Grammatical correctness and communicative ability : a performance analysis of the written and spoken English of Swedish learners

Abstract: Written and oral material produced by a group of low-achieving learners of English from the 2-year lines of the Swedish upper secondary school was analysed from the perspective of grammatical correctness and communicative ability. The grammatical analysis focussed on the verb phrase and tests included both free production in speech and writing and elicitation tests. Communicative ability was assessed ‘ ‘objectively' ’ by identifying such parameters as fluency, copiousness and span, and “holistically” by using non-expert evaluators.The scores thus obtained were correlated. Grammatical correctness was correlated with communicative ability both in speech and in writing and writing proficiency was correlated with speech proficiency with respect to both grammatical correctness and communicative ability.Our findings are that there is a positive correlation between grammatical correctness and communicative ability. A remarkable finding is that the percentage of correct verb phrases correlates very weakly with communicative ability in written data. In oral data, the correlation is in fact slightly negative. The learner’s competence in grammar is reflected in both his written and oral performance. On the other hand, there is no correlation between communicative ability in writing and communicative ability in speech.The study shows that a working command of a set of syntactic rules is essential for communication. Errors are, however, an integral part of the learning process. The major part of errors are accounted for by the learner’s use of compensatory strategies. Among these low-achievers, communicative ability in conversation is distinct from writing ability.