Sử dụng khối liệu ngôn ngữ trong lớp học ngoại ngữ: Sử dụng diễn ngôn từ khối liệu tiếng Anh để giảng dạy các phương tiện liên kết trong kỹ năng viết

Khối liệu tiếng Anh là một nguồn văn bản thực tế phong phú có thể được khai thác hữu hiệu trong quá trình giảng dạy tiếng Anh. Người học có thể được hướng dẫn phân tích các diễn ngôn từ khối liệu nhằm phát hiện ra cách sử dụng các hiện tượng ngôn ngữ trong bài học. Từ đó, người học phát huy được tính độc lập trong học tập. Ở Việt Nam, các khối liệu trực tuyến có thể phát huy được nhiều tác dụng hơn vì các diễn ngôn được cập nhật thường xuyên có thể cho biết những xu hướng sử dụng ngôn ngữ hiện đại. Mục đích của bài viết này là gợi ý một số hoạt động sử dụng một số khối liệu thông dụng trong giảng dạy các phương tiện liên kết trong kỹ năng viết tiếng Anh. Ngoài ra, tác giả cũng đưa ra một số hoạt động tự học nhằm khai thác các khối liệu sẵn có cho người học.

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Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 735 SỬ DỤNG KHỐI LIỆU NGÔN NGỮ TRONG LỚP HỌC NGOẠI NGỮ: SỬ DỤNG DIỄN NGÔN TỪ KHỐI LIỆU TIẾNG ANH ĐỂ GIẢNG DẠY CÁC PHƯƠNG TIỆN LIÊN KẾT TRONG KỸ NĂNG VIẾT Bùi Th Bích Thy Trường Đại học Sư phạm Hà Nội Tóm t t: Khối liệu tiếng Anh là một nguồn văn bản thực tế phong phú có thể được khai thác hữu hiệu trong quá trình giảng dạy tiếng Anh. Người học có thể được hướng dẫn phân tích các diễn ngôn từ khối liệu nhằm phát hiện ra cách sử dụng các hiện tượng ngôn ngữ trong bài học. Từ đó, người học phát huy được tính độc lập trong học tập. Ở Việt Nam, các khối liệu trực tuyến có thể phát huy được nhiều tác dụng hơn vì các diễn ngôn được cập nhật thường xuyên có thể cho biết những xu hướng sử dụng ngôn ngữ hiện đại. Mục đích của bài viết này là gợi ý một số hoạt động sử dụng một số khối liệu thông dụng trong giảng dạy các phương tiện liên kết trong kỹ năng viết tiếng Anh. Ngoài ra, tác giả cũng đưa ra một số hoạt động tự học nhằm khai thác các khối liệu sẵn có cho người học. Abstract: Corpora should be treated as good sources of authentic texts which can play the part of a structured input for processing instruction approach in teaching English. This means students can analyze corpus-based discourses chosen by their teachers to figure out the usage of the target points. This will, as a result, turn them into more autonomous learners. Moreover, in Vietnamese EFL context, online corpora can be of more significant value since they can show the modern trends of using English words and phrases, which English books published long ago cannot. Therefore, this paper will recommend feasible activities teachers can use to teach linking devices in their writing lessons by exploiting some popular corpora and corpus tools. Ideas of tasks which can be employed for students’ self-study are also suggested. BRINGING CORPORA INTO LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS: USING ENGLISH CORPUS-BASED DISCOURSES TO TEACH LINKING DEVICES IN FORMAL WRITING LESSONS Introduction Although corpus linguistics has developed for the last few decades and the exploitation of corpora for classroom uses started to be researched and acknowledged as early as almost 30 years ago (Varley, 2008), there is still a wide gap between the potentials of corpora in the teaching and learning process and what has actually been done by teachers and learners. In his survey on classroom use of corpora in 2001, Tribble found a modest percentage of only 52.8% among the 89 respondents on Linguist List (www.linguistlist.org) who shared that they had used corpora in their teaching. This percentage can hardly be considered high as the practitioners in this list only account for a minority of language teachers and they are far more likely to know about corpora than the average ones. Besides, as pointed out by Frankenberg-Garcia (2012), many EFL language teachers have been using corpus- based resources such as dictionaries, grammars and textbooks without actually knowing what a corpus is. This is in line with Mukherjee (2004)’s survey result when 248 secondary school teachers in Germany were interviewed and 80% of the respondents had never heard of corpora. There is much likelihood that the case is similar in Vietnamese teaching context where the utility of technology in general and corpora in particular in language teaching is still restricted owing to various factors. From another perspective, the development of Ti u ban 5: #ng d$ng công ngh và thit b trong ging dy và nghiên c%u v ngoi ng 736 writing skill, just like the other productive skill of speaking, should, to a reasonable extent, result from the accumulative exposure to the native-style pieces of writing. This is probably because “writing can be a slow, painful process even in our mother tongue, but when it is in a second language the problems (and the pain) are magnified” (Gilmore, 2009, p. 363). One possible approach teachers can do to ease this pain for students is to make use of valuable online sources of authentic materials in the target