Reaching Higher Levels Language Proficiency

Published: 2017-09-15 15:09:13
2810 words
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Boston College
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Dissertation proposal
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Language proficiency is often perceived as a complex term especially when an individual claims foreign language to be their typically used language. Social linguists and other language educators have been seeking solutions to the latter problem for a long time, an aspect that has led to the development of considerations of language proficiency. The term “proficiency” refers to a scenario in which experts deal with skills considering that language abilities are principally a manifestation of communication skills. In many other aspects, language proficiency is considered just like other activities such as playing piano, driving a car or dancing. With regard to the language skills, there is a wide range of skills based on a spectrum of individual abilities. Different language organizations globally have also developed diverse scales to assist in identifying individual’s foreign language capabilities. These scales may vary accordingly, but are basically meant to identify whether individuals are beginners of a given language, experts or moderate users.

Definition of Terms

Collocation refers to a sequence of words or terminologies that often occur together by chance as opposed to an anticipated scenario. Collocation could also be used to refer to a sub-type of phraseme. For instance, one example of phraseological collocations is the expression made in the phrase “strong tea”. A similar meaning could be relayed through a similar phrase, “powerful tea”. The latter expression, however, is considered incorrect in English-speaking domains. A corresponding expression used in reference to a computer is ‘powerful computer’ instead of ‘strong computers’. In this regard, phraseological collocations must not be considered in similar expression as idioms whose meanings are established based on certain hidden forms. In particular, collocations are basically compositional word combinations. In general, there are six main categories of collocation formations: noun+noun, verb+noun, adjective+noun, verb+prepositional phrase, adverb + adjective as well as verb +adverb (O'Donnell & Ellis, 2013, p. 96).  The formation of collocations is commonly known as collocation extraction, which entails a task of deriving it automatically from certain corpus based on computational linguistics.

On the other hand, speech community refers to a social-linguistic and linguistic anthropology term referring to a group of individuals that use similar language categories that shares specific rules and guidelines for speaking and interpreting speech. Sociological taxonomy does not consider language but rather speech community. There has been no such enterprise that has developed a framework for examining the concept of empirical development of speech community. The taxonomic enterprises themselves have been largely abandoned. This implies that there has been nothing else equitable to cross-cultural relations of anthropologenic aspects of language.

A considerable set of theories within the young and expanding fields has also been polemical in nature. The most typical external goals have been mainly the structuralists’ diminution of the speech community to simple extensions of linguistic systems and renowned ideal speaker-listener in a fully homogenous speech community. In this particular field, there has conflicting definitions by different researchers with similar analytical and methodological predilections. Despite the controversial approaches taken by different researchers, these aspects are essential in pre-determining the social and regional dialect of the group involved, thus, their speech community at large.

Relationship between Collocations and Speech Communities and their Importance

The essence of the collocation as a concept in the linguistic field is special in nature. It constitutes a recurrent combination of words with a long recognized theoretical framework. Nevertheless, its importance for applied perspective, translations and lexicography is very obvious. The concept of collocations has attracted imaginations of professionals within the context of applied linguistic and ELT which has also gained more significance in recent times. The interests on the subject matter is understandable as much as collocations are recognized as the prime source of naturalness within the context of speech work while naturalness is also considered as the prime target of language teaching (O'Donnell & Ellis, 2013, p. 88).  

The inexcusable limitation of English texts analysis for the foreign learners and other best learners’ dictionaries is that without understanding the correlations between different collocations in English and learner’s native languages, they do not alert learners on the challenges associated with asymmetries and interferences of their own native dialect. More obviously, contrastive analysis of collocations is considered in many aspects. However, the latter inquest has been derailed by lack of sufficient research into this field (O'Donnell & Ellis, 2013, p 74).

There are also numerous challenges associated with collocations. For instance, there has been acute lack of agreement on the correct definition associated with collocations based on different research findings into their formation and independence from other language formations such as idiomatic expressions. For instance, some researchers divide definitions of collocations based on textual or co-occurrence within a text, statistical or even psychological. Likewise, various studies have sought to determine advantages and disadvantages of each category of definition. In many instances, many researchers have settled at psychological and statistical approach. It is however unclear whether a given collocation ought to be identified with syntagma or otherwise (O'Donnell & Ellis, 2013, p 101).

The collocations as psychological association prescribe for the syntagmatic nature or statistical perception considers such restrictions as unnecessary. Nonetheless, the prototypical collocations are considered to be syntagmatic in nature. Another major challenge with collocations is the lack of a clear approach for the delimitation of the range of nodes’ collocates as well as the provision of a strong basis for their respective lexicographic description. The main challenge in this case is mainly associated with the use of monolingual dictionaries which does not provide different approaches to definition of specific lingual aspects of a collocation.

