Rhian Webb

    The most immediate thing that sprung to mind when reading this article is,  thank goodness someone has written such a clear, concise, thought-provoking and truly illuminating discussion on using corpus-based learning activities. What a treasure offered to us from the author, Ms. Frankenberg-Garcia, and also a great find from our course tutors. So thank you for that! I have learnt so much from reading that article, much of which I have in common with my peers from having read their posts.

    As I read the article and reflected on my own teaching experiences with learners, some methods of instruction jumped off the page, such as, enquiry-based instruction, guided discovery learning (and teaching), and my all time favourite, exploratory practice. The latter promotes the idea that learners’ questions should be embraced and fully explored & supported by the instructor as much as possible given the confines or limitations of a language course/programme. For some years now, I have been asking my students to frame/pose their questions about language starting with ‘why……’ (rather than what or how), and so when I read the article where the author provided examples learners could ask, such as, ‘How can I say _____________ in English? What _________ can I use here? Is _______ right?’ I thought ‘yes!’ learners can also add another question, ‘Why ____________?’ Especially after I have provided them with written /oral feedback. They could ask a question like ‘why is this word/phrase wrong?’  Often I don’t have sufficient time to go into lots of detail about why the specific language they have used is inappropriate or unnatural in English. If I pointed out that they have an authentic purpose and reason to find out for themselves using a corpus tool, then I can imagine that in their own time to explore, and with growing confidence, I believe that corpus querying will complement my feedback and perhaps even improve upon it. I would love for learners to tell me and their peers that they checked out why something is or isn’t and that they know more about it than I do! What a wonderful way for learners to teach the teacher! This brings me to the realisation, which is, engaging students with corpus tools (as and when it is required or when the teaching input lends itself to this type of activity) really can be transformative for the learner and teacher.  Not only does corpus-based language instruction and activities facilitate recall, boost incidental learning, promote learner engagement and autonomy but it also offers the possibility of a unique personalised learning experience, which can transform the learner’s relationship with the target language. All those frustrating attempts to master a word or phrase and all those mysteries surrounding the foreign language can, over time and with sustained effort, become a thing of the past for the foreign language learner. This is quite a revelation for me, and I hope to pass this onto to my students!