Using corpora to teach collocations in a university context
English as Foreign Language students tend to learn vocabulary in word isolation, not in chunks or collocations which produces meager results in students’ collocational competence and lexical resources. In addition, a corpus-assisted method is used in this project because of its significant effectiveness in bringing real-world language use or authentic materials in teaching and learning collocations. Therefore, this article investigates the potential role of using corpora and concordances in teaching and learning collocations with a view to improving university students’ collocational competence in academic writing. To do this, an experiment was conducted among 30 third-year students in the English Faculty of Hanoi National University (pseudonym) who had little or no previous knowledge of collocations as well as corpora. Students were in both the experimental group in a six-week English unit which a corpus-assisted method was applied for the experimental group and a traditional (or rule-based) method was used for the control group to find out the differences and improvement among groups of students. They were required to take part in different tests in different time periods including before, immediately after and two weeks after the course. The results of these tests were analyzed carefully in terms of learners’ collocational use in academic writing, specifically premodifier-noun collocations. Results indicated that while both groups experienced improvements in their academic writing skill, the students of the experimental group displayed a holistic improvement regarding the use of collocations with fewer collocational errors and more academic collocation patterns. It is, hence, concluded that the application of corpora exerts a tremendous influence on developing learners’ collocational competence as well as language proficiency.