Studies that has considered an analytical perspective of collocation with regard to their specific features and congruence between aims, approaches and successful implementations concludes that such dictionaries are very useful in advanced studies of English language. However, there has been a general finding that both the definitions and classifications of collocations and other terminological confusions constitutes the main challenge and influence on the selection criteria and treatment of both headwords and their collocates as defined in specific speech communities (Millar, 2011, p 35). This marks the essential relationships between collocations and language communities and other problems associated with both definitions and language usages.

Literature Review

Instances involving lexical diversity are the sequence of synsets in English language that are primarily similar except in instances that draws upon certain levels of expression. There are different studies in this field that has focused exclusively on the outstanding impacts of collocation competence in enhancing language proficiency for the learners’ particularly involving ESL students. The awareness of students regarding word combinations also enables them to generate language with due accuracy and also empowers them with capacities to manipulate different formulaic languages, idiomatic and fixed expressions with due efficiencies (Millar, 2011, pp 9).

 Besides, Littlemore, 2009, p 84, also argued that the meaning and implications of words is mainly associated with the company it fosters. This implies that the understanding of the manner in which words can be combined also facilitates efficient use by individual learners. This scenario also encompasses the dedication of more times and efforts towards an increase in students’ awareness as well as understanding of the collocations under different word combinations. Nevertheless, a different view has been taken by individuals regarding teachings of collocation that posits that teaching of these word combinations has not been subjected to its due or deserved attention within the context of language classes. One of the reasons behind this negligence is particularly the difficulty involved in the teaching of collocations with a view to enhancing storage and retrieval.

Similarly, another factor that has been associated with reduced efficiency in teaching collocations is existence of minimal numbers of user-friendly materials that could otherwise be manipulated towards teaching collocates. Besides, collocations have also been somehow rendered as due interferences with native languages as well as the nature of inter-languages. For instance, the latter scenario has been observed in the use of collocations for written works by the undergraduate Arab students. In essence, students in the Arab class for instance, studying collocations are ill-informed on expressions which are shared responsibilities between language teachers and their students. This shows the explicit challenge of teaching collocations in the Arab world especially where there are local Arab teachers are.

The debates on language proficiencies have also been focused on multi-dimensional nature of collocations that indicates it as a product of several interrelated competencies. ‘Communicative competence’ for instance, was coined by Hyme to entail abilities that fluent speakers have regarding foreign language. According to Hyme, foreign language speakers do not only need linguistic competences to communicate effectively but also other competence regarding eloquence in order to manipulate foreign languages effectively (Littlemore, 2009, pp 94). 

In this regard, sociological competence is very necessary in order to gain the most optimum knowledge on the manner in which language is manipulated by certain speech communities in enacting social purposes. Communicative competences therefore includes collocation competences as well as the ability to manipulate repertoire based on certain fixed expressions among other formulaic languages as used by other native speakers of the language (Beckner & Schoenemann, 2009, pp 24). Unlike foreign English speakers, native speakers have a spontaneous tendency to speak using certain expression as ‘white wine, red hair and blue movie among others with limited redundancies and hesitations.

Foreign speakers of English may assert, ‘her disability is perennial’ in which native speakers could substitute with a phrase like, ‘she has a perennial disability’. The latter example indicates that collocation competence promotes communicative competence. In essence, it is important to consider the fact that term such as: collocation competence, productive skills and communicative competence are very necessary for understanding the importance of collocations as part of promoting linguistic competence. Communicative competence has also been defined as inherent grammatical competence and individual abilities to manipulate grammatical competence through a variety of communicative approaches. As a result, sociolinguistic perspective is connected to linguistic perceptions on competence.

Similarly, a model has been posited regarding communicative competence with four main components. The areas of collocations in lexis entail certain significance in mastering target language while its acquisition remains problematic for majority of language learners. The generation of collocationally compatible connections with foreign languages has also troubled advanced learners as well. The enhancement of collocation awareness is also considered shared responsibility between teachers and their students. For instance, experts assert that students must take individual initiatives to enhance awareness regarding collocations based on certain steps. In particular, students should practice their learned contents within meaningful contexts while learning collocations in their respective groups to assist in fixing the ideals in their memories. In addition, it has been found out that teachers have an indispensable duty of raising the conscience of students regarding collocations.

