The corpus of Electronic language has providing pedagogical materials and an important source in language teaching. This paper is tackling using corpora in English for Specific Proposes just as corpus-based materials and tools and programmes. It also outlines advantages of using corpora and teacher’s and listener’s role and using corpora in ESP teaching. Finally, it discusses the different methodologies of using corpora in English for Specific Proposes.
A linguistic corpus is “any body of text” (McEnery & Wilson, 2001, p. 197) a set of texts or extracts of texts that are compiled to do a linguistic analysis. It was already in use as corpora before 1950 with a variety of targets: The learning of languages, grammar and syntax and semantics. But between the 1950’s and 1960’s the original theories of Chomsky about competence and performance, led to a change in linguistic approaches. Chomsky conceived the grammar “as an idealized description of the linguistic competence of native speakers of that language” (Lyons, 1970, p. 85). Before Chomsky it was used an empirical approach to the linguistic studies. Chomsky proposed a rationalist method and suggested that the corpora would be never useful for the linguists since corpora were focused on competence. So, many linguists directed all their efforts to performance. Introspection was converted in the main methodology of linguistic analysis so that the collection of statements seemed irrelevant.
However, the works with linguistic corpora went on, and in 1959 Randolph Quirk started The Survey of English Usage (one million, British, English, words, written and spoken); in 1961 Nelson Francis and Henry Kuèera started the compilation of corpus Brown (one million of Written American words); in 1975 Stig Johansson started the Lancaster – Oslo/Bergen Corpus (one million of English written words, parallel to the Brown corpus.
Between 1980 and 1990 and owed to the major advances in the field of technology the result was to compile a huge corpus. In English I would quote the Cobuild Bank of English, British National Corpus (BNC) and International Corpus of English (ICE).
John Sinclair was in charge of Cobuild corpus in 1987 and it marked a new lexicographic way although this work was possible thanks to the computer and its capacity to process the electronic word. Sinclair strengthened a method of research, the empiric perspective based in the observation of linguistic output. Thus making it comparative to Chomsky’s Generative Theory based on a cognitive perspective.
I. Advantages of using corpora in esp teaching
Study of Languages have experimented a notable development in last 15 years. English for Specific Purposes is aimed at mostly adult learners who need to learn a foreign language for use in specific fields, such as science, business, medicine, technology, or academic learning. During the last decade and a half has been increasing important that corpora have been used in teaching.
In language teaching the corpora offers new ways to learning and ensures that learners do not discover rules of natural language but, the characteristics of real language. Teachers can explore the corpora in the classroom in creative motivating classroom activities; to enhance their own and their learners linguistic understanding; to answer questions such as “What is the difference between “not” and “no”?; to create investigative homework activities or to promote learner autonomy (Keddie, 2006).
A corpus is something more than a dictionary. There are some pedagogical issues in its use, such as the direct access without mediation by the teacher; the strategies which learners can acquire from direct consultation.
Until a decade and a half ago, both learners and teachers relied on the materials of ESP as main source of vocabulary. With corpora, teachers have found that by producing their own materials they can improve their learner’s proficiency (Cotter, 2006). One of the greatest advantages to use corpora is the huge possibilities offered such as collocations, colligations or other semi-prefabricated phrases (Granger, 1997). Fliggelstone (1993, p.98) proposes a basic framework for “the factors relevant to good teaching practices” -it suggested by Angela Chambers- grouping these corpora in three categories:
TEACHING TO EXPLOIT (i.e. teaching students)
TEACHING TO TEACH (i.e. exploiting corpus resources)
Corpora can be used in laboratory session, lectures or researching. To encourage students to use corpora and technology, together with textbooks, grammar and vocabulary is today an educational demand, although at the moment its use is limited. With corpora, students can practise the language in use through a great variety of examples and teachers can improve the quality of their materials. In this sense, it is being used Pragmatical in language teaching, with particular regard to the use of language. With corpora students can acquire a best use denoted by the intonation and other elements such as intention of speaker, the named acts of speech pointed out by Searle (Searle, 1969).
II. Teacher’s and learner’s role in using corpora in esp teaching
Without doubts, the use of corpora in classroom has helped to define teacher’s and learner’s role. The role of teachers is to be as facilitators, guides and co-researchers (Gabrielatos, 2005) and it is encouraging both teachers and learners to acquire new skills. Teachers and learners can modify direction of learning according to their necessities. Learners might be trained to use corpus software (Bernardini, 2002) and might feel familiarized with corpora (Leech, 1997). And teachers might be informed about corpus and software as well, because teachers might be a guide in the methods of learning that students may employ in research and their acquisition of understanding.
