Speech errors encountered in English debate competition

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Debate was chosen as a teaching learning approach for enhancing speaking skills in English learners because it requires students to communicate with one another. Without referring to the text, they clash in English, both openly and informally. Debate provides an excellent opportunity to hone one's public speaking skills. The English debate is one of the competitions designed to assist students improve their public speaking skills. English debate necessitates thorough grasp of the language as well as proficiency in delivery and presentation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the types and frequency of speech errors committed by participants in an English debating competition. This is a qualitative descriptive study. This study included 12 participants: six from the Gonzaga competition and the other six from the SETARA competition. As research instruments, observations, analyses, and reports were used. The Clark and Clark theory of speech faults was applied in the study. The researchers discovered 860 data containing speech errors, with the following error types showing the highest to lowest frequency of occurrence: filled pause 34,61%, silent pause 25,00%, repeats 17,09%, retraced false start 11,16%, slip of the tongue 3,84%, unretracted false start 3,14%, stutters 3,26%, interjections 1,16%, and correction 0,07%. Based on the data analysis, the researchers find that practically all participants made mistakes throughout their speeches. The cognitive, psychological, and social factors that cause speakers to make errors in their speech were also identified as origins of those errors. The cognitive explanations concern pupils' knowledge and memory, such as vocabulary and grammatical expertise. Certain psychological factors, such as anxiousness and fear, are also taken into account when speakers (participants) make mistakes in their speech. Furthermore, social interactions, such as interpersonal encounters with individuals in the region, are viewed as one of the causes of English debate contestants' speech problems. Other academics are urged to conduct research on other speech faults in the future in order to get more knowledge in the same field of study.

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Language plays a crucial role in communication. Language facilitates our interactions with others and aids in our comprehension of the world around us. Through indirect communication, the speaker conveys an idea, information, feeling, criticism, and suggestions. Before the speaker makes his or her speech in communication, according to (Levelt, 1989 in Carroll, 2008) several steps of production speech, namely; conceptualization, formulation, articulation, and self-monitoring. In fact, almost every speaker makes a mistake, and some speakers fail to convey the right message. A speaker who is a young or old cannot be completely aware when forming sentences (Utami & Malihah, 2018). Speakers are more likely to forget parts of what they are going to say when they are speaking in front of a large audience.

According to (Febriana, 2020), EFL students frequently make errors in their speaking, such as shift errors, persistence errors, substitution errors, and anticipation errors. Speech errors can also be impacted by linguistic factors. In addition to suppressing thoughts or feelings, a number of physiological factors contribute to speech abnormalities (Abdulaal & Abuslema, 2020). Examples of these characteristics include a lack of enthusiasm, strong connections, obsession, distraction, and fatigue. Speech errors can be broken down into nine common categories: Silent pauses, filled pauses, interjection, repetitions, retraced false starts, unretracted false starts, correction, stutters, and tongue slips (Clark & Clark in Tampubolon & Lubis, 2021).

Debate is formal discussion on a particular subject in a public gathering in which opposing points of view are presented and, typically, a vote is taken. In educational settings, debate has been used to present advantages to group learners from diverse backgrounds. Also, debate is a great way to improve your speaking skills (Zare & Othman, 2013). Debate and YouTube are two examples of learning media whose activities encourage users to interact with one another, exchange ideas,  and provide feedback (Prihatini et al., 2019). A debate in English necessitates both complete fluency in the language and proficiency in delivery and presentation.

Based on the description above, it was extremely difficult to investigate speech faults made by English debate participants. The Clark and Clark theory was employed by the researchers to determine the kinds of speech errors committed by the subjects. As a result, the study "Speech Errors Encountered In English Debate Competition" was carried out. The participants in an English discussion were the topic of this descriptive qualitative evaluation of their speech faults.

Literature review

Speaking is an interactive process that combines the creation of new information with reception, processing, and organization of existing information (Firdausi, 2016). For foreign language learners, speaking a language is particularly challenging since effective oral emotional communication necessitates knowing how to utilize the language in social contexts. The English debate is the one of competition designed to help students develop their public speaking. According to (Zare & Othman, 2013), the debate provides benefits in the form of speaking skills which are beneficial for foreign language learners to develop their speaking skills, so speech production is important and  key to communication activity.

