English Education Project Topics

The Classification of Spelling Errors Among Nigerian Secondary School Students

The Classification of Spelling Errors Among Nigerian Secondary School Students

The Classification of Spelling Errors Among Nigerian Secondary School Students


Objective of The Study

The purpose of the current study is to find out the following;

  1. Specific spelling errors that are evident in the written essays of Junior Secondary Schools students in some selected schools in the Ijebu-Ode local government area of Ogun state.
  2. To explore the reasons behind students’ errors which provide evidence of how language is learned?
  3. To identify and suggest teaching strategies that can be adopted by the English language teacher in tackling these problems and…
  4. Prescribe remedial procedures that might help students as well as instructors to remedy the students’ wrong ways of spelling.



English Language in Nigeria

Formal Western education was introduced into the country by Christian missionaries just before the middle of the 19th century for about four decades after the initial date, both the nature and man benefits from language. Education in the country was completely left to those missionaries to decide.

The slave trade activities along the West Coast of African in the 18th century is believed, led to the initial contact between the European, his language and this paved the way for the emerging missionaries and the British colonial masters. Omolewa (1975) states that “English language came into Nigeria before the advent of the missionaries in the country. The “Coastal English” spoken then according to him, was highly adulterated. It was a transactional and functional kind of English used by traders along the coast of Nigeria.

Bamgbose, espousing to the type of English spoken during this period states that “the contract gave birth to an inter-language which he terms “Coastal English” with pidgin and broken English as its variants”

The coming of the British and English speaking missionaries in large numbers to the Southern part of Nigeria as from 1842 brought up the question of a language to adopt for communication between the indigenous population and the guest. Omolewa lending credence to the fact quotes Rev. M. Suntar, an inspector of schools as saying that the missionaries felt that the language of the native was “neither very extensive nor of a high quality…… and only interesting to the comparative philologist and never likely to become of any practical use to civilization (1975).

Baldeh (1990) continues by saying that during this period, the implementation, acceptances and the role of English in the body politic of Nigeria started with it being adopted as the channel of instruction in 1882 and vehicle for the training of the badly needed man power to man the fledging government services (1-2) both the colonial masters and their missionary counterparts realized that for effective administration and overall success, they could not do without the natives.

Consequently, the education ordinance and codes of 1882, 1896, 1918 and 1926 were enacted for the language to be used internally for these training. About the same time also, Adetugbo, citing Crowder in Uzoezie reports that freed slaves from Freetown returned to their ancestral homes in Lagos, Badagary and Abeokuta. The English language then became the language of power and success. The ascending of the language and the status it bestowed on those that acquired it made the language a prestigious one for many Nigerians then. Another strong factor for the ascendancy of the English language was the attitude towards the native language.

Regrettably, the vernacular language was rejected and relegated to the background. To further ensure this, pupils were disciplined for using them. The result was according to Baldeh “a progressively waning enthusiasm for the local language” the attitude of the native themselves to their own local language did not help matters. The English language thus became a medium of instruction in schools.





This research work is designed to examine the classification of spelling errors among Nigerian secondary schools students viz; “Our Lady of Apostle”, “Adeola Odutola College”, “Ijebu Ode Grammar School”, in Ijebu-ode local government, Ogun State.

Research Design

This study is rooted in the qualitative research design. The qualitative design adopted describes observations in predominantly non-numerical terms and emphasizes description or interpretation of communication events (Priest, 1996); it observes how people interact with each other and how people’s attitudes are translated into actions (Fraenkel, 2000). We employed this design due to its appropriateness and suitability for analysing the data collected.

Population/Sample of the study

The population for this study comprised junior secondary school students in the earlier stated selected schools in Ijebu Ode Local government area, Ogun State. Twenty students, consisting of both males and female’s students randomly selected from each of these schools were chosen as sample for this study. Altogether, sixty samples were used for this study. The students were chosen from J.S.S two and J.S.S three classes. In order to ensure reliable and accurate information, the random sampling method was adopted to determine the number of students selected from each class. The exclusion of J.S.S One was hinged on the fact that a good measure of the individual students’ linguistic competence in the Second/Target language (English Language) can hardly be ascertained at earlier stages, occasioned by the largely unstable circumstances in which students often find themselves during this period of settling down in school.



