The problem of communication significance of errors in the assessment of the productive types of speech activity

Wide dissemination of this method of control as testing in the practice of teaching RLF, puts a teacher to have to define a more precise and specific guidelines, measurement criteria for quality of errors. This was dictated by the need to differentiate errors in order of importance, depth, seriousness of violation of an adequate solution.

This principle of an assessment, both in the doing of lexical and grammatical tests (where accounting is relatively simple: the object of evaluation is not beyond a given parameter, and each task, in case of the validity of a test, obviously corresponds to a particular level, so one position – one point) is not a criterion-correct in assessing these types of speech activity as speaking and writing. Such an approach can’t serve as an objective indicator of the quality of the student’s knowledge, as the weight of errors in each individual case is different.

At the present time, in assessing «product» of an oral statement, it is accepted to take into account such factors as: fluency, spontaneity, consistency, completeness / incompleteness of a statement, the adequacy of chosen language means, purity and so on. Despite the difference in the approach to the assessment of sounding speech by different methodists, evaluation criteria generally is same, and one of the essential components to be accounting, is always called communicative-significant and communicative-insignificant errors. At communicative-oriented training speech errors, related to the adequacy of the solution of problems of communication tasks, the ability to choose the right intentions, become differentially evaluated, received the naming of communicative-significant and communicative-insignificant.

Researchers note that when considering communicativesignificant errors, attention is drawn to two problems: the first «is the need to systematize the various phenomena that combine the concept, and the second – a distinction of communicative-significant and communicative-insignificant errors». [3]

However, the precise definition that would allow distinguishing between communicative-significant and communicativeinsignificant errors, isn’t yet existed, and the mass of errors doesn’t systematize, that could be clearly defined as communicativesignificant or insignificant in the process of speech production.

We understand as communicative-significant errors which violate the meaning of a certain phrase, the conversation as a whole, making it difficult or impossible to continue the communication. Communicative-significant errors are defined as lexical and grammatical errors, leading to a distortion of meaning, expression, and causing misunderstanding by a recipient.

Along with this there is an opinion that an error of any level makes it difficult to communicate, so it should be attributed as communicative-significant only those errors, in which communication is not just difficult, but it is impossible. In this case, the main criterion is the ultimate effectiveness (success) of a solution of a communicative task. However, each teacher of RLF is familiar with the situation when students from different countries in the absence of control by a teacher communicate quite freely with each other (as it seems in Russian to them), joke, agree about something (there is a successful communication), but a teacher at the same time doesn’t understand a word. And we give such dialogue from the practice of communication of a teacher and a student.

Teacher: – Where will you go at holidays? Student: – To Beijin.

T : – Is there anybody there?

S: – No, I have never been there. T: – And where will you live?

S: – At the restaurant.

The result is a communicative failure, because the teacher doesn’t know how to live in the restaurant. The first thought, the student confused lexemes and made a communicative-significant mistake, but the essence of the failure lies in the field of an intercultural communication: in China, it is really possible to live in a restaurant, because there are rooms where a tourist can stay in, however, not every recipient is familiar with this reality. The result – grammatical rules are not violated; but the understanding is not reached.

In order to successful communication it is not enough knowledge of the language. How to evaluate the use of a lexeme, which caused such misunderstanding: as a cultural error, that is, to recognize that student hasn’t a good knowledge of intercultural communication and solved the problem in an inadequate method, he made a mistake, and this error clearly violated the understanding of a statement by a recipient or do not consider it as a mistake at all, because norms of speech are not violated in anything.

As we can see in the first case, from the point of view of a teacher, all speech of students is wrong, but there is a communication, communication is possible, and the second example, this is a variant of an error-free speech, and a failed communication. What, then, should be understood as a successful communication and as a result of it, what errors should be recognized as communicativesignificant? If we assume that the communicative failure is a complete or partial failure to understand a statement by a listener on one hand and the full or partial inability to realize the communicative intention of the speaker on the other side, with full confidence we can say that the definition of communicativesignificant define almost all the errors, as in different contexts, the same violation of the norms of language can lead to difficulties of understanding, and to a breach of communication and does not affect the communication process.

T.M. Balykhina considers as communicativeinsignificant errors that often are in violation of these or certain norms of the target language, but do not affect on the successful progress in communication.

