InterCom, a customizable weekly newsletter for language professionals, is provided by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon. InterCom is sponsored through a Title VI Language Resource Center grant.

Topic of the Week: "But My Language Doesn't Have a Corpus": Building and Using Your Own

by Lindsay Marean, InterCom Editor

One of my favorite languages is Paka’anil, an indigenous California language spoken and taught by fewer than a dozen Tübatulabal people in the area of Lake Isabella. There isn’t a large online corpus like the COCA for Paka’anil, and there are no published curricula like there are for major languages like Spanish and German. Among the available materials are a grammar written in 1935 by a young linguist named Charles Voegelin, and a collection of texts by the same researcher. The Tübatulabal community wants to speak Paka’anil the way their ancestors did, and we are all concerned that basing our learning on the grammar alone may lead us to speak in a way that is grammatically correct, but unlike the way first-language Paka’anil speakers really spoke.  Corpus-driven instruction (CDI) is a promising tool for making more use of the text collection so that we can learn from the actual patterns of Paka’anil as it was spoken in 1935.

I started by going through CALPER’s tutorial.  This tutorial uses WordSmith to do the analyses, but since I use a Mac, I ended up using a different application, the UAM Corpus Tool.

Following the instructions in the tutorial, I created a plain text file with all of the stories in Voegelin’s text collection. I wasn’t sure exactly what questions to ask, so I started by generating a list of the most common words.  Most of the results weren’t very surprising: different forms of the word that means “then” or “and then;” “came” and “went;” and “coyote” (an important figure in Tübatulabal stories). However, the 15th most frequent word jumped out at me: ogon occurred 44 times; Voegelin translated it as an “empty word” or as a “particle with vague modal meaning.” Modern Paka’anil speakers rarely use this word; after all, how does one incorporate an “empty word” into one’s speech? However, its high frequency in these texts tells us that we can’t ignore this word any more; we need to figure out how it is used.

My next step was to do a concordance search to see what occurred before and after the word.  In my small corpus, there are seven instances of a form of wün “be” followed by ogon followed by pinü “the same.”  In other words, I found a common expression that I hadn’t known existed:  wün ogon pinü “it is the same (some event happening).” I created an activity for the Pakanapul language team to work on together to practice using this newly-discovered expression in the appropriate context.

Of course, this single discovery only begins to explain all of the uses of ogon, to say nothing of everything else that we can learn about Paka’anil using a corpus. I learned a few lessons along the way:

•    Set aside some distraction-free time to be curious and explore the corpus.
•    Read about how others are using corpora in language instruction to get some ideas of what to look for (we describe several more resources in this InterCom issue).
•    Seek out professional development opportunities in CDI to get better at asking good questions and turning discoveries into good learning activities.

I hope that you, too, are inspired to try CDI in your own teaching and learning.

Activity of the Week

  • Exploring Spoken L1 Speech Usage with

    By Renée Marshall, CASLS Curriculum Consultant

    This activity provides a way to use a corpus with a guiding question or hypothesis in mind. In French the word "donc" is used often in L1 speech but not often in L2 speech. This activity has students listening to an interview and paying attention to when and how the speaker uses "donc." After brainstorming and discussing some of the different usages of "donc" in French speech, students use to find other similar examples to what they found in the interview. To adapt this to another language, pick a word that is commonly used in spoken speech by L1 speakers but not by L2 speakers. You can use one of the corpora discussed in our February 2, February 9, and February 16 Topic of the Week articles. Otherwise, you can search for a corpus in your target language using Google or a similar search engine. If you cannot find one for your language you can make your own corpus like our editor, Lindsay Marean, describes in this week's Topic of the Week. While the activity here uses a French example and French corpus, the handout is in English so that it can be easily adapted for use in other languages.


    • Students will be able to identify and hypothesize L1 usage of the word "donc" in spoken speech.
    • Students will be able to use a corpus to identify similar examples of L1 usage of the word "donc" in spoken speech.


