A. Background Learning and teaching language is difficult.

A. Background  Learning and teaching language is difficult. The errors made learners are unavoidable during the learning processes. Their errors made has been discussed and studied by research in order to identify them. For people who teach ESL, grammar is very important to them and this has led to a great interest and a lot discussion has been done regarding this matter. Educators who use audio-lingual approach (ALM) did not accept any errors made by learners. But since the new approach of learning and teaching the ESL learners, errors are considered as part of learning process. The ESL learners’ proficiency can be identified and measured based on the errors made by them. Other than that, from these errors, we can know what they know and didn’t about the language. Each person who is learning went through different stages of development depending on a lot of factors. For beginners of a language, they need to know basic rules of the grammar in order for them to effectively use and communicate with others. Learners need to know the basic rules of subject verb agreement in order for them to use and create sentences that are grammatically correct. Contradict to upper level students, they need to understand subject verb agreement thoroughly and any issues or problem in understanding the rules can be discussed with their teachers. Some learners only learn the language through observation from movies or songs. Thus, making them unaware of the actual rules of the language. They tend to use sentences that they thought was right and make sense. Although learning through music and movies are sometimes more effective, but we need to consider the correct use of grammar in some of the material to avoid wrong knowledge acquire.  Bhatia (1974) and his research, cited by Shuib (1991) agreed that ESL learners have problem in acquiring and applying the right grammar. His statement is supported by Nayan & Yusoff (2009) when they state that most Malaysian students still failed to use the right subject verb agreement rules in sentences. They continued by saying that “In English Language, grammar rules are very important and have to be mastered by all English as second language learners. In the topic of Subject-Verb Agreement, the subject must agree with the verb. The singular subject is followed by a singular verb and, the plural subject takes a plural verb. This rule only applies in Simple Present Tense. On the other hand, in Simple Past Tense, the main verbs, ?was? and “were? need reconsideration. This is the general rule for subject-verb agreement, which is also represented by its sub-rules. As a result, based on the observation, it is obvious that students made mistakes in both general and sub-general of subject-verb agreement in their writing.” (Nayan & Jusoff, 2009). Based on this matter, it is important for us to identify and collect data on subject verb agreement problem face by ESL learners as it is one of the important components in grammar.   Learning and teaching grammar of a language can be difficult and tricky, and there are no right and wrong in it. In order to improve these processes, research and studies need to be done to help identify the errors made ESL learners, and why they make the errors. Identification of the errors can narrow down on the reasons, and help teachers to focus more on these types of errors.             B. Problem statement  The major issue faced by ESL learners is acquiring the language. Students are not exposed to the environment which encourages and require them to use English as a medium of interaction is the main reason why they are having difficulties in learning English. Most of them use their native language to communicate with each other like Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Tamil and many more. They are more comfortable to use their native language in their daily conversation thus they are no room for improving their English language.   Furthermore, the learning environment does not encourage them to use the English language. Although in university the main language is English during the learning process, most of the lecturers and students prefer to use mixed language. A mixed language which combines Bahasa Malaysia and English language at the same time. As a result, students will have trouble in acquiring the right and proper English. Without enough practice and exposure, students will become weaker in delivering the English language, particularly in speaking and writing. This is supported by Myles (2002) who said that writing is not a naturally acquired skill, but in order to master it students should learn and practice it through experiences. Therefore, students need a continuous practice and exposure in the English language in order to master the writing and speaking skills. Through the right amount of practice and experience, students will be able to write and speak accurately.  As for students in public university in Malaysia, they are also facing the same problem where English not fully utilized to communicate. The students prefer to use Bahasa Malaysia in their daily conversation. In addition, the majority of the students are Malays, and Bahasa Malaysia is their native language. This would affect the students’ performance in English specifically in writing. Writing is a component that is evaluated in tests and examinations. Students who are able to write accurately in writing examination will obtain good marks especially when they are doing their thesis or final year project. Thus, it’s an advantage when to produce less grammatical errors. C. Research objectives      The aim of the study is to identify:      1. to identify the subject-verb agreement error in students’ writing.      2. to identify the reasons for the subject-verb-agreement error in students’ writing.      D. Research questions      This leads to these research questions:      1. Did students produce any subject-verb agreement errors in their writing?      2. What were the reasons for the subject-verb agreement errors done by students in writing?  E. Significant of Study  The study will help those who are interested in knowing the students’ mastery of a subject-verb agreement made by the post graduates of Faculty of Language of Universiti Teknologi Mara. The finding will give a valuable contribution to the process of learning and teaching the English structure and writing. By knowing the kinds of errors that the students made, the readers will make improvement both in learning and teaching English structure and writing, and reduce the errors in subject-verb agreement which are often made by the students  F. Scope and Limitations  The scope of the study is the error analysis of the clauses of the students’ descriptive writings concerning the subject-verb agreement. The study is limited to the descriptive writings produced by the post graduates of Faculty of Language of Universiti Teknologi Mara.         