Corpus consultation and advanced learners’ writing skills in French

Chambers, Angela and O’Sullivan, Ide (2004) Corpus consultation and advanced learners’ writing skills in French. 158–172.


In the rapidly changing environment of language learning and teaching, electronic literacies have an increasingly important role to play. While much research on new literacies focuses on the World Wide Web, the aim in this study is to investigate the importance of corpus consultation as a new type of literacy which is of particular relevance in the context of language learning and teaching. After briefly situating the theoretical and pedagogical context of the study in relation to authenticity and learner autonomy, the paper describes an empirical study involving eight postgraduate students of French. As part of a Masters course they write a short text and subsequently attempt to improve it by using concordancing software to consult a small corpus containing texts on a similar subject. The analysis of the results reveals a significant number of changes made by the learners which may be classified as follows in order of frequency: grammatical errors (gender and agreement, prepositions, verb forms/mood, negation and syntax); misspellings, accents and hyphens; lexico-grammatical patterning (native language interference, choice of verb and inappropriate vocabulary); and capitalisation. The conclusion notes that the situation in which these students found themselves (i.e. faced with a text on which the teacher had indicated phrases which could be improved) is replicated in many cases every day, and suggests that corpus consultation may have a useful role to play in the context of interactive feedback, particularly in cases where traditional language learning resources are of little use.

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