Fluency in foreign language learning: online exercises

Project Details

Description

Mastery of multiword units (idiomatic expressions, strong collocations, etc.) has been shown to be crucial for second language learners to become proficient L2 users. The big obstacle in the way of acquiring a sufficiently large repertoire of L2 multiword units has long been believed to be their arbitrariness: if there
is no rhyme or reason for the composition or the semantics of such expressions, then learning them seems a matter of daunting memorisation. However, there now is a growing body of evidence to suggest that a considerable proportion of a language's repertoire of multiword units is not arbitrary at all. The meaning of so-called figurative idioms (e.g. show someone the ropes, meaning 'to teach someone to do a certain task') becomes 'motivated' if their original or literal usage is clarified (e.g. the scene of an experienced sailor showing a a novice sailor how to handle the ropes on a ship). The composition of scores of compounds, strong
collocations and other word partnerships is motivated by sound patterns such as alliteration/consonance (e.g. credit crunch, to wage war, time will tell, part and parcel, to make amends) and rhyme/assonance (e.g. high
and dry, steer clear, hate mail). Yet other collocations show semantic prosody (e.g. commit collocates with diverse 'crime' words, conduct collocates with diverse 'research words'). Given the motivated nature of so
many multiword units, it must be possible to learn these in insightful ways, after all. From that perspective,
we have designed and empirically validated methods that help second language learners master large
numbers of multiword units in various target languages. Basically, the strength of the pedagogical materials
we have developed make the learners aware of the kind of motivation behind the expression to be learned
and turn this new awareness into a mnemonic pathway. We have conducted and reported multiple controlled experiments, the results of which univocally point to the efficacy of this approach, while at the same time enabling us to optimise the materials (see the references below). These were 'in-house' experiments
conducted with the participation of students at our own college. We are now in the process of making the
study materials ready for customers generally. We initially planned to publish various booklets (for various languages), but, after due consideration, we have decided there are many more advantages to be had from using a web site. This will give (paying) customers access to the exercise batteries of the language(s) of their choice, it will contain several features (e.g. sound bits, visuals, adaptations to response behaviour, hints on request) which are difficult to integrate in a paper format, and it will be continually upgraded and expanded (possibly on order).
AcronymIOFPOC4
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/10/09 → …