II Literature Review  Before we discuss more on the errors using Error Analysis (EA) made by the ESL leaners, we need to consider and understand that English is not their native language. Their native language can either be Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin or Tamil. It is important to see how far does the interference of their native language effect the learners writing and speaking. Pilleux (1982) states that Error Analysis has viewed the ESL learners’ errors as genuine systems in their own right and has rejected the traditional stigmatizing characterization they had had in the past. Terms such as “transitional competence” (Corder, 1967), “idiosyncratic dialect” (Corder,1974), “approximative system” (Nemser, 1971) have been used to describe ESL learner’ utterances.  Errors are common things made by any human being in their learning process, it is inevitable especially during the learning process of learning second language. Errors represents the gaps in learner’s knowledge and it occurs because learners did not know what is correct or wrong (Ellis, 1997).  Since grammar is one of the important aspect in learning a language, a series of studies has been done by some researchers to understand more in grammatical errors made by ESL learners. Khan (2005) in his research was done among 30 Form Five students and managed to identify that most of the students are weak in grammar. Meanwhile, Azimah (2005) who carried out an error analysis on 30 Form One students that they made a lot of errors other than subject-verb agreement and her research is similar to Lim Ho Peng (1976) whom stated that they are few general types of recurrent errors done by ESL learners. According to Richards and Sampson (1974) social situations and the learner’s value and attitudes may influence learner-errors. Absence of copula and reduction of morphological and inflectional systems are the result of simplification. The errors in this category are:  I thirsty.  (I am thirsty) She love him.  (She loves him)  In writing, non-verbal communication is absent thus is important for one to express their ideas correctly and in order to write effectively, learners need to master the subject-verb agreement topic. When learners managed to write an error free essays, it shows that they have mastered the grammar rules and it give a great impression to those who read their work. Saadiyah & Kaladevi (2009) also state that by investigating students’ written work, it will provide a means to help Malaysian teachers to recognize the importance of errors as one of the challenging areas in teaching English. Based on their research, they have given some examples of the most common errors done by learners that falls under the subject verb agreement classification: A large number of students is sick.   (A large number of students are sick) It causes fights because there are no chairs to sits.  (It causes fights because there are no chairs to sit) Furthermore, most Malaysian ESL learners are facing problems in understanding the rules of subject verb agreement and applying them in sentences because of their native language which is Bahasa Malaysia. The rules of these languages and English are not the same, where in Bahasa Malaysia there no rules on subject verb agreement. All subjects either singular or plural use and require the same form of verb. There is no need to change the verb which is contradict to the English language rules. Below are some of the examples showing the difference between Bahasa Malaysia and English in term of the subject verb agreement rules. Alia suka berenang.                                             Alia – singular object Alia loves to swim. (subject) (verb) (expansion)  Kami suka berenang.                                           Kami – plural object We love to swim. (subject) (verb) (expansion)  Errors in subject verb agreement usually done by learners because they often confused with their native language. As we can see, the interference of their mother language has affect their understanding to English. They tend to apply the same rules assuming it is right because the sentences make sense in their language. Some learners usually direct translate when they try to communicate in English. Comparing to English, Bahasa Malaysia is lot simpler and easier to understand. Hence, making them prefer to speak and write in Bahasa rather than try to fully utilized their knowledge of English.   III Methodology   In this research it uses a theory named Error Analysis that was developed from the theoretical framework of Corder. The first frame work by Corder, 1967 where he stated that the Error Analysis on learners has been the major components in the responds system of teaching and learning process of a language. Later Coder (1981) confirms that interlanguage that is done by learners is equal to the grammatical system of the target language. In the process of learning a second language, interlanguage will continue to evolve to the target language thus gradually advance until it becomes the same, or nearly the same to the target language.  To make sure the Error Analysis conducted is valid and proper, this research methodology strictly follows the Corder’s Error Analysis procedure.  Below are the procedures: A corpus of language is selected.  The errors in the corpus identified.  The errors are classified. The errors are explained. The errors are evaluated.  These procedures were studied thoroughly where the samples were analyzed then placed to their categories accordingly based on the classes of subject verb agreement. The respondents chosen for this study are 30 post-graduates communication course major in English Language Studies. These respondents are from the local university in Malaysia. They possessed degree in the related field and attending their postgraduate communication training at different companies. English is considered as their second language as they have at least 16 years of experience considering they have been learning it since kindergarten to primary and secondary schools to tertiary level.  Instruments used for the data collection is a factual type of essay writing. The topic to represent the mode of writing is Internet censorship. They were informed that this essay will not affect their grade. However, the result of this study might help and benefit the institution in terms of learning and teaching English grammar. The respondents were given 50 minutes to complete the essay.  The essays later than were analyzed and classified into four categories after been marked by an expert in the field of TESL with experiences. The categories of errors are:  The subject verb agreement of person The subject verb agreement of number The subject verb agreement of subject The agreement with coordinated subject These categories are used as the basis for error analysis and they are the general rules of subject verb agreement. The results of the analysis in each category were then calculated and compared using a percentages form.