#KELTchat Summary: Lexical Approach – October 28th, 2012

The evening began a little earlier than usual with Alex Grevett (@breathyvowel) offering helpful tips to new KELTchat participants. Not only was this helpful to newcomers, but even an old hand like me (:P) learned something new. I look forward to more Alex’s handy tips! Click here for some of those tips – and the transcript of the night’s chat.

This was the perfect lead-in for the landmark discussion ahead. This was the first time KELTchat had a guest co-moderator; Leo Selivan, lexis connoisseur, stepped in to fill this role. I recommend reading this chat’s preview to learn more about his exemplary background. Along with the super sidekick-like moderation of Michael Griffin, a group of new chatters from inside and outside Korea, lurkers, and old-time tweeters were ready to talk “chunks”.

The discussion started with Leo asking us when we first heard of the Lexical Approach (LA) – also a fun way to get the roll call for the evening:

  • @JohnPfordresher first heard of it in TESOL cert, and have tried to use it in class since…that was….late 2009
  • @breathyvowel About a year ago, mostly through the concept of chunks. Just finished Lewis’s 1993 book today.
  • @Lexzicon During my masters at Victoria University of Wellington…Studying under Paul Nation he was all about it
  • @michaelegriffin maybe just maybe it was fall 1999….I took a TESOL course (with Chris Mares! cc @johnpfordresher) and it was briefly mentioned
  • @JosetteLB heard of it during my MA studies at SIT from Radmila Popovic… I think that was 2007
  • @GemL1 heard of it during my DipTESOL course when reading bout different approaches
  • @AnneHendler Last year for me.
  • @AlexandraGuzik On a teaching course in Britain

The moderators then gave us this challenge: @leoselivan if you had to sum up in 1 sentence the main principle of LA what would you say it is? – @michaelegriffin What do we mean when we say “lexical approach?” (challenge in 130 something characters I suppose)

  • @JohnPfordresher first word comes to mind is “chunks” ie, chunks of language
  • @yitzha_sarwono the idea that important part of learning language consists of being able to understand & produce lexical phrases
  • @breathyvowel Something like pay attention to (authentic?) usage, not rules.
  • @AnneHendler lexis is learned more naturally from the top down than the bottom up (maybe?)
  • @JohnPfordresher LA teaches English thru chunks of language, gives Ss lexis based round their needs, uses lots of recycling
  • @michaelegriffin Worry about words (and not just words by themselves) first and grammar will/can follow.
  • @languagebubble LA lets the speaker focus on the message by putting the pieces together (as opposed with thinking about each word or rule)
  • @AlexandraGuzik noticing the language, being curious is LA

A brief but interesting discussion on the role of translation in relation to LA. Should we or shouldn’t we?

  • @JohnPfordresher im not sure there is ever a situation to say never… except never use never. def w/discretion ;)
  • @breathyvowel I think that Lewis (see book reference at then end of this post) has it more or less right with his scale of meaning-value. Some high value words are L1>L2 subs.
  • @leoselivan to sum up, translation is certainly YES as long as u don’t translate single words. Always translate whole chunks / phrases.

Success stories and strategies for teaching LA:

  • @AlexandraGuzik I’ve made a reading diary where Ss put down ten new expressions from a piece of text, they guess meanings…then check with the dictionary and make own examples, then retell using new phrases…They record and email me, then we discuss for 10-15min a lesson…I listen and analyse, but my groups are 8-10 students
  • @GemL1 mind maps where Ss include common collocations r useful
  • @JosetteLB I teach my advanced learners how to use corpus.byu.edu/coca/ Can’t say how successful it is, but they are v happy to learn
  • @JohnPfordresher i use my multi-colored chalk to highlight chunks within text…i just write the “chunks” using different colors, alternating colors, anything to make them stand out
  • @michaelegriffin My (weak?) strategy is just to keep hammering home that there is such a thing as collocation. Ss often seem surprised by this.
  • @leoselivan Start w/ basis: underline all adjectives; now underline nouns they go with > @breathyvowel Interesting that you start with adjectives. From reading Lewis I would have thought that nouns might work better? > @leoselivan it was just a suggestion :) Verbs are a good place to start too
  • @languagebubble get your school to invest in some Cuisenaire Rods (for tactile learners)

LA in Korea:

  • @breathyvowel I think that an LA would work well in Korea. The system seems reliant on vocab memorization. Why not collocations/chunks too?
  • @GemL1 agree, think it would work well here as long as Ss were taught common and not obscure / incorrect collocation!@breathyvowel I think it would give them more of a sense of ‘learning’ too, in the, err, Korean sense of the word.

And to end the night, a poetic quote from @michaelegriffin:

a brilliant person once said, “LA is like an exotic fruit– everyone’s heard of it but no one knows what it tastes like.”

I’d love to know who that brilliant person was. :) We may not know the taste, but thanks to this chat, now we may have a better sense of it.

Leo’s top quotes:

  • @AnneHendler a holistic view of the language is certainly one of the underlying principle of LA
  • @breathyvowel that’s a good one. We don’t like rules but we like useful patterns :)
  • @JohnPfordresher excellent. focus on chunks rather than individual words (e.g. collocations) and recycle a lot
  • Not single words – I’d say that’s the most important principle…if we translate this principle into practice, I’d say you should never write on board single words – that’s essential…e.g. instead of “home” write “… is AT home” or instead of “achieve” write “achieve a goal” – encourage Ss to copy down same way…if you talk about semi-fixed expressions, that’s it alright to shove on the board single words that complete it…for example ‘it didn’t …. first time’ – WORK / HAPPEN / SUCCEED – an idea taken from Ken Lackman’s LA resource book.
  • @AlexandraGuzik thank u. Lewis originally claimed that noticing was even more important that output…and exploring language with students instead of explaining
  • @JosetteLB Corpus is a gr8 tool for adv.learners. Promotes learner autonomy too!
  • Memorization plays an important role in LA. But always encourage Ss to memorise chunks, e.g. 1 new word + 1 old word (its friend)

Resources and links

Leo’s suggested links:

Leo’s suggested books:
  • Lewis, M. (1993). The Lexical approach: the state of ELT and a way forward. Hove: LTP
  • Lewis, M. (1997). Implementing the lexical approach. Hove: LTP
  • Lewis, M. (2000). Teaching collocation. Hove: LTP
  • McCarthy, M. & O’Dell, F. (2005). English collocations in use. Cambridge: CUP
  • Thornbury, S. (2004). Natural Grammar. Oxford: OUP