Most of lower intermediate or weak learners are actually able writers, however, many of them commit multiple-word errors (MWEs) frequently. As ESL/EFL teachers we need to understand how MWEs happen and ways reduce them. Well, the reason is simple I guess. To me, the main reason for MWEs is the sentences they construct to express their ideas. Even though they are weak in English, many lower intermediate learners perform fairly well in their mother tongue. It is due to this fact, when they think of sentences to be written for their English essays, their sentences could be something like these:
Kakak saya menangis teresak-esak.
Mereka terpedaya dengan tipu helah lelaki itu.
Amin terkapai-kapai meminta pertolongan daripada orang sekelilingnya.
Ahmad kaku di saat menerima berita kematian ayahnya.
Fikiran Tihani melayang memikirkan tentang masalah yang perlu dihadapinya.
Alias mematikan senyumannya ketika bersua muka dengan musuhnya.
Pandangan matanya dihalakan kepada buah hatinya.
Saya mengambil keputusan mendadak untuk terus berjuang mencapai impian dan cita-cita saya.
Penagih yang bengis itu memukul anak kucing yang tidak berdosa itu.
Abang saya sering mengigau semasa tidur.
Ayah saya selalu menengking kami kerana kami dikatakan ingkar akan perintahnya.
Kami sanggup berkorban jiwa dan raga demi tanah air yang tercinta.
If they think of ideas in Malay like the above, surely they will get stuck when they want to translate the sentences into English as certainly there are some difficult words for them such as the ones underlined above.
Therefore, it is advisable that lower intermediate learners who mostly have limited vocabulary to apply K.I.S.S (Keep It Short and Simple). Weak learners must avoid writing lengthy Malay sentences in their head. There should only be one main idea in each sentence. Moreover, they also need to be coached to think of simple and short sentences like this:
Saya ada satu masalah. Masalah saya besar. Saya rasa takut. Saya tidak tahu apa yang saya mesti buat. Saya tanya guru kelas saya. Saya tanya Puan Mala. Puan Mala sangat baik. Dia bantu saya. Dia seorang guru yang baik.
Saya suka pergi membeli belah. Saya suka pergi ke kompleks membeli belah yang besar. Saya pergi dengan kawan-kawan saya. Saya pergi dengan Kay, Lisa, Myra, Helina dan Bariah. Kami kawan baik. Saya sayang kawan saya.
Obviously, lower intermediate learners would be able to handle short and simple sentences better. Most importantly, even if errors are still frequent, most of the errors are single-word errors. Multiple-word errors are reduced. I believe, when they realise they actually have the ability to write sentences, paragraphs and essays, they will show progress and gradually the ability to write complete essays. Personally, I would develop their confidence to write through paragraph writing activities before writing complete essays.
Sample Paragraph 1
SPM 2017: Describe the first time you went on a camping trip. You should write about the activities at the camp and explain how you felt about the experience.
We went jungle trekking. We went into the forest in the morning. We started our programme at 8.00 a.m. We walked in groups. I was in group 10. I was happy. My best friend, Liya was in my group. We saw many birds. I saw a beautiful bird. I took many photos. I took photos of the birds. I took photos of beautiful birds. I saw many trees. I saw big trees. My friends and I saw monkeys on the trees. [81 words]
We cooked together. We cooked fish and egg. I did not know how to cook. I learnt to cook rice. I also learnt to cook sardine. My friends liked my sardines. Ahmad, Kassim, John, Kishen and Wong liked my sardines. I was happy. I planned to cook instant noodle for dinner. i wanted to cook with Kishen. Kishen was a good cook. He cooked delicious curry. All of us loved his curry. (72 words)
Sample Paragraph 2:
SPM 2018: Imagine you went to a big sports event. Describe what you saw, what happened and how you felt on that day.
I joined Penang Bridge Run. It was a big event. I saw many people. I saw 5000 people. I saw some Korean runners. I also saw some Americans. Some were old. Many were young. I was happy to start our run. My friends and I lined up. We wanted to run together. We also took photos before we started our run. I planned to win. I wanted to win. I wanted to finish my run [75 words].
SPM 2006 - How to keep oneself healthy
SPM 2016 - What is the best way to help teenagers to stay fit and healthy?
I am Dean. I am 16 years old. I am a handsome boy. I have a girlfriend, Nina. I want to be slim and healthy all the time. I do not want to be fat. People always laugh at fat people. They must not do that. I know I must keep myself healthy. I must not eat a lot. I must exercise a lot.
