EUROCALL 2014

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Japanese Learners’ Attitudes towards Online Corpora

As computers and the Web have come to be used more widely into the classroom than before, corpora have become important materials and resources for language teachers and learners. Corpora, the plural form of corpus, enable them to analyze language patterns and structures, therefore, help them become more aware of language use of various forms and assist the instructor in understanding the texts they use in the classroom objectively. Since a corpus called the Bank of EnglishTM was developed for the publication of Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary, different types of corpora have been created. Many of these corpora were utilized for dictionary compilation, and such dictionaries include Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus and Longman Language Activator. Other corpora include the British National Corpus (BNC) and Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), both of which are large corpora of modern naturally occurring language in the form of speech and text. The use of computers in the classroom has also allowed the instructor to compile and utilize a corpus, such as a web-derived corpus (Hirata & Hirata, 2007). Other types of corpora include small genre-specific corpora derived from newspapers, magazines and novels, parallel corpora such as Paraconc (Chujo & Kathryn, 2012) as well as learner corpora (Lee & Swales, 2006). Since the merge of language teaching and learning through the use of corpora is rather a new development, not much research has been conducted regarding how these different corpora can be best used for learners to facilitate their language learning. There is little research addressing what kinds of corpora could be recommended to learners who want to improve their language skills.

The study examines how learners in Japanese university settings perceive different types of online corpora for their English study. It focuses on their assessment of the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English and investigates to what extent each corpus facilitates learners’ understanding of the meanings and usages of target words as well as how to encourage them to appreciate the efficacy of corpora.

The findings provide considerable implications as to how to assist learners in utilizing corpora in the classroom. For example, one of such finding has suggested that, even though these corpora display distinctive characteristics, different types of learners perceive corpora in different ways, claiming that these two types have both advantages and disadvantages for their language study. In addition, teaching skills and techniques for using and evaluating online corpora are indispensable for instructors who want learners to utilize these kinds of language resources. More detailed explanation will be presented at the conference.

Author(s):

Yoko Hirata    
Faculty of Engineering
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Japan

Yoko Hirata is currently teaching English at Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan. She has been teaching EFL for more than ten years at secondary and tertiary levels. Her current research interests include corpus-based material development and computer-assisted language learning.

Yoshihiro Hirata    
Faculty of Engineering
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Japan

Yoshihiro Hirata is an associate professor at Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University. He received his PhD in electrical engineering from Hokkaido University, Sapporo, in 1992. He is interested in auditory signal processing and ICT application in classroom.

 

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