Common Collocation Problems for EFL Learners
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Collocation Problems for EFL Learners – There are many difficulties that English as a Foreign Language learners experience when learning English. While it’s pretty obvious that there are rules governing English grammar, we must also remember that there are rules which govern things like vocabulary and pronunciation too. In effect, learning English is not as straightforward as learning the different tenses and when and how to use them. Rather, it is becoming familiar with the language and understanding the nuances of the usage of the language. As a consequence of this, many students are actually unaware of everything they need to know in order to speak the language. In a nutshell, they don’t know what they don’t know.
Collocations are one example of this.
Collocations are an especially tricky aspect of learning English. First of all, not many learners are aware of collocations in that they don’t know they exist and they don’t know what they are – and the same can probably be said for many EFL teachers too! Secondly, there is no apparent reasoning or rule behind them. If you asked a native speaker why they use certain collocations, they won’t be able to give you any justification besides I just do, or It sounds right. Instead, in order to learn collocations, they need to be encountered in natural language and learners must familiarise themselves with the different collocations over time in order to adopt them into their own language.
What is a collocation?
For those of us who are a bit fuzzy on collocations, a collocation is “a combination of words in a language that happens very often and more frequently than would happen by chance”, or, to put it a bit simpler, the occurrence of certain words together. This relationship can be either strong – when the link between the words is fixed – or weak – when a word collocates with a number of other words. For example, blonde hair is a strong collocation because blonde doesn’t pair with many other words (if any) but straight hair is a weak collocation because straight can, and often does, pair with a number of other words.
Moving on to the usage of collocations, to make it a little bit clearer, when you think about it, as native speakers, how do we know that we say heavy rain but not thick rain? Strong coffee but not powerful coffee? Do homework but not make homework?
Presumably it’s from our experience with the collocations in natural English and our exposure to the language, so it’s understandable that our learners, who have not had as much exposure to the language, can have difficulty with them.
Let’s get to the bottom of this by first looking at the different types of collocations we have in English.
Verb + noun: Delexicalised verbs
Delexicalised verbs are also known as empty verbs. These are verbs which are used frequently in English and with many nouns, so much so that they seem to have lost their meaning in the phrase. Common delexicalised verbs are get, go, take, make, do, have. If we consider the phrase have a coffee, it has the same meaning as drink a coffee, though the one is far more common than the other.
A few examples of frequently used delexicalised verb collocations are:
have a party
take a break
keep a promise
Noun + noun
A noun-noun combination includes combinations such as collective nouns and quantifiers. For example:
a herd of elephants
a bar of soap
a round of applause
Noun + verb
You might not even realise that these combinations are collocations but the fact is that these words go together and while some cannot be substituted, others can but are not used together as often. Examples are:
Adjective + noun
Sometimes the way we describe certain things has become so firmly entrenched in our language that they are collocations. For example:
a heavy smoker
a rough night
a light sleeper
Adverb + adjective
Similarly, the way we describe certain adjectives has also become fixed in our language, such as
Verb + prepositional phrase
These verb-prepositional phrases also include phrasal verbs:
burst into tears
run out of money
Verb + adverb
There are also particular verb-adverb combinations that we use. For example:
Now that we know exactly what collocations are, let’s look at the common difficulties our students face when it comes to learning them.
Common collocation problems for EFL learners
As the above examples show, collocations do not seem to follow any rules nor have any reason behind their existence. If asked by a student why it is we do the homework rather than make the homework, we can try to find a flimsy reason to justify it but we are more likely than not going to reply that it just is, which is not a very satisfactory explanation. Our learners like to have a rule to be able to learn and revert to when they are not sure of a phrase; not having the rule can be frustrating. Don’t be surprised if your learners get a glazed look on their face when you mention collocations!
- L1 transfer
Probably because of this randomness it is easy for learners to be tripped up by first language transfer. First language transfer is when similarities in a learner’s first language interfered with their learning of a second language. Italian learners of English may well take a coffee because this is how it is said in Italian. Similarly, speakers of Spanish will have comparable problems, while speakers of a completely different language, like Arabic, will have their own totally different transfer issues.
There are a huge number of collocations in English. Learning vocabulary is bad enough but adding in the fact that certain words are used together adds another dimension to learning the words of a language. The thing is, knowing collocations is what can mean knowing a language. Using collocations in language production will make you sound more natural. Your language will flow and your listeners won’t struggle to understand what you are trying to say. This is why collocations are so important in language learning.
How can we teach collocations more effectively?
Encourage your learners to read English texts. Be sure to include authentic materials into your lessons so that your students are exposed to natural language as much as possible. When teaching vocabulary, don’t only focus on meaning, form and pronunciation but also focus on common collocations with the words in question. Be sure to draw your students’ attention to the occurrence and usage of collocations in any texts you use in class.
However, there is no need to get technical when teaching collocations. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter if it’s an adverb-adjective or an adjective-noun combination.
Encourage them to keep a collocation dictionary to keep a record. You can also make posters with common collocations on the walls around the classroom so that your students will have them front of mind when they are speaking English.
All of these tricks will help your students learn collocations, which is not an easy thing to do. Be encouraging as students can easily become disheartened when they realise the uphill battle they are facing when it comes to collocations. And above all, don’t give up – and don’t let them give up!
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ELEARNING FUTURES LTD retains personal information in line with our corporate retention requirements. Your data will be stored within the European Economic Area (“the EEA”) (The EEA consists of all EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). However, in some circumstances, part or all of your data may be stored or transferred outside of the European Economic Area (“the EEA”). You are deemed to accept and agree to this by using our site and submitting information to us. If we do store or transfer data outside the EEA, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the EEA and under the GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with, and the use of the EU-approved Model Contractual Arrangements. If we intend at any time to transfer any of your data outside the EEA, we will always obtain your consent beforehand.
Right to access personal information
- Under the law, any individual has a right to ask for a copy of the personal information held about them. This means that you can ask for the information that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD holds about you. This is known as the right of ‘subject access’.
- When making a request you will need to give us:
- a request in writing (by post or by email)
- We may need to ask you to provide:
- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.
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