III. Discussing methodologies of using corpora in esp teaching
The use of corpora is not restricted to one single teaching methodology. The use of corpora in both hard and soft versions is compatible with other methodologies.
Last decades have seen the development of huge amount of software (encyclopaedia, courses of interactive languages, grammatical correctors); researching in this field is continuous and there are better programmes every day. Word processors allow us to use and manipulate texts easily.
Like Cobb says several researches are spending time to devising methods of analyzing and interpreting large bodies of electronic writing (Cobb, 2003). Learners not only get to know lexical separately, but also to know how combine those units. Sinclair (Sinclair, 1991:170)) speaks about collocations as “The occurrence of two of more words within a sort space of each other”. The easiest way to discover these collocations is to check repetitions in text. By this way learners will shape their mental lexicon (Cotter, 2006).
Another methodology it would be compiling and exploring a thematic corpus like Cotter suggests in her study about Language for Business. It also can be used corpora to make exercises. So teachers can use this terminology for their proposals. But it is also useful for learners. Gabrielatos also suggest that corpus examples can offer an explicit presentation of features of language. Maybe sometimes they are not available for all teaching context. Teachers and software developers will might to modify examples given to learners (Gabrielatos, 2005). Corpora are useful to know the frequency of features language in several contexts. Concordance programs work with the methodology of corpora and corpora offer an extraordinary example of variety of language, genre or medium (Gabrielatos, 2005).
The concordance activities are crucial for an appropriate collection of contrasted items, but a multidisciplinary framework is also necessary in ESP (Dudley-Evans & St. John, 1998). Dudley Evans (Evans, unknown date) suggests the study of genre as a key to a theory of ESP. ESP has adopted several approach to text analysis such as analysis & key grammatical elements of scientific communication (Barber, 1962; Swales, 1971), rhetorical analysis (Trimble, 1975), the functional/notional approach together with the textbooks The Nucleos Series (Bates and Dudley-Evans, 1976) and The Focus Series (Allen and Widdowson, 1974) until the genre analysis (Swales, 1990; Bhatia, 1993).
The Swales’s model has had an important influence on genre analysis in ESP and on teaching of Academic Writing (Dudley-Evans, unknown date). Hyland says that an understanding of hedges will be really useful in ESP. But what is hedging? -asks Hyland. Lakoff (1972) was the first one to use this term. Hedgings are lexical and strategic marks. The concept has received more attention in casual conversation; it is more often in spoken language and it helps to get a convivial atmosphere. It seems to be working well in scientific speech. Hedges are used by Hyland in his corpus.
As conclusion, corpus-based linguistic research has provided clear and accurate descriptions of native language and it is really useful in teaching and learning. There is an ease of access to corpora thanks to web and new software. And development of tools is continuing to improve its accessibility.
Corpora have helped to redefine teacher’s and learner’s roles. It has sorted learner’s necessities out and it has improved the materials of teachers.
Since 1987 when was published the Collins Cobuild corpora are being used for learning languages. Both teachers and listeners have become great consumers of educational products as corpora. It is necessary to sort out, that few teachers make clear its use, or its meaning for teaching (Gabrielatos, 2005).
Despite of enthusiastic acceptance of some teachers few of them trust in its use.
The main reason could be that they did not use corpora in their own experience of education, because they did not have access to the appropriate software, and they did not understand its potential. They did not have enough time to develop materials and they did not have enough trust in using computers to make linguistic analysis. Others simply were unaware of it.
But corpus linguistics can enter in classroom by different ways. Teachers, who not have necessary technical equipment to work with corpora, may still use teaching materials based on corpora. On the whole, many studies suggest that corpora consultation as a language-learning activity has many positive features (Chambers, 2005). Maybe the great disadvantage was the size and nature of corpus that at the beginning is perceived as a hard work for learners. It would have to look for a balance between them. Maybe the answer is in a good training.
Probably use of corpora and computer tools in teaching of English for specific purposes is not the permanent answer for all problems but I think it is a powerful tool that it may offer us the choice to stir up the ESP language and to improve teacher’s and learner’s roles in classroom.
We need a wider range of corpora, with a process more elaborated to incorporate them in syllabus and materials design (Sylviane Granger, unknown date). There are signals that show us that things are changing but we might to go on working to improve our research.