How to use a corpus when doing free L2 writing

I just want to point out one strategy that can really aid language learning: use an online searchable corpus when doing free writing. For example, if you are learning Chinese (like I am), you can use Jukuu.

The benefits of this are that when you want to know how to say something in Chinese you can search for the expression in English, and then it lists example sentences in Chinese that are equivalent to that English phrase. This means that you can then put the Chinese sentence into the dictionary and extract the phrase you are looking for and use it in your writing. For instance, if you want to know how to write 'firstly' in Chinese, rather than use a dictionary directly (which gives you no context for the usage of these phrase), search for 'firstly' in a corpus like Jukuu and it will give you a number of contextualised alternatives for you to choose from.

Using a corpus in this way effectively weaves the benefits of reading into the writing process: reading exposes you to natural target language expressions and writing is the manipulation of these expressions to produce your own text. This process is accelerated when you use a corpus, and enables learners to acquire target language expressions from texts that in themselves would be far too difficult to be read in their entirety.


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