The study was carried out to determine the major areas of difficulty experienced by the students, and it is hoped that some of the findings may help to overcome the anxieties experienced by students and teachers alike. One thousand two hundred samples of free composition written by Igbo students (J S II & J S III) who have studied Yoruba as L2 for more than one and half years were examined. The samples were randomly selected from three Federal Government Colleges in Awka and Onitsha Education zones of Anambra State. The research instrument used was adopted from NECO’s past questions on the target language. Four research questions were raised; statistical mean was used to answer the four research questions.
Based on the findings, the following grammatical errors were identified:
(i) misuse of tense, (ii) misuse of verb (iii) pronoun errors, (iv) noun errors, (v) spelling errors, (vi) high case errors, (vii) style errors, (viii) adjectives/adverbs errors (ix) tone usage errors, (x) conjunction errors, (xi) fragment errors and (xii) word order errors etc. Lastly, suggestions relating primarily to a remedial programme of written Yoruba are made in the hope of helping teachers to plan the writing courses and enabling students to improve their writing skills.

1.1 Background to the Study
Language is a very fascinating course of study, perhaps because of its ‘magical and mystical power’ and unique role in capturing the breadth of human thought and behaviour. Every knowledgeable human being recognizes the primacy of language in education which has serious implication for human development. Language is a very essential element in human life and one of the greatest attributes which characterize human beings; it is the most uniquely human, and quite possibly the most important. It is around us, everywhere, in speech, writing or simply in our minds as we dream, remember conversations, or quickly think of a problem. Language is so vital in man’s life that there is hardly any situation where it is not involved (Ibiowotisi, 1998).

It has been proved beyond doubt that language is the major vehicle of thought (Obi-Okoye, 1989). Whatever profession or involvement, people always want to clarify their thoughts through the use of language. Also, it permeates our thoughts, mediates our relationships with others and even creeps into our dreams. Without language there will be no human society. Education, socialization, civilization and national development could not have been possible.

Language according to World Book Encyclopedia (1989) is human speech, either spoken or written. Also Hornby, Gaterby and Wakefield (1971) define language as human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, feelings and desires by means of a system of social symbols. Language, according to Wilson (1972:191) is an artificial and consciously organized method of control by the use of symbols or conventions, which involves the notion of meaning. Though the behaviour of some animals other than human beings satisfies some of these criteria, man alone is capable of controlling his environment himself by means of language–technique.
In supporting the above assertion, Denga (1988:160), defines language as a vehicle of communication, which enables us establish human relationships. According to Denga language is then exclusively a human form of communication.

Also, Webster (1989:122) sees language as a “communication by voice in the distinctively human manner, using arbitrary, auditory symbols in conventional ways with conventional meanings.”

The above quoted linguists and educators agree that language is a method of human communication: it is non-instinctive and arbitrary.

Iyale (2002:48) sees language as an “articulate speech which historically arose out of the social activity of man as a product and instrument of social labour”.

According to Gimson (1980:13), language is:

a system of conventional signals used for communicating by a whole community. The patterns of conventions cover a system of significant sound units … the inflexion and arrangement of words, and the association of meaning with words.

Patt (1980:12) sees language as a “vehicle of power, a means by which we control, create and preserve”. From the above definitions language is used to preserve culture of the people. For this reason therefore, the language of any community is an integral part of their culture.

Fobins (1984; 5) defines language as “a system of vocal communication that comprises a circumscribed set of noises resulting from movement of certain organs within the throat and mouth”. He goes further to say that “by means of these, man is able to express his feelings and emotions, to influence the activities of others and to compact himself with varying degrees of friendliness or hostility towards persons who make use of substantially the same set of noises.”

The above definitions give the meaning of language and also some major functions which language performs.

According to Nwankwo (2008:32), language is a system of conventional signs, all aspects of whose structure serve the sovereign function of meaning. For Anagbogu, Mbah and Eme (2010;1), language is a means devised by human beings for communicating ideas, feelings, emotions, desires etc through complex vocal or written symbols. The above definitions have it that language is structured, vocal and serves communication purposes. Adebisi (2006:147), quoting Smith (1985) sees “language as a learned, shared and arbitrary system of vocal symbols through which human beings in the same speech community or sub-culture interact and hence communicate in terms of their common cultural experiences and expectations. Agbedo (2000:16) observes that “language is the culturally-established rule, which govern all forms of speakers that share common linguistic knowledge.

Bloch and Trager, in Robins (1980:120), see language as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates”. From the above definitions, it is observed that the authors see language from the social point of view. Modifying this definition, Essien (1984:4) defines language thus, language is a system of structured arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which human beings make meaning and communicate with each other in a community. Put more simply, language is a system of rules in which sound structure and meaning are integrated for communication. According to Hattum (1979:30), language is “an acquired system of structured but arbitrary vocal, graphic and signs and symbols that provide meaning by cataloguing and representing people, places, things and feelings and other abstract concepts.” He further stresses that communication which is the process whereby information, images, thoughts, feelings, ideas and concepts are transmitted between or among individuals is primarily acquired through the use of various forms of language.

