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Formulaic Language and Language Teaching

  • Fanny Meunier
Abstract

This article reviews the concrete effects that the theoretical findings on the formulaic nature of language have had in instructed second language acquisition (SLA). The introductory section includes some terminological comments and a general discussion on the validity of adopting a formulaic approach in second or foreign language teaching. The second section discusses various points in time when instructional intervention is possible and presents the rationale adopted in the article to trace elements of formulaicity in instructed SLA. The next three sections each center on one aspect of foreign language teaching, namely, input, classroom activities, and feedback. The discussion broaches pedagogical choices, teaching materials, types of activities, and tools currently available to teachers and learners. The results show that the increasingly refined understanding of the formulaic nature of language has clearly impacted second language teaching but that a number of questions still remain unanswered. These questions pertain to the types of formulas that deserve teaching time and to the assessment of the actual learning outcomes of using a formulaic approach.

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Boulton, A. (2010). Data-driven learning: On paper, in practice. In Harris, T. & Moreno Jaén, M. (Eds.), Corpus linguistics in language teaching (pp. 1752). Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

Boulton explained why, despite the wealth of corpus resources available today, public awareness of the numerous possibilities offered by corpora for DDL is still very low. As DDL activities can help learners and teachers access the formulaic nature of language, this article is particularly interesting because the author also provided very concrete paths and suggestions on how to incorporate DDL in more guided environments (such as published materials). He also encouraged teachers and learners to take the first steps into DDL.

Farr, F. (2008). Evaluating the use of corpus-based instruction in a language teacher education context: Perspectives from the users. Language Awareness, 17, 2543.

Farr explored the recent integration of the use of electronic corpora in some teacher education programs. This article reports some of the ways in which corpora have been incorporated into an Master of Arts in ELT program over a 2-year period. The author first provided evaluative research on student teachers’ perceptions of learning and teaching through corpus-based activities, and she then explored the potentials and problems foreseen by the practitioners in relation to using such an approach in their careers.

Wible, D., & Tsao, N. L. (2011). Towards a new generation of corpus-derived lexical resources for language learning. In Meunier, F., De Cock, S., Gilquin, G., & Paquot, M. (Eds.), A taste for corpora (pp. 237256). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.

In this book chapter, Wible and Tsao presented a new generation corpus-derived lexical resource designed to help bridge the gap between second or foreign language learners’ needs and what corpora can offer when it comes to vocabulary learning. The authors explained how corpus-derived hybrid n-grams (i.e., a combination of part-of-speech categories and lexemes or word forms) are useful in automatically discovering patterns of word behavior but also the relations among these patterns and words. Wible and Tsao showed how such hybrid n-grams make it possible to uncover the larger patterns in which collocations often tend to be embedded.

Wray, A., & Fitzpatrick, T. (2008). Why can't you just leave it alone? Deviations from memorized language as a gauge of native-like competence. In Meunier, F. & Granger, S. (Eds.), Phraseology in foreign language learning and teaching (pp. 123147). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.

In this book chapter Wray and Fitzpatrick focused on the conscious and active learning of formulaic language in SLA. They argued that memorizing sentences promotes learners’ fluency and confidence, and that the analysis of learners’ deviations from memorized sentences can be used as a means of establishing the strengths and weaknesses of learners in relation to morphology, lexis and phraseology. This chapter is part of the second section (learning phraseological units) of a 14-article volume entirely devoted to formulaic language in foreign language learning and teaching. The other two key sections of the volume deal with the extraction and description (section 1) and recording and exploitation (section 3) of formulaic chunks.

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Annual Review of Applied Linguistics
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