AN EVALUATION OF THE USE OF ENGLISH TENSES AMONG STUDENTS IN SELECTED SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Background to the Study
Tenses are words that indicate the types of action performed in sentences. It is a very important aspect of grammar. Therefore, the competency and efficiency in the use of English language depends on the mastery of the use of tenses, one knows whether a state is past or present. There are also other forms of tenses such as; the perfect, continuous and future tenses. Tenses also have the singular and plural forms and the need for them to agree with the nouns is very important. The infinite verbs are also very important and worth of mentioning for the special way it is used in tenses of English language.Looking at the use of tense generally by students especially the senior secondary students, it seems very difficult and complicated for them to be efficient in its usage Charles’ (2003) ‘studies of child and languages development declares: ‘verb system is one of the most complicated parts of English grammar’.
A long neglect of teaching of when to use a particular tense and how to construct the tense at primary and secondary school levels has dismal effect in attaining excellence in English language and school graduates at all levels of education. Most secondary school English language texts merely present English tenses and their aspects without showing when to use or construct them which results into incorrect use of tenses, which is the bane of attaining excellence in English Language (Mahmoud, 2011).
The subjective of this project is to offer how tenses can be used by secondary school students so as to be able to speak and write English language without making mistakes which arise from wrong use of tenses (Erdogan, 2005).
The tense is a dominant feature of the English verb and is generally recognized as the inflectional affix of the verb in expressing time relation. In other words, the tense is the syntactic or morphological change a verb undergoes in expressing time relation (David 2003). The English tense is recognized as the present tense and past tense. The present tense is marked syntactically by the verb-s morpheme or inflection and any of its variants (verb-es and verb-ies) used with the third person singular number (Tarone, 2011).
The other is the verbwhich is used with third person singular number in the present. The following are third person singular examples.
Pluck-plucks, beat-beats ;( verb-s as morpheme and allophone)
Explode-Explodes, feel-feels (verb-s morpheme verb-z allophone)
Bury-buries, study-studies (verb-es-and verb-iesmorpheme variants with verb-12 allophone). Allophonic variants are readily predictable in certain phonological environments.
Non-Third person examples are as follows:
Pump-pump, Pluck-pluck (verb-o), used with the non-third person singular number.
The past tense is recognized generically as a verb with the-d inflection or morpheme and has the verb-ed and verb-ied as variants and verb-o,verb-t,verb-d and verb-id as allophonic variants.
Aside from the regular past tense forms in English, there are many irregular past forms in English. Eckersley and Eckersley (2010) identified sixteen different forms of the irregular past verb. Dictionaries take the trouble to list verb forms that are tense aspect passed as an aid to spelling and usage.
Tenses are the most challenging aspect of Grammar whereby students make errors and which teachers of English find most difficult to remedy among ESL students. The errors vary and reflect the various morphological forms of verb in English. Only few of these numerous irregular forms will be illustrated:
Vowel change as in take – took:
Vowel reduction and final ‘t’ as in feel – felt;
Vowel reduction only as in feed – fed;
Verb- null (verb- o) as in cut – cut;
Vowel replacement as in sing- song;
By implication, this means that apart from the regular verb forms, there are over sixteen potential learning tasks in the irregular verb form alone for the ESL student. The more numerous and detailed a task is, usually, the more difficult it is to master. The vowel change in modern English is so irregular that Mark Lester, a native speaker of English, a linguistic and another of pedagogical texts, says it is chaotic. To a non- native speaker, tense must be more than chaotic (Corder, 2011).
Viewing the important position English Language takes in our society presently, it is highly important to develop the student towards the using of the tenses in the correct forms. Even though the deficiencies are widely spread, nevertheless, necessary solutions needed be sought for; so as to make the students capable of meeting the standard expected of them as tenses are concerned. When this standard is met, the students will be pleasant to raise their heads in any gathering especially academic gatherings (James, 2008). English Language being the language recognized in our country (Nigeria) has been made a core subject in junior and senior secondary schools. It is therefore, compulsory for the students to be competent in their use of tenses, since it is the most difficult aspect of grammar.
English language has gained much popularity nationwide in all aspects of human activities such as religious, economics and politics. Therefore the youths of today who are the adults of tomorrow need to have good foundation for the betterment of tomorrow as the effective usage of tenses is concerned.
Statement of Problem
The secondary school students in Ikere local government area of EkitiState have little knowledge on the use of tenses in English grammar hence, the wrong use of tenses in English construction. This is evident in their writing and expressions. This wrong use of English tenses has really affected their performances generally in English both internally and externally written examinations. It has been observed that below fifty percent (50%) of the students who registered for these examinations are only able to excel and the majority of those who even pass falls within the average mark. Therefore, there is need to find out the causes and solutions to this problem so as to improve students’ use of English tenses.
Purpose of Study
This research intended to find out why senior secondary schools’ students in Ikere local government area of EkitiState performed poorly in the use of tenses in English grammar which has led to their poor performances in the internal and external examinations undertaken by them. The following objectives are carried out for the study.
- Complex nature of tenses affects the learning of English
- Learners’ environment hinders adequate learning of tenses
- The mother tongue interferes with the learning of tenses
- Students have adequate text books on tenses
Significance of the Study
This research was carried out with the hope that the findings would help the students to overcome the difficulties encountered in the use of tenses.It would also enable the teacher to know the best method to use and the appropriate materials to apply to make his teaching effective. The selection of the appropriate text books would also be determined for the use of the students. Appeal would also be made to the government for the provision of adequate and qualified teaching personnel and how to improve the standard of living of the specified personnel’s so that more people of the same qualification would also be eager to join the profession.Efforts would also be made on how to advise the parents in order to play their roles as promoters of their children’s learning.
Scope of the Study
This study covered some secondary schools in Ikere local government area of EkitiState.There was selection among the schools and this selection was done by random sampling. This was so in order to make the study easy for the researcher in term of cost and time. The outcome of the research would be implemented in all the secondary schools in the local government in particular and in EkitiState and the whole federation in general.
The assumption to be tested was an appraisal of the use of tenses among senior secondary school students. A case study of Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti state.The following research questions are necessary for testing the assumption:
- How adequate are English language textbooks for secondary school in teaching English tenses?
- Do English language teachers of secondary school supplement what English textbooks offer in tenses?
- Are English language teachers at secondary schools aware of the inadequate information on tenses offered in English language textbooks for secondary school?
- Are English language teachers at secondary schools aware that students’ common mistakes in essay writing are largely on the wrong use of tenses?
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