Title

Improving Lexical Accuracy: Working with Collocations

Subject Area

Foreign Language Pedagogy

Abstract

Collocations are common and arbitrary combinations of two or more words. Their meaning, as opposed to that of many other phraseological units (such as idioms) is transparent. The explanation for these combinations does not rely on logic or semantics; rather, it is related to repetition, and traditional use. In Spanish, for example, we use the combination “dar un paseo”, whereas the equivalent English expression is “to take a walk.” Mastery of these common combinations attests to a good command of the language, whereas when speakers do not adhere to the collocational conventions of a foreign language they give themselves away as foreigners. In this paper, we argue in favor of making a conscious effort to address collocations in the classroom. Doing so has several advantages. First of all, it helps in the task of memorizing and retrieving lexical items (since, according to research, the lexicon is not stored in our memories as isolated words, but as blocks and word networks). Secondly, with collocations we are able to work on lexical items qualitatively, considering both the meaning of words and the specific uses they have in relation to other words. Finally, when we study collocations, we are studying the real language use; by focusing on them, we make sure to avoid those other combinations which might not be completely wrong, in the sense that they are able to communicate an idea, but are not used by native speakers (*“tomar un paseo” vs. “dar un paseo”). Some sample classroom activities will be discussed.

Brief Bio Note

Native from Bilbao (Spain). She holds undergraduate degrees in Hispanic and English Philology (Universidad de Deusto, Spain), and a doctoral degree in Romance Linguistics (University of Washington, Seattle). She is currently Associate Professor of Spanish at Berry College (Rome, GA), where she works as generalist. Her research interests pedagogy, applied linguistics and translation. Her more recent publications are related to these areas.

Keywords

Lexicon, Collocations

Location

Coastal Georgia Center

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

4-8-2016 9:00 AM

End Date

4-8-2016 9:20 AM

Embargo

11-21-2015

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Apr 8th, 9:00 AM Apr 8th, 9:20 AM

Improving Lexical Accuracy: Working with Collocations

Coastal Georgia Center

Collocations are common and arbitrary combinations of two or more words. Their meaning, as opposed to that of many other phraseological units (such as idioms) is transparent. The explanation for these combinations does not rely on logic or semantics; rather, it is related to repetition, and traditional use. In Spanish, for example, we use the combination “dar un paseo”, whereas the equivalent English expression is “to take a walk.” Mastery of these common combinations attests to a good command of the language, whereas when speakers do not adhere to the collocational conventions of a foreign language they give themselves away as foreigners. In this paper, we argue in favor of making a conscious effort to address collocations in the classroom. Doing so has several advantages. First of all, it helps in the task of memorizing and retrieving lexical items (since, according to research, the lexicon is not stored in our memories as isolated words, but as blocks and word networks). Secondly, with collocations we are able to work on lexical items qualitatively, considering both the meaning of words and the specific uses they have in relation to other words. Finally, when we study collocations, we are studying the real language use; by focusing on them, we make sure to avoid those other combinations which might not be completely wrong, in the sense that they are able to communicate an idea, but are not used by native speakers (*“tomar un paseo” vs. “dar un paseo”). Some sample classroom activities will be discussed.