Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Empirical Study on Corpus-Driven English Vocabulary Learning in China

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Empirical Study on Corpus-Driven English Vocabulary Learning in China

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper focuses on the autonomous English vocabulary learning in corpus-based contexts. Language teaching practice is becoming more learner-centered in the field of language teaching, learner autonomy has been an ongoing concern of foreign language educators in china. As an assistant tool in language learning, corpus makes an easy and quick analysis of the greatest amounts of linguistic data possible, and the learners are provided with a new approach to learn a language independently. The empirical study explored the aspects in which corpus can be applied in English vocabulary learning were investigated and illustrated. At the end of the research, a questionnaire was designed and answered to test the effectiveness of the learning model.

Kewwords: Corpus, Vocabulary learning, Learner autonomy, Effectiveness

1. Background of the Study

The development of individualized study methods and the autonomous learning ability on part of the students is an important indicator of the successful reform of the teaching model in the past decade in China. As one of the major components of language system, vocabulary is especially essential for English as Foreign Language (henceforth EFL) learners (Lewis, 2000). Chinese college students generally believe that the learning of large amount of vocabulary is one of the most challenging as well as necessary tasks. Among various approaches that contribute to vocabulary acquisition, corpus is one of the latest and most enlightening, for a corpus makes an easy and quick analysis of great amounts of linguistic data possible(Sinclair, 2003).

The application of the computer corpus in the EFL teaching and learning has marked a fundamental shift both in methodology and in ideology with regard to linguistic studies and language learning. With constructivism as the guidance, the vocabulary teaching method based on corpus helps to develop students' autonomous learning ability. As an assistant tool in language education, corpus is a new study field in applied linguistics in China. Based on a large collection of authentic materials and advanced soft wares, corpus makes an easy and quick analysis of the greatest amounts of linguistic data possible, and the learners are provided with a new approach to learn a language independently. This is an empirical study into the application of corpus-driven approach in vocabulary teaching and learning based on a conduct in two classes, and it is intended to tap into the promotion of the new autonomous learning model.

Likewise, many non-native learners of English admit that once they have exceeded the initial stages of language acquisition, they often regard vocabulary learning as "their greatest single source of problems" (Halliday, 2004)). For the Chinese learners of English, vocabulary has always been a challenging as well as necessary task in their study. According to a survey on Chinese college students, 67.8% of them regard vocabulary as the most difficult part in language learning, and 97.46% think their progress in vocabulary during middle school is rather limited (Jiao 2008). Therefore, how to select the words to learn, how to teach and learn vocabulary efficiently and accurately and how to avoid making mistakes in vocabulary constitute a question that language teachers and learners must consider and study carefully. In all, the application of the corpus in vocabulary learning which I described in the following is part of the outcomes of the empirical research.

2. Software and Corpora Involved in the Study

Program used in the study mainly is Wordsmith Version 4.0. Wordsmith was developed by Mike Scott (1996).

Wordsmith Tools is an integrated suite of programs for looking at how words behave in texts. You will be able to use tools to find out how words are used in your own texts, or those of others. The Wordlist tool lets you see a list of all the words or word-clusters in a text, set out in alphabetical or frequency order. …

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