There are several theories of speech creation, one of which is based on the work of Levelt. The phases of speech production include conceiving, formulating, articulating, and self- monitoring (Levelt, 1989 in Carroll, 2008). Error is a linguistic form or combination of forms that would not be produced in the same context and under the same conditions by the native speaker. Speech blunders are a universal occurrence that can occur to anyone while presenting a message for a variety of reasons (Pravitasari et al., 2021). Speech errors typically refer to poor performance in oral communication (Zhu & Liu, 2018). One reason why students make mistakes in their speech output is that they don't understand the language system when they speak. Speech errors are a common and human occurrence. In the process of learning foreign language, a learner cannot avoid making error, second language learning is basically a process, which always involves trial and errors in which the learner will make errors in the process of the target language. The study of speech production cannot be directly applied, such as by examining human speech organs to learn what and how a speaker produces a speech.

The researchersused the theory of speech error from Clark & Clark in Tampubolon & Lubis (2021) the theory has nine specifics for speech error production, namely: silent pause, a pause between words is referred to as a silent pause. People who speak slowly hesitate a lot, and when they speed up, their rate of speech increases. Second, filled pause is a gap filled by ah, er, uh, mm, or the like. Third, repeats are repetitions of one word or more in sentences, usually uttered when people speak spontaneously and quickly. Fourth, retraced false start is correction of a word which is done repeating one or more words before the corrected word.

Fifth, an unretracted false start occurs when a speaker corrects a word but does not repeat one or more words that came before the corrected word due to a speech fault without saying the incorrect word again, they go on to the following word. Sixth, corrections are made by adding a “correction phrase” such as “I mean”, “that is”, “or rather”, and “you know”, to identify the phrase as a change, and then by adding “corrected words,” which are new words that are meant to replace the previous ones. The seventh is stutter. The speakers stutter because they are hesitant, stumbling, tense, jerky, or nervous. When people give the speech in an unexpected setting, they must plan their expressions in words ahead of time. Eighth, the interjections oh, ah, well, and say, are signs that emerge when speakers paused their discourse due to hesitancy. They pause to consider what to say next. The emergence of the signals is shown in the following: “oh” referent solution, “ah” as memory success, “well” is a word approximation, and “say” as exemplification. And the last one slip of the tongue is an unintentional deviation from the speaker's current phonological, grammatical, and lexical aims. The slip of the tongue comes before the origin, as is always the case. There are various other differences between tongue slip forms, such as the following: anticipations, perseverations, reversals, blends, apologies, mis derivations, and word substitutions.

Conveying an utterance is not a sudden spoken. There are certain elements that affect the processes that lead to speech errors when speaking. Theoretical, cognitive reasons, anxiety, and social reasons are three possible sources of variables impacting speech mistake, according to Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013). Cognitive reasons are related to the complicated issue that makes it challenging for the speaker to express coherently. Psychological reasons have to do with certain states like being worried, anxious, nervous, or other that makes feel hard to produced speech. It is grounded in emotional and feeling. Social relationships with others around the speaker that might sway them to speak are referred to as social motivations in this context.


To determine the types of speech faults made by contestants in English debate competitions that were collected from You Tube, the researchers conducted descriptive qualitative research. The researchers suggested that it be made clear how many individuals made each type of speech fault and where the errors were coming from. The competitors in a tournament for English debate served as the study's subject. There were a total of 12 participants in the two English debate events that the researchers saw, each with six contestants split into two groups.

Documentation was how the researcher plans to collect the data for this study. Following are the steps; Initially, watch the videos of the English debate competition events on the STARA and GONZAGA channels on YouTube. Second, transcribe all that was said and note any speech mistakes that the debaters made. The third category was coding, which included information on speech problems such Silent Pause (//), Filled Pause (,text), Repeat (/), Unretraced False (), Retraced False (), Corection (-), Interjection (,text), Stutter (), and Slip of the Tongue (bold word). The researchers collected the data and then evaluated it to determine the most common pattern of speech problems. All statistics based on frequency distributions were converted into percentages using the procedure below:


 N= percentage of errors;  fx= frequency of errors;  Σfx= the total number of errors

Results and discussion

The researchers discovered 553 speech errors in the Gonzaga competition and 307 in the SETARA competition according to research’s analysis of the participants’ English debate speech errors. Nine different categories of speech errors were related to a total of 860 data points from two contests. Based on the categories of speech mistakes and the most common areas of those problems in the figures below:

Figure 1. Frequency of speech error in Gonzaga Competition

The chart above shows the data on the frequency of speech errors in the English debate competition Gonzaga festival. According to the data, a filled pause is the most common with 32,19% or 178 data, followed by repeats 22,24% or 123 data, silent pause 21,34% or 118 data, retraced false start 11,93% or 66 data, stutter 4,34% or 24 data, slip of the tongue 3,62% or 20 data, unretracted false start 3,44% or 19 data, interjections 0,72% or 4 data, and the lowest frequency of the data is correction 0,18% or 1 data.

