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This post continues from where I left off, having described the start of the MOOC I am currently enrolled on Corpus linguistics: method, analysis, interpretation which has been put together by Tony McEnery and a team at Lancaster University and is hosted on the FutureLearn platform.

A confession: I am finding it a little hard to keep up with all the content on the course this week due to a variety of reasons:

  • the weeks are flying by: Already we have reached the end of the first full week of February, it’s Valentine’s Day on Friday and Easter seems to be just round the corner. What is happening to 2014?! I put this sense of the rapid progression in time largely down to being very busy (see next point).
  • ‘…my name is Mike, and I currently have 4 jobs and 2 voluntary positions…’: I seem to have started what will probably end up being the busiest life of my year (no bad thing), with a number of writing jobs to contend with besides my day-to-day part time teaching position.
  • small niggles with the software: Here is where I may have shot myself in the foot having jumped on the MacBook/Mavericks bandwagon. The latest version of the software we are using on the #corpusMOOC does not yet run on my operating system. However, again I am impressed by the response to course participants questions and problems. I posted a message regarding this and got a reply shortly after from Laurence Anthony (he who created AntConc) letting me know not to worry, and that I’d be able to do most of the analyses using the slightly older version of the software.
  • there is a lot to read: I’m a bit flummoxed by some of the reading this week. It seems a bit too dense and full of stats for me to digest right now. As a language teacher, I’ll confess that I am much much more engaged by how I can practically use corpora and concordancing software in the classroom. It will be interesting to see whether and how this aspect may be covered on the course. I also find it difficult to engage very much with others on the course. As I only really get time to look at the material towards the end of the week, by the time I get there I often see there are already hundreds of comments below the course content. I just don’t feel able to wade through all the comments, so apologies to my fellow course mates for not commenting on your posts.

All that being said, here are a couple of the insights and points of interest that I’m taking away so far this week:

  • how to define collocation and colligation: I’ve read The Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis, among other books, on taking this kind of view of language, and even based one of my DELTA assignments on verb and noun collocation, so I’m not too much in the dark on these corpus linguistic terms. However, having a clearer definition of colligation (the relationship between word and a particular grammatical category, e.g. like + gerund) is very useful and will help me articulate this to my students.
  • the use of keywords to compare bodies of text: Ok, this does turn me on. Something I’d like to do is analyse the texts used, both for teaching and assessment, on mainstream college (adult education) courses in the UK. I know there is an academic word list, used in EAP (English for Academic Purposes), but I’d like to do something a bit more bespoke to help ESOL students who want to move on and study different subjects, ranging from nursing to motor vehicle maintenance, to helping them with assessments they may have to do where knowledge of vocabulary may actually detract from their being able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject itself.

[side note – I’m mostly limiting myself to the core materials on the course, that is, the introductory lectures, the tutorials on AntConc, and the reading texts]