OER1068 Demonstration

Opening up foreign language education with the Flexible Language Acquisition Project

Alannah Fitzgerald (Concordia University, Canada / Durham University, UK) Shaoqun Wu (Greenstone Digital Library Lab, Waikato University, NZ)

Conference Theme: OER Design

Intended audience: This demonstration has the long-term aim of informing the design and use of future open-source educational software applications for language learning, including: the learning content, the learning environments, and the learning scaffolds that can be designed to best reflect OER standards. Demonstrations of collections from the Flexible Language Acquisition Project based on Greenstone's open source digital library software will be given with particular emphasis on their language learning and teaching applications. Reflections and discussion will be provided on uses for the collections based on research carried out at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and at Durham University in the UK. Selected collections for the purpose of this demonstration session will include:

Abstract: When learning a second or additional language how often have we heard our teachers say: “grammatically, you’re correct but we just don’t express it that way in French/English/Arabic/Chinese" – whatever the target language may be? A lot has been said in favour of data-driven learning with assisting language teachers and their learners to move beyond introspection when making judgements regarding: lexical collocations, frequency, pragmatic meaning, and details of phraseology. The Web is a potentially useful corpus for language study because it provides examples of words and word sequences that are contextualized, authentic and frequent. However, use of the Web for language study is primarily limited to: online language learning materials, activities, dictionaries, thesauri, multi-lingual translators, and concordancers, most of which require subscriptions for more in-depth and research-based language support. For example, one of our digital library (DL) collections, Web Phrases, presents an innovative use of the Web as a resource that does not rely on live search, but rather, utilizes an off-line corpus generated and supplied by Google. This contains short sequences of words, called “n-grams,” along with their frequencies. They are pre-processed, filtered, and organized into a searchable DL collection based on Greenstone's open-source software containing 500,000 words and 380 million five-grams. The system presents these phrases (collocations, formulaic sequences or prefabricated items) in context by locating sample sentences containing them either on the Web, or in the British National Corpus. Results of initial user evaluations suggest that proficient learners can use the existing collections to generate text as well as revise it, whereas the more limited vocabulary knowledge of less proficient learners may restrict them to revising text. However, most learners’ texts demonstrate positive effects at the lexical, grammatical and perhaps most saliently the pragmatic level. Observations also suggest a number of useful ways in which teachers can mediate the system for its effective use in supporting instruction.

Keywords: Design-based Research; Data-driven Language Learning; Digital Libraries; Web-based Corpus and Concordancing Applications; Web-based Language Learning; Web Search

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