In this regard, students must not confine themselves to teaching and learning English lexis on formal ancient course books The networks and lexical matching may also be used as additional resources to provide students with bigger exposure to other natural forms of collocations in impromptu discourses and fluent communication as they orient themselves to new speech communities that may grossly differ with native communities.  In addition, teachers must also promote extensive reading activities of the literary works involving different authentic expressions that are often used by both public and language specialists. This case promotes their ability to change towards acquiring both eloquent expressions of formal languages and identify collocations that are used by ordinary persons in their natural discourses. It has also be stated that teachers ought to provide their learners with warnings against making identical translations regarding particular expressions drawn from native languages to their target language. For instance, teachers should explicitly teach collocations in order to allow their students to comprehend that not every word can be combined and subjected to equal meanings (Wood, 2010, pp 98).

 Similarly, while teaching reading texts, teachers should signal salient collocational expressions and further highlight them for their students to ease their noticing. Students are therefore able to grasp and practice in different language activities. Besides, they may also list the most confusing sets of minimal pairs of such collocations such as the words used with, ‘do’ and ‘make’ and allow their students to form sentences with them via activities such as free writing or controlled matching exercises. Such principles used in teaching collocation entail models useful in teaching collocations for foreign language learners.

Wrong teaching approaches can influence inter-language competencies of students and further limit their abilities to manipulate formulaic languages, collocations and fixed expressions. This scenario can be enhanced through explicit teachings of language vocabularies as well as providing students with the genuine audios or other written texts from native speakers or writers. The strengthening of collocational competences for students may be achieved through three main stages namely: Elicitation, Fixation and Creation. Every teacher of language seeking to use the above mechanisms must be aware of integrating learning of more vocabularies that does not only involve learning new words but rather includes learning of new word combinations as well (Ellis, 2012, pp 32). 

Teachers should not teach vocabularies in isolated lists that are devoid of actual contexts. On the contrary, teachers must decide the nature of word-combinations they address every time they engage. On the other hand, students must be aware of the English words that are not subject to random linking with one another. In case students are unaware of the potential combinations of certain items, they are therefore inclined to continue struggling in listening as well as reading as well as writing and speaking. This demonstrates lack of proficiency in the use of the language.

The increasing of students’ awareness regarding different categories of collocations also enhances their ability to notice them. For instance, if students can identify that adverbs precedes adjectives, they are more likely to realize the kind of words that follows certain adverbs. Likewise, when students study the categories of verbs included in particular sports, they are more likely to realize the categories of sports they are associated with such as ‘do, go or play’. The awareness basically necessitates precise formula of word-combinations as well as the more frequently used expressions by learners within certain oral and other written discourses (Ellis & Cadierno, 2009, pp 21). Teachers can effectively raise their students’ awareness regarding verbs that are used in different sports based on their level of involvement in promoting individual students’ language proficiency.

The enhancement of collocation competences of learners also demands collaborations between learners and teachers. In particular, teachers may utilize daily teaching materials as a mechanism for signaling salient word combinations that are provided in listening or even reading scripts. Nevertheless, students must also be encouraged to be more independent in promoting their storages of lexical products and fixed expressions in the process of enhancing their language competences. For instance, in order to achieve the latter, students should be supplied with bilingual dictionaries regarding word collocations as translations may be one of the fundamentals of enhancing learning of collocations. For instance, the Oxford Collocation Dictionary for the English Learners may be a good reference for classroom library since it provides easy consultations.

English vocabularies that have been neglected for long may also have their place in the learning languages. Since the advent of Communicative Language Teaching, learners have been able to communicate effectively. However, poor master of collocations and vocabularies also hampered them thus, drawing the interest of researchers to teaching vocabularies and their collocations. Afterwards, researchers concluded that lack of sufficient knowledge of collocations and vocabularies may stop students from making inferences and misinterpreting native speakers. Besides, the erroneous manipulations of collocations may also make native speakers not to understand learners’ pronunciation (Boers & Lindstromberg, 2009, pp 72). There are different techniques and processes that instructors may choose to help learners towards learning vocabularies, majority of which are basically creative in nature.

Teachers of language must also consider the essence of certain items as the quantity of words that should be presented at any given time. Besides, they must also consider whether to provide forms or meanings of words initially followed by their translations or explanations. Such indications will ensure that teachers are able to adopt suitable options to teaching languages. The direct teachings of the lexical collocations have also been associated with enhancing general fluency of the learners. Besides, various researchers have also made comprehensive denotation of the manner in which collocation instructions make considerable advancements of other languages. Collocations have also considered supporting learners in consolidating their language competences towards becoming more like their native language speakers and handle both books and movies effectively. This demonstrates increased language competencies. The lexical collocation instructions are permanently paired and must be learned in language proficiency classes in order to ensure that learners are able to communicate effectively. 


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