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[en] Confronting EAP textbooks with corpus evidence: the case of academic listening
University of Luxembourg
In this paper I will discuss the extent to which lecture listening textbooks reflect authentic lecture language. I will also demonstrate Sketch Engine, which allows you to easily retrieve target language from (academic) corpora, and FileMaker Pro, a database programme which I find extremely useful in processing concordances.
The degree to which EAP materials correspond to the demands of real lectures is arguably an important factor in their ultimate usefulness. As Thompson (2003, p. 6) notes, ‘[f]or EAP practitioners, a key issue is how to provide as accurate as possible a model of lecture organisation and help their learners to develop the skills to interpret organising signals’. To assess how representative organisational cues in EAP books are(Cuenca and Bach 2007), I compare importance marking cues with those attested in the British Academic Spoken English corpus .
2. Corpus analysis
Importance markers identified through an initial close reading of 40 BASE lectures were retrieved from all 160 BASE lectures using Sketch Engine and supplemented with further markers attested in their cotext and the BASE word list. Additional markers from previous lecture research were also searched (Deroey and Taverniers 2012).
The investigation revealed a large variety of importance markers, the most common of which differ from those which usually appear in EAP materials. The markers were classified according to their orientation to either the participants or the content (‘interactive orientation’, Table 1) and their position relative to the highlighted point (Deroey 2013). Most are either content- or listener-oriented, and signal important points prospectively. The predominant markers by far were those of the type the point is and remember. These are potentially multifunctional and less explicit than their far less frequently used prototypical counterparts containing adjectives (e.g. the important point is) or a listener pronoun (you should note that). It can be argued that students should therefore be trained in interpreting these prevalent, multifunctional cues alongside being exposed to markers reflecting the variety that exists in real lectures.
Interactive orientation N %
Content 363 46.4
the point is sound waves don't really interact
Listener 304 38.9
remember South Korea is still classified as a NIC
Speaker 79 10.1
i want to emphasize this
Joint 36 4.6
now let us note what Descartes is doing
Table1: Interactive orientation of importance markers: examples and frequencies (N=782)
3. Corpus evidence versus EAP textbooks
The EAP books I examined vary widely in their inclusion of importance markers and range of examples. Most include few and fairly prototypical importance markers (Lebauer 2010; Lynch 2004; Phillips 1999; Salehzadeh 2006; Sarosy and Sherak 2006), the origins of which are unclear. Three integrate research findings on lecture listening and/or include corpus data: Salehzadeh (2006), Kelly, Revell, and Nesi (2000) and Lynch (2004).
Salehzadeh (2006) uses some lectures from MICASE. ‘Emphasis’ cues are said to generally occur before a point, which is borne out by my corpus data. However, examples are very few and mainly prototypical (e.g. the important thing here is…, what you don’t want to forget…) and it is unclear whether these are corpus-derived.
Kelly, Revell, and Nesi (2000) relates listening skills to lecture excerpts from BASE. The chapter on distinguishing between more and less important information includes examples such as The key point is…What’s crucial… is…; A point worth noting is…; and That’s… the main point here. Examples are from the corpus but all contain adjectives and do not represent the predominant markers from this study.
The lectures in Lynch (2004) seem to have been organised for the course. Interestingly, his categorisation of importance markers (p. 39) closely resembles the one based on corpus data in Deroey (2013). Lecturers stress points by ‘speaking about the subject matter itself’ (e.g. a basic point; the central problem is that…); ‘speaking to the audience’ (it’s important to bear in mind that…; remember that…, you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that…); or by ‘speaking about themselves’ (I want to stress). Lynch’s list of importance markers is the largest and most varied. Nevertheless, it is mostly restricted to fairly prototypical examples and it is not clear what the list is based on.
In short, I feel that much remains to be done to ensure that corpus evidence informs lecture listening materials so that students are better prepared for the demands of their course lectures. In the case of importance markers textbooks should contain examples of a wider variety of importance markers, and practise the interpretation of prevalent, potentially multifunctional markers.
Deroey, K. L. B. and Taverniers, M. 2012. “‘Just remember this’: Lexicogrammatical relevance markers in lectures”. English for Specific Purposes 31 (4): 221-233.
Deroey, K. L. B. published online 2013. “Marking importance in lectures: Interactive and textual orientation”. Applied Linguistics. doi: 10.1093/applin/amt029
Kelly, T., Revell, R., and Nesi, H. 2000. Listening to lectures. Warwick: University of Warwick.
Lebauer, R. 2010. Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn, Level 2: Academic Listening and Note-Taking (3rd ed.). New York: Pearson Longman.
Lynch, T. 2004. Study listening: A course in listening to lectures and note taking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Phillips, T. 1999. Skills in English listening: Level 3. Reading: Garnet Education.
Salehzadeh, J. 2006. Academic listening strategies: A guide to understanding lectures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Sarosy, P. and Sherak, K. 2006. Lecture ready 2: Strategies for academic listening, note-taking, and discussion. Oxford: OUP.
Thompson, S. E. 2003. “Text-structuring metadiscourse, intonation and the signalling of organisation in academic lectures”. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 2 (1): 5-20.