Journal of Linguistics and Language Teaching
Volume 8 (2017) Issue 1 (PDF)
Foreword to the Issue
The present issue of JLLT, which I am happy to present, unites five academic articles and one book review. Three of these article cover the field of corpus linguistics, which, thus, forms an unofficial section in this issue. The other two articles are on language instruction and teachers' knowledge and abilities on language assessment.
The first article on corpus linguistics reports a study by Randall Gess (Ottawa, Canada) on the use of corpus data for the development of oral communicative competence of French. The corpus used for this purpose was established in the framework of the Phonology of Contemporary French project, which also comprises pronunciation. In his article, the author focuses on the phenomenon of word-final cluster simplification, which is rather frequent in Canadian French. First, the general potential of the corpus data for use in the French-language classroom is presented. The considerable advantages of corpus linguistics for students are then pointed out, such as extensive natural input, the opportunity of comparing spoken and written language and raising students’ awareness for the different varieties of French. Apart from these points, corpora also provide cultural information as well as an insight into sociological variation.
In her article, Siaw-Fong Chung (Taipei, Taiwan (R.O.C.)) also utilises existing corpora and distinguishes two near-synonyms of English - the verbs hear and listen - using WordNet on the one hand and the British National Corpus on the other. Her corpus analysis comprised distributional and collocational information on these two verbs. A simplified version of these findings was then presented to a group of students who were given a writing task, based on visual elements, in which they were to use these two verbs, without knowing, however, that these very verbs were in the focus. One of the findings of this study was that the literal meanings of the two verbs in question were predominant both in the corpora and in students writings. It may be added here that making copus data available to students in a pedagogical manner will be of utmost importance for the improvement of teaching foreign languages in the years to come.
Also within the realm of corpus linguistics and also with respect to French, Jennifer Wagner (Clio (MI), USA) presents an analysis of the frequency of lexical items in textbooks of French designed for use at universities. Whereas the frequency of the lexical items to be learnt is considered as a matter of fact in the making of textbooks of English, this point is not so clear as far as French textbooks are concerned. For her study, the author compared twelve first-year and six second-year textbooks for university use, published in the U.S., to a frequency dictionary of contemporary French. The most important finding of this study is that the textbooks analysed did not provide a sufficient number of high frequency words, which are of utmost importance for communication of French at a basic level. As a consequence, this study points to the importance of an urgently needed modernisation of French textbooks that would entail the use of corpora for their creation. From a general point of view, it is to be expected that for Spanish, things may not be much different, and studies of this kind will be of help so as to clarify the situation there.
These three article stand for the importance of linking corpus data to the teaching and learning of foreign languages and, hence, forms part of a relatively new tradition which will certainly be further strengthened in the future.
Tackling a totally different topic, Norman Fewell & George MacLean (both Okinawa, Japan) present the results of a transformation of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements for communication and feedback in the English-language classroom in Japan. These can-do statements should not only be used receptively, i.e. for the description of communicative tasks, but also, as the findings suggest, in a productive way, i.e. for students to directly benefit from of them. Asking students what they themselves think they can or cannot do provides them with an incentive to make reflexions on what they really need in their language learning. Assuming that believing that one is able to perform a given task and performing it in reality are two sides of the same coin, the authors transformed a selected set of can-do statements into such statements that motivated students to show that they were able to perform a given task, thus modifying these statements into communicative group activities. This study represents a promising starting point for further research into this question.
A topic which is rather different from the other ones elaborated in this issue, but which is of utmost importance in the context of language teaching as well is the field covered in the study by Kay Cheng Soh & Limei Zhang (both Singapore), who who aim to boost research into teacher assessment literacy, i.e. the ability of teachers to understand test results. The new scale which the authors present here and which is to fill a research gap covers four different aspects of assessment literacy. Teachers’ need to understand what assessment is and what functions it has. Teachers further need to be able to design and use different forms of items which respond to their students' instructional needs. Teachers must be able to reliably interpret assessment results. And finally, teachers must be capable of evaluating test results in terms of their innate quality. The authors find their study encouraging in such a way that it provides a sound basis for continuing research on a wider scope - an estimation which is fully supported here.
I am sure that the variety of topics unfolded in this issue and the depth of corpus linguistics, which is present in three of the five articles, make this issue an interesting and instructive read. In this sense, I would like to wish our readers some hours of intense enjoyment.