Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Here’s a selection of links I compiled for our teachers following up on a workshop I ran on Friday 27th March. I showed them around a few online dictionaries and corpora, and we briefly talked about how students could make use of their notebooks to record language. I know there are many other useful resources, but this is what we managed in 60 minutes. Feel free to add them to the comments!

BYU corpus word feature screenshot

Dictionaries

http://www.oald8.com – Oxford. Good for having a really short link (!), clarity of information and layout, checking levels of words, finding out if words are academic (they have academic word lists), depth of information

https://www.macmillandictionary.com/ – Good for checking levels of words (3* = most common, 0* = not common at all), really new words (people can suggest additions), the ‘red words’ game

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/ Good for the Essential British English dictionary, some bilingual dictionaries, checking levels of words, the grammar reference

https://bab.la/ Polish-English bilingual – good for seeing example sentences in both Polish and English, starting to expose students to reading definitions in English (not just translations)

https://www.wordreference.com/ bilingual dictionaries in a range of languages – has some example sentences (though bab.la has more). The forums can be quite useful, though students should use them with caution as there are occasionally incorrect explanations.

Corpora

https://www.english-corpora.org/ has a collection of corpora. When choosing, think about the date the language was collected (how recent is it?), the sources (spoken/written/internet/balanced?), and the language varieties (British? international?)

Some of the functions are hidden behind the ‘more’ button on the search page.

  • List = examples of the language in use (these are called ‘concordance lines’)
  • Collocations = write the example word, then click POS to select the part of speech. The numbers tell you the positions before or after the word you want to search in. e.g. ‘depend’ + ______  PREP    L 0 + 2 R     gives you a search for prepositions that appear in the first and second position after ‘depend’. You can also put a specific word in the second search box, e.g. ‘depend’ + ‘on’    to only get results with that pair of words.
  • KWIC = Key Word in Context. The one that goes multi-coloured depending on what part of speech the word is.
  • Word = the one that I love 🙂 This function isn’t available in all of the corpora. It shows you everything: definition, synonyms for different meanings, topics, common chunks, collocations, and concodance lines. It also links you to the pronunciation of the word in different contexts on the three sites below:

http://playphrase.me/ clips from film/TV containing your word/phrase (though can’t see wider context) – good for comparing how a word/phrase sounds in different accents/voices

https://youglish.com/ pulls from YouTube videos. Gives link to whole video with phrase highlighted. Speed adjustable. Gives you pron tips below.

https://getyarn.io/  Pulls out the key phrase and enables you to see the next/previous clip to give you more context. Shows you more links below with the same phrase. Has a ‘next line’ quiz which could be addictive! But no clear content filter!

Another great corpus for language learners is SKELL: Sketch Engine for Language Learning. I like the Word Sketch and Similar words functions.

Find out more

https://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/iatefl2016corpora/ – including links to activities using corpora, and guidance on SKeLL, which is another easy-to-use corpus to explore, specifically designed for language learners

https://eflnotes.wordpress.com/ for Mura Nava’s blog and free ‘Quick Cups of COCA’ ebook which teaches you how to exploit the COCA corpus.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/corpus-linguistics for a free online course in how to exploit corpora and make your own (they’re also used in the social sciences, history and all kinds of arenas!)

https://reflectiveteachingreflectivelearning.com/2014/03/02/helping-language-learners-become-language-researchers-wordandphrase-info-part-1/ about wordandphrase.info – another corpus to explore. Good for checking how difficult the sample text you’ve just written might be for your students, and for finding out whether a word is more common in spoken/academic/newspaper/etc usage.

Using notebooks – examples

Maria’s notebook: https://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/when-i-teach-fce-again/ (link in the flo-joe section)

https://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/howtolearnalanguage/ (the ‘think about colours and layout’ section)

https://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/russian2/ (the ‘writing’ section’)

Comments on: "Dictionaries, corpora and using notebooks" (2)

  1. People with english-corpora.org also have access to https://www.wordandphrase.info/, basically a more student-friendly interface for COCA.

    Like

    • Thanks. I actually mentioned it briefly in the post, with a link to Lizzie Pinard’s very helpful guide to it. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to demonstrate it in the session, as I wanted to look at the ‘word’ function, but I agree that it’s very student-friendly.

      Liked by 1 person

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