    How do Francophone speakers use the word "donc" in conversation? handout

    Teacher Resource sheet


    1. Let students know that today they are going to be active language learners and create hypotheses of how language is used based on examples from L1 speech in an interview and from a French language corpus. If you have not talked about or used language corpora in your class yet, you may want to briefly discuss what a corpus is and why one might use it.
    2. Pass out the How do Francophone speakers use the word "donc" in conversation? to all students. Have them read directions for #1 (or go over as a whole class).
    3. Play the interview ( for students three times. You may, on the third listen, want to pause and replay a few of the places where Romain Duris or the interviewer uses "donc." (see Teacher Resource handout for the time stamps of when "donc" is used in the video) You may also want to transcribe some of the sentences used in the interview that include "donc" so that students have the visual, written form in addition to the spoken.
    4. Move to #2 on the handout and have students work with a partner or group to examine the way "donc" was used in the interview. Their goal is to come up with different ways "donc" is used. If they are having trouble with this task, you can model one usage as an example with them. For instance, in the interview Romain Duris uses "donc" combined with "euh..." a few times. In this case, what does "donc" mean here? What is its function? It's used as a filler word, just like "euh..." in French or "um..." and "so..." in English. One hypothesis then of "donc" usage is that French speakers use "donc" as a filler or pause word.
    5. Move to #3 on the handout. You may want to model how to navigate the website and go through the steps as a whole class before having them do it themselves. You can also assign #3 as homework and then complete the rest of the lesson in the next class. In Step #3 students are using a corpus of French language to find examples of L1 usage of "donc" in spoken speech. The goal is for them to find 3 examples of usage of "donc" that coincide with ONE of their hypotheses from #2.
    6. After students collect their three examples, have them discuss their findings with a partner. Then as a class, using student hypotheses, their examples, and examples from the interview, highlight some common usages of "donc." Refer to the Teacher Resource handout for a few examples of "donc" usage. (Note that different sources like websites or books may group together the various usages of "donc" in different ways.)
    7. Encourage students to try out using "donc" more often in their conversations.

    Note: Often spoken speech and written speech are different; certain rules may apply for spoken usage while different rules may apply for written usage. The website also includes an option for searching for "donc" in written speech if you would like to examine that in a future lesson.

CASLS Spotlight: New Games 2 Teach Website Launches This Spring

CASLS is proud to announce that a new version of the Games 2 Teach website is going to be launched in the spring of 2015. The updated website offers a more dynamic and engaging experience for users to take full advantage of the resources on Games 2 Teach. The new site still offers the same resources, such as reviews of trending vernacular digital games for how appropriate they are for L2 teaching and learning, but certain features have been updated in order to provide a more seamless user experience. For example, the service to request any of the publications available on Games 2 Teach has been updated to give users access to the publications even faster than before.

Games 2 Teach is codirected by Julie Sykes and Jonathon Reinhardt, and is funded in part by CERCLL, the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy. Over the course of the next four years, this project will provide classroom resources for L2 learning activities, academic-level working papers and white papers, a manual for L2 teachers and activities, and summer workshops on L2 pedagogy, all centered on using vernacular digital games in second language acquisition.

Language Corner

Order a Poster for National Foreign Language Week

Source: Alpha Mu Gamma Back to Quick Links


Every year Alpha Mu Gamma celebrates National Foreign Language Week. In 2015 the week will be March 9-15, and the theme is "Learn a Foreign Language: Gain a New Perspective." Every year AMG prints a new poster, available for free to members and for sale to the public. Learn more about NFLW, see what this year's poster looks like, and find out how to order one and how you can celebrate the week at

Linguee: Online Dictionary with Corpus Examples

Source: Linguee Back to Quick Links


Linguee is a unique translation tool combining an editorial dictionary and a search engine with which you can search billions of bilingual texts for words and expressions.

The Linguee search results are divided into several sections. In the top section you are shown results from Linguee’s editorial dictionary. Below you are shown example sentences from other sources to give you an idea of how your search term has been translated in context.

Linguee currently defines and finds examples of English words for Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, and Japanese speakers; and Spanish words for English speakers.

