Using Corpora in the Language Classroom

Article excerpt

Using Corpora in the Language Classroom

Randi Reppen

2010

ISBN: 9780521146081

US $35.00

118 pp.

Cambridge University Press

New York, NY

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Corpus Linguistics has been shedding light on language for the last forty years. With the advent of the personal computer, researchers have been able to analyze and describe real language use and compare language use across genres. Beyond its usefulness for research, corpus linguistics has been growing in popularity among language educators as an additional tool for the classroom. Not all language educators are aware of the benefits of corpus linguistics, however, and those that are may feel intimidated by the technology or may simply not know how to incorporate it into their classroom. In her new book, Using Corpora in The Language Classroom, Randi Reppen invites language educators, whether they are familiar with corpus linguistics or not, to consider the value of this language tool and to learn about a variety of ways it may be useful in the language classroom.

The first chapter introduces key terms of corpus linguistics in a simple and approachable way and is targeted at educators who may be unfamiliar with terms such as corpora, concordances or "Key Word in Context" (KWIC) searches. In addition to describing these terms and tools, Reppen uses the first chapter to argue for the importance of corpus linguistics and the value of using it in the classroom. She briefly describes how corpus linguistics is being used to inform commercial textbooks and suggests several classroom activities that can be easily incorporated into teaching. These classroom activities are addressed in an almost skeletal format, intended to generate interest in the technology and to show a place for it in the classroom without overwhelming a new user.

Chapter Two continues the case for using corpus-informed materials and provides greater detail on a variety of readily available printed books and resources for investigating the target language. It highlights specific examples of general language features, lexical bundles and register comparisons from these resources that can be exploited by language educators when designing materials for their students. Reppen brings awareness to resources that are available as a result of previous corpus research and illustrates how to incorporate that information into teaching materials. Some brief examples of possible classroom lessons are shared in this chapter, though elaborate materials development is largely left as the responsibility of the educator. Chapter Two ends with a reference list for further reading about corpusbased research findings concerning English vocabulary, expressions, lexical bundles, and formulaic sequences.

Chapter Three makes the jump from providing general information about corpus linguistics and its classroom application, to detailing practical steps for exploring free online resources. The book outlines some resources that are designed for language educators and others that can be approachable for students as well. Reppen begins this chapter with a discussion of how to assess the quality of online resources so that educators may feel free to explore the Internet-and the wide variety of resources available to them--with a critical eye. From there, she introduces several approachable corpus-based online resources that educators and students can use to learn about English. Finally, she introduces three online corpora (Michigan Corpus of Contemporary American English; Corpus of Contemporary American English; and the Time Corpus) by describing their composition (spoken English, multiple register English, and academic English), as well as the resources that are available on their associated webpages. After providing a checklist of points to keep in mind when developing materials from corpus information, Reppen then highlights the strengths of each of the three corpora by leading readers through searches that highlight teachable points for classroom materials. …