Monday, December 30, 2013

How Many Words are there in the English Language?

The Corpus of Global Web-Based English (GloWbE) is composed of 1.9 billion words from 1.8 million web pages in 20 different English-speaking countries. The corpus was created by Mark Davies of Brigham Young University, and it was released in April 2013.
GloWbE (pronounced like "globe") is related to other large corpora that we have created, including the 450 million word Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the 400 million word Corpus of Historical American English (COHA). Together, these three corpora allow researchers to examine variation in English -- by dialect, genre, and over time -- in ways that are not possible with any other large corpora of English.

SIZE: At the most basic level, GloWbE allows you to search through a corpus that is more than four times as large as COCA (and nearly twenty times as large as the British National Corpus). This means that where you might only have 10-12 tokens in the BNC and 50-60 in COCA, you might have 250-300 in GloWbE.

DIALECTS: The real power of GloWbE, though, is the ability to see the frequency of any word, phrase, or grammatical construction in each of the 20 different countries. You can also compare any features in two sets of dialects, such as British and American English (in more than 775 million words of text for just these two dialects). Or you could just limit your search to one or two countries (e.g. Australia (148 million words), South Africa (45 million), or Singapore (43 million)), and you'll still be searching the largest online corpus for most of these twenty countries. 

In terms of searches, with GloWbE you can study an extremely wide range of phenomena (the same as with all of the other corpora from words, phrases, grammatical constructions, synonyms, customized lists, and collocates (nearby words, which provide insight into meaning and usage). In addition, for many of these searches, they are 5-6 times as fast as with other corpus architectures like Sketch Engine / CQPWeb.

To see a number of examples of what you can do with the corpus, feel free to take a quick five minute tour.

Friday, December 20, 2013

‘Introduction to Teaching Overseas’ Goes Mobile!

When I began teaching in Thailand many years ago, I soon realized that, as a new overseas teacher, there was a lot I wished I had known before embarking on my new career. So, I made notes and eventually turned them into a booklet. It has been updated several times though most of what I originally wrote still holds today.

Now that I am using Smashwords to publish my books, I thought I would add my Introduction to Teaching Overseas and make it available to the world of mobile eReader enthusiasts. 

As of December 19, it is live and available in most eReader formats. If you want to get a copy for someone, it is priced at $.99. That’s right! Ninty-nine cents! Can’t beat that. It is full of useful information and tips for new or aspiring  teachers. 

Right now, the need for ESL teachers is critical in many countries in Asia, Central and South America and Eastern Europe.

Here’s where you can find it on Smashwords:

Introduction to Teaching Overseas

You must know someone who has talked about teaching overseas, right? 

Here are a couple of my other books available for eReaders:


TEYL link


Happy eReading!

Dr. Robert

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Which is correct...If I Was vs. If I Were?

In 1964, when Sheldon Harnick wrote the lyrics for the musical Fiddler on the Roof, he had the poverty-stricken Russian milkman Tevye sing “If I were a rich man.”

In 1992, affluent rock star Bon Jovi sang “If I was your mother,” but then in 2008, BeyoncĂ© sang “If I were a boy.”

Clearly, both forms persist in popular usage. 

Curious to see how the two constructions compare in the world of pop music, I searched a site called ReverbNation. According to the search results, “If I Was” and” If I Were” as song titles are tied at “over 500 songs” each. 

According to linguist Geoffrey Pullum, co-author of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), there’s no significant difference between using was or were in what the CGEL calls “the irrealis form of the copula.” (A copula is what linguists call a word that links subject and predicate. Irrealis is unreal.) In Pullum’s view, both “if I was” and “if I were” mean the same thing in such a statement. 

A web search will bring up both acceptance and rejection of the “if I was” construction. Merriam-Webster illustrates its discussion of the usage by pointing out that F. Scott Fitzgerald used both forms for statements of unreality. Here are two:
I wish I were twenty-two again … — F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter, 27 Dec. 1925.
… if I was Vassar, I wouldn’t take you … — F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter, 18 Apr. 1938
The M-W editor concludes:
Clearly there is a choice to be made here, and if Fitzgerald could use either form, so can others.
Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with Merriam-Webster on this one. To many people, “I wish I was a rich man” is not standard usage.

There are contexts in which “if I was” can be justified For example, “If she was ill, no wonder she left the party early.” 

In a statement that does not describe reality, or the possibility of reality, were is still the better choice–if only because a great many employers, clients, and customers still regard “if I was you” as nonstandard usage. 

by Maeve Maddox
Daily Writing Tips

Monday, December 9, 2013

English as a lingua Franca (ELF)

English as a lingua Franca (ELF) can be defined as a contact language used between speakers who do not share the same mother tongue(s) or cultural backgrounds. It is a global phenomenon, with a much wider range of people using English now as an additional language than native speakers. Indeed, over 80% of interactions in English worldwide are now estimated to be between non-native speakers. In this respect, native speaker competence may no longer be relevant as a model to imitate or a «golden standard» to reach (see Seidlhofer 2004). Indeed, when ELF is used for education, the focus tends to be on effective communication rather than «correctness» (see Mauranen et al 2010). This is particularly evident in speech which is processed «on-line», giving little time for reflection on form.

Focus on teaching staff and adult educators, teaching staff and adult educators may benefit from refection on the issues involved in teaching
in English, and practical support in dealing with new challenges effectively. Three overlapping fields can be identified in relation to teaching in
English in non-English speaking contexts (see Hoekje and Williams 1992). These are the role of English as a common language, the learning and teaching situation, and an intercultural perspective. The interplay between these three areas needs to be taken into consideration in course planning and delivery. Teaching in English in a non-English speaking context requires conscious awareness of the new situation on the part of the teacher. This is particularly so in relation to language and culture and is also linked to awareness-raising amongst the students on issues involved.

Alongside course planning, teaching staff need to consider broader issues, notably sources of possible problems amongst the learners that may need to be specifically addressed, for example insufficient language levels or feeling ill at ease with different teaching styles. The learners themselves need not only to understand course content in English, but also accept approaches to teaching and learning that may differ culturally from those they are used to. Thus, alongside linguistic and pedagogical issues, it is important to adequately address different cultural perspectives that are often present amongst course participants who do not share the same lingual-cultural backgrounds.