English language corpora in the foreign language classroom

What does corpus linguistics have to offer to foreign language teaching?

The link between findings of corpus-based research and (foreign) language teaching is that corpus evidence suggests which language items and processes are most likely to be encountered by language users (what is frequent and typical) and may thus deserve more time in classroom instruction. Corpora and corpus-data

  • help teachers and students make better informed decisions and improve teaching material to become more authentic, i.e. representative of contemporary usage. Traditional textbooks often include simplified, non-authentic English and invented sentences which rarely, if at all, occur in natural speech situations.
  • provide "real English" and reveal what native speakers typically write or say in natural discourse as to
    • lexical co-occurrence patterns (collocation, colligation, semantic prosody)
    • the most common meaning if a word has several senses
    • items that are frequent in or across different text types
  • help students to develop their own descriptive and analytical skills which improves language awareness.

Corpora in the classroom: Data-driven learning (DLL)

Corpora and corpus material can be used in the classroom in several ways. For instance, teachers can use computer-generated concordances and develop activities and exercises to have students explore regularities of patterning in the target language. DDL activities can range from teacher-led and relatively closed concordance-based exercises to entirely learner-centred corpus-browsing projects which involve a high degree of learner autonomy.

For two examples of learner-centered, inductive exercises, click on the links in the menu to your left.

» Selected readings: Corpora in foreign language learning and teaching

  • Aijmer, Karin, ed. (2009), Corpora and Language Teaching. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Aston, Guy (2001), "Learning with corpora: An overview", in Aston, Guy et al. (eds.), Learning with Corpora. Bologna: CLUEB, 7-45.
  • Aston, Guy et al., eds. (2004), Corpora and Language Learners. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Gavioli, Laura & Aston, Guy (2001), "Enriching reality: Language corpora in language pedagogy", ELT Journal 55:3, 238-446.
  • Kettemann, Bernhard & Georg Marko, eds. (2002), Teaching and Learning by Doing Corpus Analysis. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Mukherjee, Joybrato (2002), Korpuslinguistik und Englischunterricht. Eine Einführung. Frankfurt/Main: Lang.
  • Mukherjee, Joybrato (2006), "Corpus linguistics and language peadagogy: The state of the art - and beyond", in Braun, Sabine et al. (eds.), Corpus Technology and Language Pedagogy: New Resources, New Tools, New Methods. Frankfurt/Main: Lang, 5-24.

» Selected links (external)