Linguee is available at

Data-driven Learning Exercises for English Learners

Source: Gutenberg Universität Back to Quick Links


Here is a website with links to two learner-centered, inductive exercises for English language learners. The second exercise is especially appropriate for native German speakers.

The exercises are available at and

Using Google as a Corpus Tool

Source: TESL-EJ Back to Quick Links


The Internet is an enormous bank of language in use, and Google is a powerful tool for finding out information about language.

Here is an example of using Google as a corpus tool to investigate English usage:

4 Songs for Dealing with Tricky Conditional Structures

Source: Teach them English Back to Quick Links


In his blog post, Adam Simpson comes back with some songs that could be used to make the teaching of conditionals much more fun. His original post on songs was very popular, and you can access it here. Read the comments for more ideas, too.

Access the article at

Larissa and Inspector Z - Phrasal Verbs with Fun

Source: Larissa’s Languages Back to Quick Links


If you’re looking for engaging ways to present phrasal verbs to students, here’s an idea: Create a comic strip so students can explore the meanings in context. Larissa shows us an example with the verb “look” followed by different particles.

Access the resource at

Google Plus Community for Corpus Linguistics and Language Teaching and Learning

Source: Google Plus Back to Quick Links

The Google Plus community for corpus linguistics and language teaching and learning is a dedicated online forum for discussing anything related to corpus linguistics and language teaching and learning. Besides regular discussion and resource and idea sharing, there is also a link to a helpful article about how to realistically use corpora in language classrooms:

Access the Google Plus community at

Corpus Resources at Brigham Young University

Source: Brigham Young University Back to Quick Links


Mark Davies, a professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University, has created ten different corpora, focusing on English (American and British), Spanish, and Portuguese. You can access all of them here:

His site also includes corpus tools, available here:

Start out here for an overview of the resources available:

31 Resources of Royalty-Free Images

Source: Teach thought Back to Quick Links


The use of images is an important part of teachers’ everyday planning, material creation and presentations. Here you have a collection of 31 sites with free images so you don’t have to worry about copyright.

Access the resources at

Language Enterprise: Cross-Sector Collaboration Promises Progress

Source: Language Magazine Back to Quick Links


Cross-Sector Collaboration Promises Progress
by Kathy Stein-Smith
February 2015

The Language Enterprise, as coined by William Rivers, director of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), in his 2013 presentation “Language Enterprise in the U.S.: The Public and Private Sector,” is a collaborative partnership of education, private enterprise, and government in support of world languages and world-language education.

The effectiveness of this partnership has been recently demonstrated in the U.S. by the Many Languages, One World Essay Contest and Global Youth Forum at the United Nations and by the British Academy’s language program and related government and private-sector initiatives in the UK.

Read the full article at

Read more about the Language Enterprise in this past InterCom article:

Professional Development

Access ACTFL 2014 Sessions for Professional Development Credit

Source: ACTFL Back to Quick Links


Couldn’t attend ACTFL 2014? Not to worry – now you can access many of the same great sessions that convention attendees did – right from the comfort of your own home or classroom! Did attend but couldn’t get to all the sessions? If you missed these great sessions, you can view them as well.

You now have an opportunity to access a selection of sessions from the ACTFL 2014 Convention and earn professional development credits or CEUs.

Learn more at


Book: English for Academic Purposes

Source: Routledge Back to Quick Links


English for Academic Purposes
Edited by Helen Basturkmen
Published by Routledge

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) focuses on the types of English learners encounter and use in academic or study situations, usually in higher education contexts, and on the teaching and learning of academic English. It also focuses on the types of English and forms of communication used by academics in research settings.

This new 4-volume collection from Routledge will highlight key research, thinking and developments in pedagogy and document the concepts and debates that have impacted on EAP over the last three and a half decades. The selection of articles will enable readers to follow the developments and to understand how contemporary perspectives and research interests have emerged. The volumes will include key material that has been influential and represents the diversity of research interests and thinking in the area. Fully indexed, and with a new introduction to each volume by the editor, this collection will be a valuable research resource.

To see the contents or order the book, go to

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