Collocations and Advanced Learners

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What makes Advanced learners Advanced learners is most notably their ability to use language naturally. What this means is producing language in lexical chunks which are appropriate and relevant for the context they are in. Collocations play a big part in this. Having a thorough knowledge of collocations allows learners to sound more native-like and less learner-like.

Why do Advanced learners need collocations?

Advanced level learners are often at a plateau. It might not be as obvious as the one the majority of students experience at Intermediate level, but it’s there nonetheless. By the time students get to Advanced they have learnt the same grammar points in their EFL lessons for years and they have spoken about the same topics again and again and again. It is not surprising that a lot of Advanced learners are tired of the learning process.

Plus, Advanced learners can feel like they do not have much more to learn. By this stage they are competent communicators and perhaps do not need more language to communicate their ideas; they can convey their meaning using the language they already know. However, this strategy can hinder an Advanced learner’s learning because they will not challenge themselves and will forever stick to the language they know rather than learn new language.

This is where collocations come in, to give Advanced learners more variety in their language production and effectively to sound more natural.

How can Advanced learners learn collocations?

There is no magic formula for learning (or teaching) collocations. It all comes down to exposure, attention and usage. Extensive reading and the use of authentic texts in the classroom are great ways to ensure your Advanced learners will encounter collocations which will be useful to their own language production.

As the teacher, you can make sure your students are given relevant materials to deal with in the classroom. Plan consciousness-raising activities which bring the collocations to the students’ attention and show them the difference a collocation can make to their language. By doing this you will hopefully regain your students’ interest in the language and increase their motivation for learning.

Outside the classroom, the teacher can recommend resources which are available to the learners, and strategies on how to use them. This can include books, movies, TV shows, blogs and YouTube channels. Being exposed to authentic language on a regular basis will not only do wonders for a learner’s enthusiasm for the language but also for their language comprehension and production.

Collocations can be tricky to teach and a pain to learn, but the effect they have on language output more than makes up for the blood, sweat and tears put into learning them. Help your learners see the usefulness of collocations and the richness they will bring to their English, and use activities which make the most out of the materials you use in the classroom and your learners will soon find themselves using collocations naturally and effectively.

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