Figure 2. Frequency of speech errors in SETARA competition

Based on the chart above, it shows how frequently participants make speech errors in the SETARA festival English debate. It can be seen that the highest frequency is in a filled pause with 39,1% or 120 data, then silent pause 31,6% or 97 data, retraced false start 9,8% or 30 data, repeats 7,8% or 24 data, slip of the tongue 4,2% or 13 data, unretracted false start 2,6% or 8 data, interjections 2,0% or 6 data, corrections 1,6% or 5 data, and the lowest frequency is a stutter with 1,3% or 4 data. Based on the data above, we can see the total number of speech errors below;

Figure 3. Frequency of totally speech errors

The data are displayed on the graph from highest frequency to lowest frequency. The most common speech errors made by participants are filled pauses (298 or 34,61%), silent pauses (215 or 25,00%), repeats (147 or 17,09%), retraced false starts (96 or 11,16%), slips of the tongue (33 or 3,84%), unretracted false starts (27 or 3,14%), stutters (28 or 3,26%), and interjections (10 or 1,16%), while correction (6 or 0,70%) is the least common. The results of the data analysis suggest that there were nine different types of speech faults produced by the debate participants. 

  1. Silent pause:

Elsabel said: “... who can actually // tell other people about what is right and what is wrong ...”

Kalista said: “we think // that on the otherside this is objectively good..

They stopped their speech for a few seconds, were silent for a moment without uttering anything, and continued after finding the words they wanted to say. In this situation there is factor cognitive reasons, in line with theory Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013), which can make them experience difficulties in conveying their message clearly. In this condition, the speaker tried to remember and start sentences from the condition to be a complete reason to support their arguments. They find it challenging to recall and form phrases at the same time since it is a complicated idea.

  1. Filled pause:

Jhose said: “... it’s way better advocacy for, umm, for the people itself..”

Ghaitsa said: “So our goal is both sides we want to have, uh, we have a goal to promote social change...

The participants were truly scared to begin her speech but didn't want to remain mute. Once they had the right word, they filled the rest of their sentence with the sound "uh, umm, err" and then resumed. According to the condition described in Muniroh (2013), the participants had psychological motivations for participating. Speech blunders are frequently made by speakers while they're feeling specific emotions, such as fear, nervousness, or others. while people are nervous about the topic being discussed, they may choose their words more carefully while making whole sentences.

  1. Retraced false start:

Jessica said: “..when these people \ these followers see that their public figure..”

Ghaitsa said: “..to educate them battles why do you say \ why I’m able to say this because ..”

The participants encountered a speech error that retraced false start. They realized the mistake they had made and then repeated the previous statement so that there was no misunderstanding between the other participants. While speaking under duress, speech preparation looks challenging. While in a discussion, speakers must be clear about when they are finished and when they still have something to say. In this situation, the participants have social reasons, in line with a theory of Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013). The people in the environment may influence the speaker to encounter speech errors. In this case, the speaker is advised to speak in front of others, especially when the speaker starts debating with other participants. It’s not easy for the participants if the weakness in the speech is one thing that makes them feel incapable.

  1. Unretracted false start:

Maura said: “..social movement needs cancel culture, number four \\ fifth, why is it more morally just

Nadine said: “...thank you, um, thus \\ this is bad because you give corporation more control..

The participants make an unretracted false start in this section. When the speakers realize the error of their ways, they replaced their errors by saying the correct word without retracing their previous words. On the other hand, they only changed the incorrect word into the correct word. Participants in this condition have cognitive reasons, in line with the theory of Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013). When the speaker tried to remember and start sentences from the condition to be a complete reason to support their arguments. They find it challenging to recall and form phrases at the same time since it is a complex concept.

  1. Corrections:

Tati said: “you even knowabout the amazon is a product, that is, being publicized.

Speakers may pause in the middle of a phrase for a variety of reasons. They can be trying to find the perfect word, remembering something they wanted to refer to, or choosing the words they want to use. The phrase "that is, I mean, well" should be used when someone is offering a correction. According to the Clark and Clark theory presented in Muniroh (2013), the players in this scenario are acting for social motives. Speech mistakes are audible when the speaker is arguing in front of the jury and other participants. The dialogue speaker should make it plain to them that they haven't finished presenting their case when they are under pressure. The person having the talk should make it plain to them that they haven't finished making their case. By selecting the right word to use, the speaker demonstrates that they are making an effort to be deliberate when pronouncing a term.

