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Thai Learners' Knowledge of English Collocations

Autor:   •  August 5, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  5,263 Words (22 Pages)  •  830 Views

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This paper investigates Thai learners’ receptive and productive knowledge of English collocations. It analyzes their problems in the usage of 3 types of collocations: lexical, grammatical and bound. Data was collected from multiple choice, error recognition and gap-filling tasks. Quantitative analysis was used to identify whether any type of collocation posed more difficulty than the others. The results indicate wide-ranging problems in Thai learners’ collocational knowledge. Difficulties were observed in both reception and production of all three types of collocations. Students showed different orders of difficulty in the multiple choice and gap-filling tasks. While grammatical collocations posed a problem for learners in both tasks, lexical and bound collocations caused more problems in reception than in production. In the error recognition task, a further interesting finding is the difference in correlation between students’ ability to recognize and correct a collocational error. While students were more likely to be able to identify and correct false lexical and bound collocations, they were less able to correct a false grammatical collocation even if they could recognize it. Plausible explanations for these findings are provided. Finally, the researchers strongly advocate the lexical approach to help develop Thai learners’ collocational knowledge.

1. Introduction

The teaching of collocations to L2 learners has gained more and more importance during the last two decades. Most ESL teachers nowadays are well aware that in order to achieve a native-like command of English, their students need not only to know grammatical rules but also to be able to distinguish grammatically well-formed sentences that are “natural” from those that are “unnatural”. Collocational knowledge is an essential part of this proficiency. While this knowledge is one of the key components of native speakers’ intuition, it is very unlikely that non-native speakers also possess it.

Collocations which can be classified as lexical phrases have proven to be an important part of L2 vocabulary development. Nonetheless, vocabulary teaching is traditionally limited to the learning of single word definitions and usage. As a result of the vocabulary and grammar dichotomy, learners are not aware of the close relationship and integration of grammar and lexis. Prevailing teaching methods like the audiolingual method or the communicative approach do not help enhance L2 learners’ collocational knowledge either. This is because they do not reflect a fundamental characteristic of the English language: that it contains a large number of restricted word combinations.

With a general realization of the importance that collocations play in L2 learning and the problems that learners face in achieving native-like language


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