The major error types identified from students’ marked scripts were categorised under six areas namely: Addition, Omission, Inversion, Substitution, Pronunciation Errors and Miscellaneous. These error types are in line with error types stated by Kyte (1958) cited in Gloria D. and Lawrence B. (2015). Here, plausible causes which condition the occurrence of these errors are presented in the analysis that follows.


This is a spelling error type that has to do with exclusion of letters from words spelled (Gloria D. and Lawrence B., 2015).

Classification of Error: Omission error

Analysis/Interpretation of Error: From the above examples, it was realised that, learners who were asked to spell these words omitted the sounds /p/, /t/, /r/, /s/, /g/, /ə/, /ɪ/ and /e/ respectively.




This research has made effort to investigate spelling errors in the English language learning of Junior Secondary School students.  This has helped to unearth the reasons for the generally low level of proficiency in the written essays of Junior High School students which has been observed to probably be one of the major causes of students’ poor performance in English examinations which no doubt, must have equally been affecting the students’ academic performance in other school subjects since all these subjects are taught and also written in English language during examinations.

The study therefore submits that the low level of performance of students in spelling can be attributed to reasons such as; First language (L1) or mother tongue (MT) interference, ignorance, L1 transfer, False analogy, lack of interest in reading wide among students and exposure (i.e., post school activities, parent’s educational background, major language spoken at home) and carelessness. It was also realized most of these spelling errors occur as a result of students’ incorrect pronunciation of certain words. This is the third most common errors made generally by students. The study also revealed that amongst all the six types of errors, omission spelling error type was the error type which was most frequently committed by the Junior Secondary School students. It is however discovered, based on the researcher’s observation that many of these do not care to check up correct transcription of words from the dictionary and this has often results in high dependency of students on what is said by their teachers or instructors.      In the light of the findings, this research concludes that the desired good spelling habits required for attaining academic success in English language (L2) learning are lacking among the respondents. Also, the fact that some of them found it difficult to even write a single error-free sentence, some of the essays written by the students also did not make sense or were not readable and some found it difficult to write an essay within 200-250 words; is rather undesirable. Thus, dependence on “what the teachers and instructors said” alone does not bring with it benefit of widening students’ knowledge base, vocabulary and horizon therefore student should be encourage to check up the correct spelling and transcription of words in the dictionary. Also, students should be encouraged both by teachers and parents to read extensively; more books, novels, etc. through which they will be opportune to come in contact and get familiar with new words and hence, better enrich their vocabulary.

More so, the teachers and instructors should also get into grips with students’ learning problems. This could help them have an insight into what constitutes these errors and having discovered these causes, this research suggests the necessity for tact, patience and accommodation in teaching. For this will help get such a teacher better prepared in terms of the best methods of teaching to be adopted in such situation.

Pedagogical Implication Of Findings

In the view of the present study, the following suggestions will be useful in addressing the spelling problems of students:

(a) Students should be encouraged and restricted to use English Language more often, since proficiency in any language of which English Language is not an exception comes with constant practice.

(b) Students must learn the rules of spelling religiously to master them.

(c) Students must develop the habit of reading extensively novels or story books of different kinds to improve their vocabulary power and spelling abilities.

(d) Students must maintain a habit of looking up the spelling of words in the dictionary for correct spelling and stop assuming the forms of words.

(e) Teachers must try and identify problematic areas of students and engage students in more spelling drills or contests to help them to overcome the flaws in spelling.

(f) Federal Government should organize spelling competitions to help encourage and motivate these students toward serious and steadfast learning. If there’s already been one; enough public awareness should be put in place to embolden and make sure students’ participation in such competition is worth it such as organizing and awarding abroad scholarships to emerging winners as practiced in Ghana, United States of America …etc.


It is important to state that the present research has not been able to delve into everything that is associated with spelling errors and therefore recommend that further research be made to investigate spelling errors in other levels of education such as the Senior Secondary Schools and Tertiary institutions which were not captured in this study.

It is also recommended that research be conducted on spellings errors based on private and public schools as well as gender variations. More so, researches should be conducted on ‘how the type of school students attends influences students’ competence in terms of spelling in English Language’.

It is further recommended as well, that research be conducted to bring out the differences in spelling errors committed by students in private and public schools, both in rural and urban centres so as to further establish the influence of the setting of the schools on the performance levels of students.


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