Linguistic Analyses and Foreign Language Learning @ Waseda U

[Note: This post was published in August 2015 but has been dated in order to reflect the actual timing of the events described here.]

In December, 2013, I participated in a one-day workshop organized by Yasunari Harada at Waseda University here in Tokyo. It was an interesting, if short, event with several area speakers.

The invited speaker, Charles Browne, talked about the construction of a new General Service List (NGSL) of fundamental vocabulary for learners. I was particularly impressed that he persuaded Cambridge University Press to make it open and free. West's GSL (1953) is probably somewhat dated, though I wasn't persuaded that some of the agricultural terms are no longer necessary in the GSL: Even though developed nations now tend to have information-based economies, English learners from developing and underdeveloped countries may very well need a wider agricultural vocabulary.

I was also interested in one talk that studied about the claims that Japanese listeners have difficulty understanding English because Japanese is a "low-frequency" language and English is a "high-frequency" language.  Frankly, I've never really understood this claim (and I'm still not quite sure that I do), but it's interesting to see that someone is working to test the claims empirically and see what it says about developing listening comprehension skills for learners.  Their evidence does seem to suggest that high proficiency Japanese learners of English are better at distinguishing high-frequency pure tones than low proficiency learners. That suggests that if there really is such a "high-frequency" disadvantage, it can be overcome with training.

In my presentation, I talked in detail about the CCHP and presented some samples from the corpus as well as an update on the corpus analysis.  My slides are available here if anyone is interested.