Further development and applications of the Swiss learner corpus SWIKO
Project management
07.2021 - 07.2024
Corpus, Learning, Acquisition

In line with the strong presence of usage-based approaches to language description and research in language acquisition, research in corpus linguistics has intensified and diversified in recent years. This applies equally to corpus-based and corpus-oriented research into language acquisition as well as to applied pedagogical research. Nevertheless, research gaps and desiderata remain. For instance, in regards to learner corpora, certain bias towards English as the target language, intermediate and advanced learners, and written texts can still be observed. Moreover, there is little variation in tasks to elicit learner language. Multilingual corpora with foreign- and first-language data sets (parallel corpora), oral corpora and especially corpora with texts produced by younger, less advanced learners are much less common; in the context of compulsory schooling, such corpora are basically non-existent.

With these considerations in mind, and building on the previous work on SWIKO (research period 2016–2019),* the goals of the current WETLAND project are twofold: 1) to expand and consolidate the existing corpus as well as analyse selected data in detail, and 2) to focus on the use of corpora in language education.

To achieve the first goal, the currently rather small sub-corpus for German as a foreign language will be increased through larger data sets in order to generate more reliable indicators for how linguistic competences develop. Moreover, the existing annotations of oral texts will be re-examined and supplemented by other information, e.g. fluency features. Finally, ratings will be used to categorise the CEFR level of the texts produced, at least for written text productions in German as a foreign language.

The second goal  concerns the development and testing of corpus-related teaching and learning activities for school settings, with references to data-driven learning (DDL). Although rarely used in schools so far, DDL is considered to be a highly promising method of applying corpus linguistics to language education in which learners are encouraged to take on an active role in using corpora, e.g. by analysing corpus data. A qualitative study on DDL will investigate the following questions: How can corpus-related teaching and learning activities be implemented in the classroom? What experiences are made by the persons involved? Can factors for success and/or failure be identified?

Purpose – Expected results

The overarching research interest of WETLAND is to better understand how linguistic competence develops under current (communicative, action- and partly content-based) approaches in foreign language education. This pursuit is in line with the practically relevant goal of achieving empirically based – i.e. realistic – expectations for student achievement in German as a foreign language and thus contributes to illustrating, specifying and differentiating learning outcomes. In relation to the first goal, efforts are also made to grant a wider range of interested persons access to SWIKO.

The second goal focuses on practical applications for language education. As such, a guideline on tried and tested DDL activities will be developed that illustrates examples of the possibilities and limits of corpus-based learning in addition to discussing success and failure factors and offering tips on implementing the activities in a variety of contexts.

* Literature on SWIKO related to the first research period (2016–2019):

  • Karges, Katharina, Studer, Thomas & Hicks, Nina Selina (in preparation). Lernersprache, Aufgabe und Modalität: Beobachtungen zu Texten aus dem Schweizer Lernerkorpus SWIKO. Published in ZGL, Themenheft „Gesprochene Lernerkorpora des Deutschen“.
  • Karges, Katharina, Studer Thomas, Wiedenkeller, Eva (2020). Textmerkmale als Indikatoren von Schreibkompetenz. Bulletin suisse de linguistique appliquée, No spécial, 117-140.
  • Karges, Katharina, Studer, Thomas & Wiedenkeller, Eva (2019). On the way to a new multilingual learner corpus of foreign language learning in school: observations about task variations. In Abel, Andrea, Glaznieks, Aivars, Lyding, Verena & Nicolas, Lionel, eds., Widening the Scope of Learner Corpus Research. Selected Papers from the Fourth Learner Corpus Research Conference. Corpora and Language in Use – Proceedings 5. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain, 137-165. 

The project “DiCoi (Digitalisation et développement de la compétence d’interaction orale)” also examines corpora as a digital learning resource; the focus, however, is on free oral interaction in French as a foreign language.