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This dissertation is about English articles and specifically the difficulties that non-native speakers, particularly Japanese learners, face in mastering their use. In this dissertation, I will mainly focus on;

1. An investigation on teaching articles and the use of articles including a survey completed by teachers of English

2. Two charts for determining articles and categories with examples including my adaptation of the chart

3. Some ideas and practical suggestions for teaching articles

The findings from this study have led me to a belief that there are ways for Japanese learners to improve their ability to use articles and by exposing ourselves to authentic input as well as learning consciously, it is possible to learn to use articles more accurately and appropriately. Of course, it is crucial to have enough input to develop a feeling for articles and this can be achieved in part through sufficient reading and by listening to ‘authentic’ materials. Nonetheless, focused learning is indispensable for more effective acquisition. If we learn the system of articles in a more tangible way and are provided with opportunities to use them, the number of errors made will decrease. Most importantly we need to be aware that language acquisition is effective when aspects of language such as articles, grammatical structures and vocabulary are learned with some context.

As Diane Larsen-Freeman and Marianne Celce-Murcia suggest in The Grammar Book, it is important to look at the form, meaning and use together when learning grammar. When people consider ‘grammar’, often they think only of the form and patterns used. However, the study of grammar is not simply learning about parts of speech, word order, and specific patterns. The communication system must be examined in its entirety, including aspects of pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary, sentence structures and their meaning and use. Since specific language is chosen in each situation and used with a purpose, we cannot separate the whole and its parts. We cannot discuss how to use articles (parts) without sentences or discourse/paragraphs (the whole). Grammatical description of language involves more complicated processes than is at first apparent in determining which article to use when considering exactly what we are trying to convey.

It is indeed a challenge to be able to choose the most appropriate way to express ourselves in various situations in a foreign language. In order to attain the level where we are able to use the language comfortably and confidently in the situations we come across, we need to maintain consistent efforts to become a better learner. Most of all, we must keep our passion and belief in the possibility that our goals can be achieved.


Education | First and Second Language Acquisition