From these various definitions of language, it has been observed that language is a means by which humans express their thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas etc, to one another; it has also been observed that there is no stereo-type definition of language, although, all the linguists, philosophers and anthropologists who have been cited see language from their own point of view and area of interest.

Language can be described as one formidable instrument that makes the human society and human cooperation a reality. Language can then be seen as the complex and subtle activity that human beings engage in using the words in interactive communication.

Language Situation in Nigeria
Nigeria is a multilingual country amalgamated in 1914 by Lord Lugard. This amalgamation brought together the different ethnic and linguistic groups in Nigeria. In Nigeria, the number of languages cannot be arrived at with mathematical accuracy due to the multi-ethnic nature of the country. Scholars have, however, attempted to give different figures in their research studies, ranging from 200 – 500 (see Bamgbose, 1970, Otite, 1990, Obi- Okoye, 2005). However, Bepo (2005) puts the number of Nigerian languages at 600 plus. He goes on to say that many Nigerian languages are yet to be reduced to writing, especially those in the Niger Delta area. However, out of all these languages, the Federal Government approved the teaching and learning of three major Nigerian Languages from the primary school level to the tertiary level. The National Policy on Education (2005:9) states that:

in addition to appreciating the importance of language as a means of preserving the people’s culture, the government considers it to be in the interest of national unity. In this connection, the government considers the three major Nigerian languages in Nigeria to be Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba (p. 9).

Also, the language Policy states further that:

the Government considers it to be in the interest of national unity that each child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages other than his/her own mother tongue as a second language (L2) p. 10.

It should be borne in mind that by this policy, language has been used as a tool to promote inter-ethnic understanding, to foster cultural unity and integration through facilitating communication among Nigerians from different ethnic areas without engaging the services of interpreters (Ajao, 1994:32).

To achieve the stated objective of Language policy as related to the Nigerian Languages, Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and the Joint Consultative Committee on Education (JCCE) have developed curricula for the three major Nigerian Languages for the Junior Secondary Schools level for both L1 and L2 users. Also, the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) has developed a Minimum Standard on Language Syllabi for teaching Nigerian languages as a second language (NCCE’s report 1992). The teaching and learning of the three major Nigerian Languages in the Colleges of Education and at the secondary school level started since 1992. The programme has produced many graduates and they are all gainfully employed by both the state and the federal governments. According to Finnocchiro and Bonomo (1973:23) “the overall goal of a second language teaching and learning is to enhance effective communication and cultural understanding”. Specifically, the learning of a second language means developing the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). The importance of mastery of the four language skills as important tools of learning has been emphasized by Unoh (1982:25). Thus communication skills are good for intellectual development.

Ayodele (1981:1) has helped to stress the importance of reading and writing skills; he says that the importance of writing is realized from student’s self-expression ability borne out in essays and letters, how they express their comprehension of the passage in written form and in summarizing passages they need to resort to writing. However, listening and speaking always precede reading and writing; especially among young learners that is L2 learners.

It is generally agreed that reading and writing are the two components of literacy (Aboderin, 1985:232). Since reading is usually a silent, receptive mode of communication, writing, which is its productive counterpart, becomes the only visible art of literacy. If this assertion is accepted, it can safely be asserted that both an individual and his society’s writing skills are the proof of the nation’s functional educational system.

Writing is important to academic success in tertiary institutions. Students in these institutions have to write, among other things, class essays, laboratory reports, and term papers pertaining to their fields of study. They also have to write essays to answer examination questions. It is a skill students must acquire in order to succeed academically.

To buttress the above assertion, Aboderin (1985:233) says that:

Writing provides one strong link with the past and future. One can scarcely imagine what life might be if the earlier educators who lived before had not been able to write down the products of their minds. Not only would technological progress have been considerably slower but also man would have lost most of the great thoughts of poets, philosophers, linguists, psychologists, sociologists and statesmen.

The points made above make it indisputable that any effort expended on developing or teaching efficient writing skills to our students is neither wasted nor misplaced. Such an effort is, in fact, a right step in the right direction since it constitutes an investment capable of yielding invaluable dividends in the long run.

Despite  the  fact  that  teachers  have  exposed  students  to  all stages/procedures that can enhance effective writing, unfortunately, most students find it difficult to write coherent and comprehensible essays. They often complain that they find it difficult to express their ideas on paper (Christinson and Krahnke, 1986:4).The reason for this is not far-fetched. It is because they lack the linguistic competence. To write a good or thought provoking and error free essay, students must have a good mastery of the target language. It is one of the duties of their teachers to identify various errors in each student’s essay and analyze them critically to find solutions to such errors.

Error analysis is the study of learners’ inter-language in order to better understand the processes of L2 acquisition (Corder, 1977, Selinker 1972). Error analysis also goes further to differentiate between errors and mistakes. A mistake is failure to use a known system correctly. This failure may occur as a result of fatigue, excitement, ailment etc. On the other hand, the term error ordinarily means ‘willful or negligent breach of a known rule or code’. Also the term error means noticeable deviation from the native speaker norms and to bring a breakdown in communication. It is possible for a learner to correct his/her mistakes but errors cannot be corrected by a learner because he/she does not posses the competence to do so.

