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Erik Solheim Pettersen

Erik Solheim Pettersen
Linguistics
Fakultet for humaniora og pedagogikk
21. desember 2017

Learning the hard way

Spotting and cataloging subject-predicator concord errors is not a hard thing to do for anyone with a good grasp of English, and having a background in linguistics makes it even easier. It is however time consuming, and the take away from this project was mostly about managing time for me. As someone who will soon be writing a master's thesis, it was however inspirational - several possible angles for a project of my own were discovered during my work with the student texts.

As one who has been known to not only do his best work under pressure, but his only work under pressure, this project has been extremely taxing and trying, and yet also rewarding. My job was to create a corpus of learner errors in English - specifically subject-predicator concord errors. In total I cataloged errors from more than 350 student texts from different high schools around Agder, which yielded more than 2100 errors. As someone who is trained in linguistics, it was very interesting to see the dynamics and relationship between this particular kind of concord error and the overall quality of the English produced by the students - some of my prejudices were definitely challenged.

Time management has never been my strong suit, and the scope of the project did not immediately reveal itself to me, causing me to continually underestimate the amount of time left I needed to complete the project. I thank Lenka - the PhD student I assisted - for enormous amounts of patience and goodwill. The parts of the project I did complete and work on in due time were lost due to a malfunctioning Excel spreadsheet, so hard lessons about redundancy and backups were also learned. During the final days of the project with a hard deadline fast approaching and A LOT of work remaining, I will admit to not only fits of crying but also fleeting thoughts of upending my life and moving to India, never to be heard from again. Needless to say, I managed to finish and this blog is not written from a remote corner in India.

Spotting and cataloging subject-predicator concord errors is not a hard thing to do for anyone with a good grasp of English, and having a background in linguistics makes it even easier. It is however time consuming, and the take away from this project was mostly about managing time for me. As someone who will soon be writing a master's thesis, it was however inspirational - several possible angles for a project of my own were discovered during my work with the student texts. The project also, paradoxically, made me believe that I could actually do it. If I managed to fight through the pain that was the final days before the deadline of this project, I feel like I can accomplish a master's thesis. Maybe I won't have to work for 56 hours straight when the deadline for that comes around! We can but hope.