Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Natural Language


By Agung Kristianto, ELL Instructor at MCC

I attended a workshop facilitated by Dr. Randi Reppen at the MIDTESOL Conference. In this workshop, she focused on the use of corpus research (research on large collection of natural language) to inform language teaching decisions and resource in the language classroom. She also proposed the use of corpora as a resource for material development and student activities. She started the workshop with providing the rationale of using corpora for vocabulary and grammar instruction. She claims that using corpora can provide insights into language use where intuition fails. In addition, she believes that corpora can serve as teaching materials by providing examples of authentic language.  Then, she continued to share some online corpus and corpus softwares. Some example of free online corpora are COCA (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/) , Word and Phrase (focused on academic language, http://www.wordandphrase.info/), MICASE (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/c/corpus/corpus?page=home;c=micase;cc=micase), and Wikipedia corpus (http://corpus.byu.edu/wikipedia.asp). Whereas, some example of corpus software are Monoconc, Ant Conc, and Word Smith.

Having shown some basic functions and features from some of the above corpora, she proposed that the use of corpora may also help English language learners’ vocabulary acquisition in the following areas: lexical verbs such as irregular verbs, affixes, multi word and single word verbs, and collocation. In addition, using corpora can provide a language teacher with example of patterns such as the use of preposition ‘in’ and ‘of’.

Additionally, in this workshop the facilitator showed how corpora can inform language teacher the most frequent verbs used in English that both are irregular verbs and have multiple meanings. Therefore, acquisition of these lexical verbs can be challenging for English learners. Thus, using corpora may inform teacher with some ideas and authentic language examples to deal with this particular challenge. Another example the facilitator mentioned was the use of corpora to provide advanced language learner in academic writing skills improvement. She gave an example of how corpora can serve English language learners to find better collocation. Finally, she encourages language teachers to explore and use corpora as one tool that can be useful in helping English language teachers and learners in the area of vocabulary and grammar acquisition.

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