Second language learners from different linguistic backgrounds make similar errors in learning one target language. The possible general sources of error include: language transfer, transfer of learning, strategy of second language learning, strategies of second language communication and over-generalization. It is pertinent to say that error analysis seeks to account for learner’s errors that contrastive analysis cannot predict.

Researchers have shown that studying learner’s errors helps to provide learning processes and helps teachers and curriculum planners/developers to know which area of the target language, learners have most difficulty and to proffer possible solutions to alleviate the problems (Dulay and Burt, 1982 and Ajayi, 1998). Also, once a learner’s system of errors has been recognized, described and analyzed, the teacher’s next task is to draw up a plan of teaching and re-teaching. The particular plan or programme depends obviously on the amount and degree of error exhibited by the class as a whole. It should be borne in mind that constant correction of L2 learners of the target language (Yoruba) will improve their writing skills.

1.2.2  Statement of Problem
All scholars either in the areas of arts, sciences and inventions depend greatly on the ability to communicate their thoughts to one another. Writing is one of the avenues through which man has achieved pre-eminence over the lower animals and indeed all living things. As a teacher of Yoruba L2 especially at the N.C.E level, the researcher has discovered that many of the students do not have the barest notion of what a good essay ought to be. It is the poor attitude and orientation from the secondary school that probably accounts for the poor written essays students present, judging from the essays written by students studying Yoruba as L2 at the N.C.E level.

A number of scholars have focused attention on the weaknesses in the communicative ability of both the undergraduates and graduates of our NCE, particularly in English and Igbo written compositions. Such weaknesses tend to be identified with poor grammar, wrong lexical selections, and inappropriate structures, organization of discourse and years of training. Unfortunately, the performance of candidates in the target language in both school certificate and NCE examinations does not in any way fall in line with the great importance attached to the target language as well as the need for the teaching and learning of the language. The fact that many students perform poorly in written composition in external examinations (like Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE), General Certificate in Education ’O’ level (GCE), National Board for Technical Education (NABTEB) is a great concern to teachers at all levels of the educational system. The reason for this poor performance may be traced to grammatical problems encountered by the students’ at all educational levels.
This study focuses on the difficulties of Igbo students with written Yoruba. It can be observed that most of Igbo learners of Yoruba as a second language find it difficult to express ideas in written form and also Yoruba L2 teachers find it difficult to teach writing because it seems so complex, and they are frequently discourage about the results they achieve.

Some of the most errors made by Igbo learners studying Yoruba as a L2 arise from mother-tongue interference. It uncommon for a L2 student who has studied Yoruba for one and half years to be unable to carry on a simple conversation or write a short passage without marking several serious grammatical errors. These errors can result from applying Igbo grammatical structures to Yoruba , or from selecting incorrect vocabulary items.

These identifiable problems prompted the researcher to investigate the causes and types of errors made by the JS II and the JS III students in Yoruba L2 written composition in the Unity Secondary Schools in Anambra State.

1.2.3 Purpose of Study
This study is primarily intended to:

1.      find out the common errors made in the written Yoruba composition of students who have studied Yoruba as a second language for at least one and half years.
2.      provide the teachers of Yoruba with a clear idea of a controlled or guided approach in the teaching of free composition.

3.      find the influence of gender on the errors committed by the students.

4.      identify and explain the types of errors that can be prevented during the early years of students studying Yoruba as L2 in secondary schools.
5.      find out the influence of class stream on the various errors committed by the students in secondary schools.

1.2.4      Scope of Study
The subjects for the study will be limited to the JS II and the JS III students in the three unity schools in Anambra State. The schools are: (a) Federal Government Girls’ College, Onitsha; (b) Federal Government College, Awka; (c) Federal Government College, Nise. The subjects consist of 1200 students. As a result of this limitation, the generalization of the results to all students will be limited to the JS II and the JS III students.

1.2.5 Research Questions
The following research questions guide the researcher during the study:

1.      What are the common grammatical difficulties facing L2 students in written Yoruba composition?

2.      To what extent do the errors committed by the JS II students differ from those of the JS III students in written Yoruba composition?

3.      To what extent are the grammatical errors committed by the JS II male students differ from those of the JS II female students in written Yoruba composition?
4.      To what extent do the grammatical errors committed by the JS III male students differ from those of the JS III female students in written Yoruba composition?

1.2.6      Significance of Study
This study is significant to the Yoruba language teachers because it will assist them in knowing how to eliminate many of the errors committed by the L2 students. This will enable them to use the best method in solving the problem.

Knowledge of the grammatical errors made by the students will stimulate the Yoruba language teachers to adopt new methods geared towards improved teaching and learning of the target language.

This study is significant to authors/writers in the Yoruba language because it will help them in the production of relevant texts and other learning materials that will reduce grammatical errors of students in written Yoruba composition.

Examination bodies like the National Teachers Institute (NTI), National Board for Technical Education (NABTEB), West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), Measurement and Evaluation Centre (MEC), National Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) will find this work useful as it will help them in setting appropriate questions and assessment of their candidates.

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