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Corpora and Language Teaching. Corpora and Language Teaching. Language teaching Data-driven learning Learner corpora. 1. Language teaching. Corpora as a source of material/examples see later Corpora determine the syllabus

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corpora and language teaching2
Corpora and Language Teaching
  • Language teaching
  • Data-driven learning
  • Learner corpora
1 language teaching
1. Language teaching
  • Corpora as a source of material/examples
    • see later
  • Corpora determine the syllabus
    • Deciding what to teach and when can be influenced by how widespread a phenomenon is in the language
    • Teachers’ (and text books’) preconceptions are often wrong
    • (Same issue in lexicography)
language teaching
Language teaching
  • Corpora as a source of explanation
    • Students often ask about subtle differences in language
    • e.g. differences between close synonyms, especially when the L1 doesn’t make a similar distinction
    • Corpus evidence can be better than teachers’ intuitions
tsui 2005
Amy B M Tsui: ESL teachers’ questions and corpus evidence” Int. J. Corpus Ling. 10, 335-356

TeleNex website since 1993 to support ESL teachers in Hong Kong

Lots of questions sent in about commonly confused words; use of sentence connectives; count vs non-count nouns; number agreement; etc.

Accurate information about usage can be got from corpus data

Tsui (2005)
  • big vs large
  • finally vs lastly
  • less than vs fewer than
    • prescritpive grammar books can be at odds with actual usage
  • Sentence-initial conjunctions
2 data driven learning
2. Data-driven learning
  • Part of drive to use new technology to enhance language learning
  • Focus on exploitation of authentic materials
    • even for tasks such as acquisition of grammatical structures and lexical items
  • Focus on real, exploratory tasks and activities rather than traditional “drill & kill” exercises
  • Learner-centred activities
  • Use and exploitation of tools rather than ready-made or off-the-shelf learnware
task based learning
Task-based learning
  • Acquisition of language and linguistic competence as well as language and language learning awareness can best be realised through tasks which encourage the learner not to focus explicitly on the structure and the rules of the new language. Learners will acquire the form of the foreign language because they are engaged in exploring aspects of the target language on the basis of authentic content.
use of materials
Use of materials
  • Not just use of real language in realistic situations (mainstay of language-teaching methodology since 1960s: “Communicative language teaching theory”, though starting to be disparaged, and “pedagogic grammar” method is returning)
  • Promotes concept of learning about language – learner is made aware of need to engage in a learning process
  • Learner is given tasks which use language as data, but which promote learning of language structures
  • Language learners engage in linguistically motivated activities, including corpus-based studies using concordancers and other tools
product vs process
Product vs process
  • Product approaches are those that carefully present specific aspects of the language for the students, usually in terms of grammatical metalanguage and “rules”
  • Process approaches encourage creativity and self-discovery by students as they experiment with the language, often at the expense of accuracy
  • Few teachers nowadays take a wholly product- or process-based approach
data driven learning
Data-driven learning
  • Tries to marry product and process approach by teaching things like grammar through use of real text

G. Hadley

data driven learning12
Data-driven learning
  • Research then theory
  • Start with a question – may be provided by teacher, or occur spontaneously
  • Propitious use of materials – again may be directed by teacher, or student may explore at will
  • Students have to work out the “rule” (or pattern) for themselves
3 learner corpora
3. Learner Corpora
  • A tool in the study of language learning and hence language teaching
  • studies of SLA (second language acquisition) interested in
    • how learners learn
    • evidence from learners’ errors
    • how this can feed in to ideas about how to teach
  • Much work done on the role of L1 interference in language learning
    • assumption that elements of learner’s L1 interfere with L2 language acquisition at all levels (phonology, lexis, grammar of course, but also more subtly, even as learners become inetrmediate or advanced)
  • Studies of language produced by language learners can throw light on this
learner corpora
Learner corpora
  • Corpus of texts produced (usually written) by language learners
  • Notably: International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE), Louvain University
  • Collections are corpora in the true sense in that they are often planned, purposeful, etc, but above all …
  • Annotation can include the usual kind of thing (POS tags etc)
  • But of more interest is the annotation of errors
    • identifying that something is “wrong”
    • suggesting what the correct version should be
    • classification of error types
error typing
Error typing
  • Very difficult task
    • multiple errors can be compounded
    • often easy to say there’s an error, but which error is it, eg The boys runs
  • Error classification can be contentious
  • Even saying something is wrong can be debatable
  • Grammatical errors more or less straightforward
  • Meaning errors difficult to spot
  • Even more difficult: annotating matters of style, nuance, etc.
use of learner corpora
Use of learner corpora
  • Research over- or underuse of particular constructuions or word(group)s
  • Identify lexical errors to help in compilation of learners’ dictionaries
  • Identification of generic L2 errors vs L1-influenced errors

S Granger (ed) Learner English on Computer, London (1998): Longman

S Granger, J Hung & S Petch-Tyson (eds) Computer Learner Corpora, Second

Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Teaching, Amsterdam (2002): John Benjamins