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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: What Are Language Chunks?

Language chunks are definitely one of the main ingredients of successful transition to the advanced levels of English. They’re what sets apart one language from the other, what makes each language distinct and unique. Noticing language chunks is a skill that needs to be well-developed by the intermediate level of English. If a student is unable to recognize common phrases and word combinations, s/he’ll stay at his/her current level and will never make it to the advanced stages.
 
The following are commonly referred to as language chunks:
 
Collocations are phrases that consist of words that recurrently co-occur together (derived from Latin locare ‘to locate’ and cum ‘together; introduced in 30s by John R. Frith).
 
dual citizenship but double occupancy
above zero but over 10 years (experience)
shipwreck but car accident
cut
hair but trim hedge
 
other terminology:
 
‘prefabricated chunks’, ‘phraseological units’, ‘multi-word combinations’
 
Idioms are expressions which meaning cannot be understood from the meanings of its component parts (derived from Latin ‘idioma’ - special property).

other terminology:

‘figurative language’, ‘not literal expressions’, ‘fixed expressions’, ‘invariant word expressions’
 
wet behind the ears
give the green light
 
Phrasal verbs are combinations of a verb and a particle (or particles).
 
other terminology: ‘multi-word verb’, ‘compound verb’, ‘verb-particle construction’
 
put off (verb + preposition)
get along with (verb + 2 prepositions)
take apart (verb + adverb)
 
Note: phrasal verbs are different from ‘prepositional verbs’.
 
Clichés are expressions that has lost some of its original meaning due to overuse:
 
other terminology: ‘catchphrase’
 
to be honest
born yesterday
at the end of the day
when all is said and done
 
Proverbs are sayings that expresses an observation or principle that’s generally accepted as wise or true:
 
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
All that glitters is not gold.
Look before you leap.
 
Language chunks are pervasive and therefore should be extensively taught during class time. Sufficient practice of language chunks will help students avoid wordy ways of expression and make their speech more natural, fluent and spontaneous.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 10:47 PM
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