Using corpora in our teaching: what is available and how can we best use it?
A quick word for the uninitiated! ELTChat is a twitter-based forum where keen ELTers meet on Wednesday morning and/or evening (depending on just HOW keen they are) and hotly debate a voted-for topic.
After which, some kind (if misguided) soul offers to write a summary of the chat, its pert points and lusty links.
So here’s what happened on Wednesday morning at 12pm GMT…
Many of us have either fallen in love with corpora or looked at them and gone, “wow, cool… err… now how on earth could I use that in class…?” Well fear not! ELT Chat is here to save the day – with ideas and links galore… millions of links, in fact…
Although Marisa Constantinides’ “smiley” emoticon was charitably humouring my calling Wednesday morning’s ELT Chat “linktastic” (I’ll get my coat) it kinda was. People seemed to be hitting the “paste” key as frequently as they were the “eltchat” hashtag.
This at least demonstrated the awareness of material out in the big wide webby world, and gave everyone (as now I give to you) a smorgasbord of yummy material to get browsing through for your classes.
Below is the summary, with the categorised links at the end of the text.
How to use corpora
This was the “show me the money!” moment…while many of us had seen and used corpora, there was some confusion about HOW to use them effectively.
A summary of the ideas and points raised:
Ideas for general use:
- Many use corpora for teacher training but not so often with students – why?
- Useful if the student asks a question about a word in a very specific situation and the teacher is not sure which way is most common.
- Checking intuitions for academic English and translation.
- We needn’t get too academic – Google is one of the best corpora around, put in the word or phrase, hit search and students can see the item in context. Although a little dodgy for younger learners as they could end up being directed to sites with more “X”s in them than most words do.
- For EAP students – when they want to check if the verb+noun combo in their essay is correct or not.
- For EAP/ESP – take most common collocation from business corpus and ask students to discuss why they are the most common. And discussion on the intonation of these common expressions.
- Ask students to choose 5 collocations from a text, then look to see how common/useful etc they are.
- Incorrect collocations infogap – one learner has list of collocations, one learner has error-strewn text.
- Get students to write up a corpus of their teacher to find the most common expression you use!
- Just record one single lesson and tell them to create a corpus of common errors.
Dictionaries vs. concordances
- Much more cognitive value so vocabulary is going to stick.
- Dictionaries can be used with concordances to give students many in-context examples and then personalise them.
So a tricky topic but well executed – many thanks to all involved!
We even behaved ourselves when Shaun was out of the room dealing with a plumber.
A final thought… if corpus data reflects authentic use… and authentic use is not necessarily correct… are we causing problems for our students?
And now the promised links…
Articles on using corpora
Article on using corpora and whether it’s just a fad
Using corpus to write teaching materials – article
Jamie Keddie on the what and the how of corpora
Article by Nik Peachy on using concordancers
Article re. how to use the American English online corpus
Using concordancers in the classroom – how and why
Using a concordancer to create a vocabulary syllabus
List of corpora
British national corpus
Spoken language corpus
Massive corpus from Princeton
This website lets you search and browse pedagogic corpora in 7 European languages.
British National corpus base but more user-friendly
List of learner corpora around the world
Wide selection of concordance links
Bookmarks for corpus-based linguistics
Visual representation thesaurus
Corpus of academic spoken English
Great concordancer for learners – words in context with their collocations
Collection of spoken English
Concordancer with filters
Concordancer that compares two expressions – which is right and which is wrong?
Funny but useful:
21 English accents
US vs. Brit English accents
A dictionary of very, very modern English