Using web-based corpora for flexible language learning: Japanese student views and feedback

Yoko Hirata and Yoshihiro Hirata
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Sapporo, Japan

The development of computer technology has made significant changes in linguistic research and the teaching of languages. One such change is the use of corpora (the plural form of corpus), which are large collections of naturally occurring written and spoken language from a wide range of sources stored in electronic form. Different types of corpora have been developed, ranging from a large corpus of modern language in the form of speech and text, such as the National British Corpus and Corpus of Contemporary American English, to small genre-specific corpora in different languages, a web-derived corpus, a parallel corpus such as Paraconc, and even a learner corpus. The analyses of multiple language examples and the patterns of co-occurred words in concordance lines assist the learner in understanding how language functions in different ways with different meanings. As regards English language education, many instructors have been convinced that making full use of these corpora is an important component of learners’ academic success. In particular, for Japanese learners who have a limited exposure to authentic English in daily life, the advantage of using corpora for language learning is regarded as enormous. However, little research has been conducted on how learners view these different types of corpora.

This study examines Japanese university students’ assessment of, and feedback on, different types of readily available web-based corpora. The focus is placed on determining how these corpora should be incorporated into the language classroom. The findings suggest that corpora provide some students with opportunities to raise their awareness of recurrent lexical patterns of target words. The results of this study also provide instructors with many insights into how to incorporate these corpora into the classroom for the future development of open and flexible language learning environments.