  1. Interjections:

Ghaitsa said: “..even they get, –ah followers from the socienty..

Elsabel said: “how are you going to educate who –ah to whom are you going to educate

The participants found speech errors are interjections in their speech. When speakers stop their discourse due to hesitation. They emphasized sentences with “ah,oh,well,say” Indicating that they had chosen which sentence to say. This condition that the participants had factor psychological reasons, in line with the theory of Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013). Speakers who are under certain conditions, such as anxiety, hesitation, nervousness, or other, often experience speech errors. People sometimes choose their words more carefully when forming whole sentences when they are apprehensive about the subject being discussed.

  1. Stutter:

Dazzle said: “no argument to this idea of like-like-like push back towards environmental policy i.e

Elsabel said: “our objectives is what we-we-will make the public figure realize

The participants make the same speech errors because they stutter. The participants speak the same sound many times before saying a certain word. Speakers stutter because they are hesitant, stumbling, or nervous. People with stutters, speech spontaneously because they must plan their word expressions before delivery. The participants have factor psychological reasons for this part, in line with the theory of Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013). When speakers are under certain conditions, such as anxious, nervous, or other, they frequently make mistakes in their speech

  1. Repeats:

Maura said: “...we could also give the recent news about Cardi B being // being patients and for example ..

Aya said: “..because it’s exactly what we’re saying is that // is that exactly what we meas as the tools..

The participants made the same speech error. They intended to utter something, but they speak spontaneously and quickly, which makes the repetition words more than one. In this condition, the participants had factor psychological reasons, in line with the theory of Clark and Clark in Muniroh (2013). Speakers who are under certain conditions, such as anxiety, hesitation, nervousness, or other, often experience speech errors.

  1. Slip of the tongue:

Tati said: “pose a few clarifi – clarifications they said that we contradicted

Michelle said: “natural disaster being once in a millen – millennium for example

The participants make speech errors due to a slip of the tongue. The speakers are aware of the target word, but they are hesitant to use it. In these conditions, speakers have psychological factors, in line with theory speech error from Clark and Clark in Tampubolon & Lubis (2013). This is related to some situations make it difficult to create speech, such as worry, anxiety, being in a hurry, or others. Social factors such as the speaker’s social relationships with others in the surroundings can also cause the speaker to make mistakes when speaking.


Contestants in an English debate, practically every one of them made mistakes while speaking. The children made a variety of mistakes during their speech. Nine different categories of speech faults are among the ones that the participants made, in accordance with the hypothesis put forth by Clark and Clark in Tampubolon & Lubis (2021). There are pauses that are silent or filled, erroneous starts that are retraced or unretracted, corrections, interjections, repeats, stutters, and verbal blunders.

The researchers discovered various frequency of each of those speech faults. The participants made a variety of speech errors, with filled pauses occurring the most frequently (39,1% or 120 times), followed by silent pauses (31,6% or 97), repeats (7,8% or 24 times), slips of the tongue (4,2% or 13 times), unretracted false starts (2,6% or 8 times), interjections (2,0% or 6 times), and corrections (1,6% or 5 times). Stuttering occurs the least frequently (1,3% or 4 times).

The cognitive, psychological, and social reasons that lead the speakers to encounter speech errors were also found as the sources of those speech errors. The cognitive reasons deal with students’ knowledge and memory such as their vocabulary mastery, grammar mastery, and so on. The psychological reasons including certain conditions such as nervousness and scary condition also become the consideration why the speakers (participants) encountered speech errors. Moreover, social relationship like interpersonal interactions with individuals in the area are also taken into account as one of the origins of speech faults made by contestants in the English debate. The researchers are hoping that other researchers would perform studies on other speech faults in more thorough understanding in the future to gain more knowledge in the same field of study.


About the authors

Elly Faoziah

Universitas Pancasakti Tegal

Author for correspondence.
Email: faoziahe@gmail.com

English Department, Faculty of Teaching Training and Education

Indonesia, Tegal, central java, Indonesia

Yoga Prihatin

Universitas Pancasakti Tegal

Email: yogaprihatin92@gmail.com

English Department, Faculty of Teaching Training and Education

Indonesia, Tegal, central java, Indonesia

Masfuad Edy Santoso

Universitas Pancasakti Tegal

Email: info@fler.press

English Department, Faculty of Teaching Training and Education

Indonesia, Tegal, central java, Indonesia


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Supplementary files

Supplementary Files
1. Figure 1. Frequency of speech error in Gonzaga Competition

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2. Figure 2. Frequency of speech errors in SETARA competition

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3. Figure 3. Frequency of totally speech errors

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