for a personal acquaintance with someone.
R. Confusion of Words with –ing and –ed Endings
I think that she was boring with the movie. for “…bored with the movie.”
S. Overuse of Acronyms and Abbreviations
Quite often, these come out as industry-specific acronyms that are used without clarification in general conversation or writing.
T. Incorrect Use of Borrowed English Expressions.
In the example in section Q subsection 8, above, the following sentence was Then you can ride a train at Seoul Sation on d-day. “D-Day” is incorrectly used here, as this expression in English is not identical to its Korean counterpart, where the expression occurs as a loan-word.
Use of Expressions without regard for the Socio-Pragmatic Requirements of a Situation
One common error here is “I got your email and have understood it well.” In certain situations, this can sound arrogant, overly familiar, or just strange.
Another situation concerns the communication of a Korea-centric view of the world when this is inappropriate, as when the word “foreigners” is used in conversation with a non-Korean to describe other people in their native countries. I think this is a simple L1 leftover.
General problems include:
- Do not start a sentence with "because,and, or, so, but."
- Lack of proper capitalization,
- paragraph structure,
- improper use of contracted forms from speech (e.g. wanna), etc.
- One interesting error is the overly chatty tone that is often wrongfully employed in academic essays. Other typical problems exist also. In giving little space to this area, it is not my intention to minimize its importance: for many Korean learners of English, written interaction with others in English occurs more frequently in writing than in spoken communication.