language. This paper aims at revisiting both the benefits and challenges of using corpora in language classrooms and suggesting adaptable corpus-based teaching and learning activities to facilitate students’ acquisition and application of connectors in formal writing. An Overview of Corpora As defined by McEnery & Wilson (2001, p.197), a corpus is “a finite collection of machine- readable texts, sampled to be maximally representative of a language or variety”. Reppen (2010) confirmed and added to this definition by stating that a corpus is “a large, principled collection of naturally occurring texts (written or spoken) stored electrically” (p. 2). In this, “naturally occurring texts” refer to the language taken from actual situations, and “a principled collection” emphasizes the fact that the design of a corpus and the collection of texts are shaped and guided by the goals of the researcher or teacher. Moreover, the texts chosen need to represent the type of language aimed for each certain corpus. Corpora can fall into different categories according to the purposes they serve. As summarized by Gabrielatos (2005), depending on the philosophies behind their design, corpora can be reference with a fixed size (e.g. the British National Corpus) or monitor ones where texts can be continuously added. Another design-related classifying way leads to corpora with whole texts or samples. Based on their language content, corpora can be general with a large range of text types or specialized with specific contexts and users (e.g., Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English). Other categorizations can result in native or non-native (learner) corpora, monolingual or multilingual corpora. Therefore, it can be inferred that language researchers and teachers have a relatively wide range of choices to take advantage of different corpora to serve their various purposes. (See figure 1 below) Figure 1: An illustration of different kinds of corpora Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 737 Benefits and Challenges of Using Corpora in Language Teaching The insufficient popularity of corpora among language teachers so far can possibly be explained by the existence of both the merits and demerits of the exploitation of corpora in language classrooms. First and foremost, as Aston (1997) concluded, corpora could significantly enrich the learning environment by providing learners exposure to a large body of authentic language and the opportunities to observe regularities in it. The insightful studies into native-speaker corpora can lead to more accurate language description, which, in its turn, will better inform the compilation of textbooks and dictionaries. Besides, the collection of a huge number of texts of different genres longitudinally can as well help researchers to recognize the continuous evolution of a language. Likewise, the investigation into learner corpora can bring about the understanding of language learning processes (Granger et al., 2002; Tribble & Jones, 1990). The use of learner corpora was divided by Granger (2009) into immediate pedagogical use (IPU) and delayed pedagogical use (DPU). While the former focuses on the collection of learners’ works by teachers to diagnose the common strengths and weaknesses of their own students, the latter emphasizes the benefits to researchers and publishers in syllabus and material design. In a nutshell, the use of corpora can bring learners the engagement in meaningful activities of manipulating language, which will undoubtedly help them learn more and retain longer (Reppen, 2010). These are the benefits of the inductive, discovery and data- driven learning that corpora can bring about. (See figure 2 below) Figure 2: An illustration of the correlation between corpora and ELT (Source: Gabrielatos, 2005, p. 5) On the other hand, there are obstacles to the wide use of different language corpora in language classrooms. The first point is the requirement of students’ adequate proficiency level of the target language to take part in discovery-learning tasks. Maddalena (2001) found out in her study that students were not used to the teaching approach in which they are supposed to analyze the texts to find out the rules before being instructed by the teacher, i.e. inductive teaching. Furthermore, as illustrated by Lee (2011), when working with a large-sized corpus, learners can find themselves alone and overwhelmed by hundreds of concordance lines which can sometimes be “messy, ambiguous and even misleading” (p. 164). The issue can be further compounded by Widdowson (2000; 2003)’s claim that language in corpora can be genuine, but it is not authentic as the language segments are separated from discoursal and communicative nature of language. In other words, sometimes it may be hard for Ti u ban 5: #ng d$ng công ngh và thit b trong ging dy và nghiên c%u v ngoi ng 738 learners to figure out the contexts, especially with spoken discourses. Secondly, a corpus is not a textbook or a ready- made material. It is just