Firstly, I love to swim to exercise. I swim at Nina’s house. She comes from a rich family. She has a big house. The house has a big swimming pool. I swim because I want to keep myself healthy, not to show my sexy body. I go to Nina’s house on Friday, Tuesday and Monday. I swim from 10.00 a.m. until 11.30 a.m. sometimes I swim alone. Sometimes I swim with Nina. Sometimes I swim with Nina’s mother. Nina does not like to swim. She likes cycling.
Sometimes, I also cycle to exercise. Nina likes to cycle so Nina always joins me cycling. She rides her pink bicycle. I ride my green bicycle. We always cycle at Taman Kempas. The roads at Taman Kempas are not busy. Sometimes we cycle at Taman Jati and Taman Kemuning. Cycling is good for my health. Cycling makes me sweat more. I like to cycle in the morning. Sometimes, I start cycling at 7.00 a.m. If I wake up late, I will start cycling at 9.00 a.m. I do not like to cycle in the afternoon.
My friends get angry because I always exercise with Nina. They also want to exercise with me so sometimes, I jog with my friends. I jog with Nurin, Misha, Chung, Kent and Vishnu. They are classmates. We go jogging at the playground near my house. The playground has a good jogging track. There are many trees. Some trees are very big and tall. The air is fresh. We can breathe in fresh and clean air while jogging. It is a safe place too. We always jog for two rounds. Sometimes we jog for six rounds. All of us want to stay fit and healthy.
I love to exercise. I like to do many things to exercise. I know I must not stop exercising if I want to stay healthy [375 words]
DESCRIBE A VISIT TO A PUBLIC PLACE AND HOW YOU FELT.
I am the most handsome boy in class. I look like the hero of Hindi movies. I am very happy with my good look. My friends call me Alif the Handsome Hero. I have a girlfriend. She is very beautiful. She is beautiful like Miss World. No, I think she is more beautiful than Miss World. I call her Peah the “Bomb!” (this kind of descriptive paragraph is optional - only to be written by extremely weak learners)
I have a handsome father. My father looks like Shahrukh Khan. Shahrukh Khan is a very famous Hindi superstar. My father is 49 years old. He is a businessman. He has six restaurants. His restaurants are very famous. Many people like to eat at his restaurants. (this is another optional paragraph as definitely, it is not related to the topic yet. However, these two descriptive paragraphs can develop confidence to write among EXTREMELY WEAK learners).
Yesterday, I followed my handsome and caring father to visit my uncle at a hospital. We left home at about 5.00 p.m. and reached the hospital at 6.15 p.m. The hospital was a new hospital. It was opened two months ago. It was clean and big. There were many people at the hospital.
My uncle was also handsome. He was more handsome than my father but I was more handsome than my uncle. In short, I was the most handsome man. I was happy to be the most handsome man in the family. My uncle was a chronic diabetic. He was in the hospital because his sugar level was very high.
My uncle‘s ward was at the second floor. The lift was very big and fast. I saw a nurse in the lift. The nurse was my mother‘s old friend. She talked to my father. She told us that my uncle was doing alright. After talking to the nurse, my father and I went to Room 515. My uncle was very happy to see my father and me.
There was a young doctor. The doctor said that my uncle was getting better and he could go home soon. My father talked to my uncle for one hour. I felt bored so I went out of the room. I went to level one. I saw a young nurse. She smiled at me. I smiled at her. She looked like Seri, my girlfriend.
Then, I went to the hospital café. The café was not big but clean. I saw the young nurse again. She smiled at me again. The young nurse came to my table. I smiled at her. I did not know what to say. I ate my fried rice quickly. After that I ate my burger. Later, I ate another plate of fried rice. I did not say anything to the young nurse.
Suddenly, the young nurse stood up and left me. She still smiled. I quickly went to Room 515. My father was waiting for me. I said goodbye to my uncle. Then, my father and I went home. I could not forget the young nurse. [465 words]
One thing ESL/EFL teachers need to bear in mind, though lower intermediate learners are weak in English it does not mean they are also weak in their mother tongue such as Bahasa Melayu. Therefore, they should be guided not to construct sentences as if they are writing a Malay essay.
Instead, due to their limited vocabulary and low proficiency level of English, lower intermediate or weak ESL/EFL writers should be trained to write simple and short sentences. They should apply the concept of "KISS" and try to simplify their ideas in their mother tongue.
MWEs normally happen when weak learners attempt to include 2-3 main ideas in one sentence. Writing short and simple sentences (one sentence, one idea) is the solution for having lesser multiple-word errors. Undoubtedly, having short sentences will reduce the number of MWEs, thus, enhance their essay marks.
With sufficient practices and constant motivational words given by their teachers, they will show make and show progress. The concept of K.I.S.S does bring benefits in my writing classes. It will work in yours too! In shaa Allah.