«Someoftheerrorsarecommunicativeinsignificant, made in the field of:


  • errors, connected to the pass of unpronounceable consonants, for example:

Welcome (зрастуйте (здравствуйте), mmeeeetting (стреча (встреча);

  • phonemic errors, such as: job (арбота (работа)), friend (дурук (друг)), wanted (хотила (((ххоотте-ла)), once (однаждыи (однажды));
  1. Grammar, for example: мы будем экзамены в июле; я читал много книга;
  2. vocabulary, e.g.мой дедушка – старинный человек; я хорошо вспоминаю это событие и т.д.
  3. a slip of a pen or tongue. [2]

However, this is difficult to accept, because the same speech disorder in different situations causes different degrees of misunderstanding. For example: my grandfather – an ancient man (мой дедушка – старинный человек). In this case, the erroneous usage of the adjective ancient is compensated by a guess and easily correlated with the correct option: old. However, the erroneous use of the same adjective in such phrases as // это старинная книга // у неё старинная работа// doesn’t allow so simple to interpret the adjective ancient, as in the first variant. And in this case we can talk about the undoubted communicative-significant of a disorder. Consequently, the same error should be assessed differently. Then the question arises naturally, what should be the basis of differentiated evaluation of the same mistake actually. The same can be said of phonemic errors. Even mixing of consonant sounds on the principle of hardness-softness, can completely deprive the meaning of a statement. For example: my father //мой фофо// ( мой папа) (from the story of the Korean student), or // He howled (was) on the street // (//он выл (был) на улице//).

Let us give another example:

Student: – Ко мне приехала мама, она хочет купить здесь квартиру. (Mom came to me, she wants to buy an apartment here.)

Teacher: – Она уже выбрала? (Has she already choosen?)

S: – Нет ещё. Или дорого, или ей не нравится. (Not yet. Or expensive or she does not like.)

T: – А какую она хочет? (And what does she want?)

S: – Чтобы там деревья были, цветы. Она любит природу. (That there are trees and flowers there. She loves nature.)

Student is showing a picture which hangs on the wall and saying, «This is the kind».

In this case, the only error which can be qualified as a slip of a tongue (a picture – a flat), completely destroyed the sense of a previous dialogue, and a communicative failure, is a result of a noncommunicative significant error.

At the same time errors, that are currently considered as communicative-significant, such as: transposition of parts of speech in a sentence // ты вчера был где//, the violation of relations within a sentence //он нравится гулять в парку// doesn’t not always hinder to understanding. In the above examples it can not be ambiguity or any haziness. In addition, obviously, it should pay attention to the fact that one and the same error in the context and out of it will be interpreted differently.

For example the following phrase: «Yesterday, I have a problem» («Вчера у меня есть проблема»),

is clearly ambiguous out of context, it is not perceived as violating the understanding in a dialogue. Teacher: – Why weren’t you present at a lesson?

Student: – Yesterday I had a problem.

Even in this text: «однаждый день мой друга Бориса за болель горла. Потом Борис поехаль в балницу посмотрель врачу. Доктор скзаль ему хорошо одихоете. Но Борис не случал врача. Он думал кататся на канках», it is easy to understand the essence of a statement, and none of the errors does not destroy the meaning.

It raises many questions and a classification of errors of a speech etiquette that make by foreign students. If a teacher welcomes Good morning (// здравствуйте/ доброе утро //) and etc. a student replies Hi (//привет!//), or instead See you later (// до свидания/ до встречи// ) he says Bye (// покадавай //) Are these mistakes considered as communicative-significant?

Thus, from the above it can be concluded that at the present time there is no accurate, complete, unambiguous interpretation of communicativesignificance of errors. At the moment, it is not defined criteria, allowing a clear distinction between communicative-significant and communicative-insignificant errors. In this situation, errors of different levels and categories are of equal value, and this violates the principle of objectivity of evaluation. It seems to us that:

  1. Communicative can only be called just only a mistake that leads to a complete misunderstanding by a recipient the intention of a speaker.
  2. The communicative importance of an error must be defined within the context.
  3. The value of an error is best defined not by the principle of a communicative significance / insignificance, but by the level and category.



  1. Balykhina T.M. Osnovy teory testov i praktika testirovania ( v aspekte russkogo yazika kak inostrannogo). – М., 2004.
  2. Balykhina T.M. Osobennosty ocenivania zvuchacey rechy.
  3. Zhorova А.P. Kommunikativno znachimie ochibky, dopuskaemie pry vipolneny subtesta «pismo» pervogo urovny. http:// www.kto-rki.orq/publ/php/
  4. Zimnaa I.А. Psihologicheskie aspekty obuchenia govoreniu na inosnrannem yazike. – М., 1978.
  5. Passov Е.I. Osnovy kommunikativnoy metodiki obuchenia inoyazichnomu obcheniu. – М., 1989.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2016
City: Almaty
Category: Philology