an abundant and authentic language resource for teachers to exploit. This exploitation requires teachers’ time and effort to understand corpora technically, so that they can design appropriate and relevant classroom tasks and materials. Thus, Widdowson (2003) asserted that the frequency data provided by corpora should not be the only criterion for pedagogical decisions, and teachers should take into consideration other crucial factors such as learners’ ability, proficiency levels as well as the teaching objectives, facilities and the curriculum, etc. Last but not least, Lee (2011) listed out some other practical issues that hinder the widespread of corpus use among language teachers. Those issues include the insufficient user-friendliness of available online corpora, the unfamiliarity of teachers with the process of interpreting and analyzing corpus data (i.e., preselecting, modifying, simplifying or reducing the data, etc.) to make it more pedagogically relevant, and the possible restraints on school curricular requirements. In summary, as Breyer (2008) attested in her study, the teacher plays a crucial role in using corpora in classrooms and both teachers and students need to be trained to use corpora for their teaching and learning process. The training may entail the steps of how to choose the right and useful corpus, how to form plausible queries and how to interpret the results. (Frankenberg-Garcia, 2012) Exploiting Existing Corpora in Writing Classrooms Choosing the appropriate corpus The first and foremost thing a novice user should do, as suggested by Frankenberg-Garcia (2012), is to decide on an appropriate corpus to be used. Teachers may find it challenging to glean that corpora do not work in the same way as the familiar language learning resources they are used to such as dictionaries, grammar books and textbooks. Therefore, “awareness that different corpora use different criteria for text selection is also important” (Frankenberg-Garcia, 2012, p. 478). As aforementioned, there are a wide range of types of corpora existing and the number is increasing rapidly. For the purpose of this paper, I would like to recommend the two general corpora: the BNC (British Nation Corpus) via the Simple Search service provided by the British Library and Mark Davies’s BYU interface (Davies 2004), and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), also developed by Mark Davies (Davies, 2008) together with a very useful corpus tool, namely Tom Cobb (1999)’s Compleat Lexical Tutor. The two mentioned corpora provide a large database of texts in different genres of both spoken and written English, while the Tom Cobb’s corpus tool is highly recommended to EAP teachers and learners with easy-to-use tools to design vocabulary exercises. For a writing class, teachers can further explore other corpora solely focused on written discourses in the annotated list of corpora and corpus tools at the end of this paper. The issue of linking devices in teaching writing skill As regards the skill of academic writing, one of the most important factors to make a piece of writing academic is the coherence and cohesion mostly resulting from the effective use of academic connectors, or linking adverbials. By overtly signaling the connections among the arguments being made, the appropriate use of connectors can bring about a stronger and more persuasive piece of writing. (Mauranen, 1993). However, the lessons on connectors are far from merely providing students with a list of connectors and their meanings. As obvious as it may be, rote learning can lead to students’ misuse or non-use of the words due to their L1 interference or the lack of exposure to authentic samples. In a recent study, Garner (2013) raised the issue of language learners misusing linking Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 739 adverbials semantically and stylistically. One of the main reasons for this is the traditional instruction of linking adverbials in many textbooks which supplies learners with simple lists of supposedly interchangeable connective devices with little notice of slight differences in meaning and register variation (Crewe, 1990). These shortcomings can also be seen among Vietnamese learners. Judging from my own experience of teaching writing, I can see some common problems among my students’ writing, including the lack of cohesive devices when needed and the confusing use of colloquial connectors instead of academic ones. In search of a plausible approach to tackle this problem, Garner (2013) carried out a study to compare the effect of introducing data-driven learning (DDL) techniques to learners in teaching linking adverbials with the traditional instruction. The results indicate that DDL enhance students’ acquisition and usage of linking devices both semantically and stylistically. This lent support to the previous claims by Nation (2001) that DDL can provide learners with real and multiple contexts and can, therefore, deepen their knowledge of the lexical items they encounter in aspects of not only forms and meanings but also phraseology, collocations and register appropriateness. In addition, this approach was advocated by Tom Cobb (1999)’s study outcome indicating that students equipped with techniques to interpret concordance lines from corpora could use the obtained knowledge productively in both the short-term weekly quizzes and the long-term post-test. In brief, despite some above-discussed challenges in bringing corpora into writing classrooms, teachers, as coordinators to their students, can definitely make wise choices of corpus data to assist learners’ discovery learning which, in its turn, aids their retention and generation of linking adverbials. Therefore, the second part of this paper will give a list of suggested activities that can be used in classrooms to achieve this purpose. Recommended corpus-based activities to teach linking devices Teachers can make a word list of the connectors to be taught or the problematic ones recognized in learners’ pieces of writing before proceeding with these activities. Activity 1: Deducing the meaning of chosen connectors By giving students contextual clues and asking them to figure out the meaning of the connectors, teachers can make the process of deduction an intriguing problem-solving task (Tribble & Jones, 1990). Apart from the meaning, in the specific cases of connectors, students can also study the possible positions of the items in sentences used by native speakers. (Figure 3 can illustrate the flexibility of the connector ‘for example’) One of the observable phenomena among Vietnamese learners is that they tend to use most of connectors at the beginning of the sentences, without recognizing that the use of certain connectors in the middle of sentences can make sentences more natural. Figure 3 Activity 2: Deducing the grammatical features of chosen connectors The correct use of a connector depends on not only the grasp of its meaning but also the understanding of its grammatical functions. Figure 4 below gives a group of examples of ‘due to’. With specific designed tasks, teachers can ask students to work either in groups or individually to Ti u ban 5: #ng d$ng công ngh và thit b trong ging dy và nghiên c%u v ngoi ng 740 work out the language items that follow the connector ‘due to’ – a noun, a noun phrase, or a gerund. Once again, teachers’ role in selecting and simplifying raw concordance data needs to be highlighted. Basing on their students’ levels, teachers need to choose the appropriate corpora to make sure that the language is not out of their students’ depths. The Compleat Lexical Tutor provides a wide range of choice including 2000 word list corpus, BNC written corpus, University word list corpus, or 2k graded corpus. Figure 4 Activity 3: Differentiating the almost synonymous connectors In many off-the-peg writing materials, linking devices are grouped according to their meanings. For example, they can fall into groups of contrast, consequence, addition, example, reason, and so on. This may mislead learners to the simplistic assumption that these connectors can be used interchangeably. Thus, if learners are given enough authentic examples to work with, they can have opportunities to dig deep into the contexts and figure out the subtle differences between connectors in the same group. To illustrate, the above sentences with ‘due to’ can be used together with the below examples of ‘because of’ (Figure 5). Learners can be instructed to study the contexts and make conclusions about the grammatical functions of ‘because of’, then compare with the ‘due to’ group to identify the difference in the usage of these two connectors. As can be seen from these contexts, ‘due to’ is used more frequently to indicate reasons for negative consequences, while ‘because of’ has more neutral meaning. With larger data, learners can even recognize a higher frequency of ‘due to’ after the verb ‘to be’ than its counterpart. Figure 5 Activity 4: Identifying different meanings or different functions of the same items There are some connectors which have multiple meanings. One example is ‘since’, which can be both a time and reason connector. It can be a good idea to give students separate clusters of examples of each meaning, so that they can discover the different meanings of the connector. Alternatively, contexts can be mixed up, and students are required to differentiate the meaning of ‘since’ in each sentence. (Figure 6) Figure 6 Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 741 Activity 5: Comparing connectors used in different writing genres Another common mistake Vietnamese students’ use of linking devices is probably the use of colloquial items in formal writing. Therefore, exposing students to discourses of different genres can be of great significance in raising their awareness of the need to use appropriate connectors for different registers. One simple way to fulfill this purpose is to employ the frequency sta
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