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20 12 2009_The Lexical Approach

20 12 2009_The Lexical Approach

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Published by: Sonny Pui on Dec 26, 2009
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The lexical approach on collocations 
The lexical approach : 
An emphasis on collocations 
Sirinna Boonyasaquan
In this article, the lexical approach is discussed. Then teaching collocations as a way to apply the lexical approach in the classroom is recommended. Finally,a method of teaching collocations and some sample exercises are presented.
It seems that the lexical approach is notpopular among teachers of English in Thailand.This has resulted in vocabulary negligence and inparticular, an unawareness of the importance ofcollocation in language learning. It is probablybecause the Thai teachers are more familiar withthe grammar-translation methodology since theyprobably have the traditional mindset that çmasteryof the grammatical system is a prerequisite foreffective communicationé (Olga, 2001). Later,they have been overwhelmed with the idea of thecommunicative approach. Lewis ( 2000) explainedthat the communicative approach concerns theexpression and communication of meanings.With such an emphasis, fluency is obviouslyconsidered of more importance than accurancy.Students seem to be more proficient in two skills,i.e. speaking and listening, despite the fact thatthe approach itself emphasizes all the four skills.Students may be able to speak and communicatewell, but the effectiveness of vocabulary andgrammar used is still questionable. With therecent campaign for the lexical approach, EFLpersonnel have increased their attention incollocations. However, in Thailand this is probablynot the case since the number of action orclassroom research on collocation is verylimited.
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Introducing collocation at the earliest possiblestage is ideal. Hill (2000) states that çcollocationshould play an important part in our teaching fromlesson oneé (p. 60). We have to accept the factthat collocation has been an undervalued aspectof productive vocabulary, despite its significancein EFL learning (Wei, 1999). Collocation should befocused on in every single stage of a learnerûsacademic path, from the primary to universitylevels. Also, it should be highlighted whenteaching any English skill such as listening,speaking, reading, writing and translating.It is now time to strongly encourage theteaching of collocations or word partnerships inall English courses at all levels since çadherenceto the collocational conventions of a foreignlanguage contributes greatly to oneûs idiomaticityand nativelikeness, and not doing so announcesoneûs foreignnessé (James, 1998, p. 152).This article stresses the necessity for teachingEnglish collocations and suggestions on how toteach collocations are later presented. Finally,sample collocation exercises are given.
What is the lexical approach?
In this section, the definition of the lexicalapproach and the historical background arebriefly discussed as overview.The lexical approach has emerged since1993 when the term lexical approach was coinedby Lewis (1993). Lewis posits his ideas thatvocabulary should be the most important aspectin teaching English stating that çlanguage isgrammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammaré(Lewis, 1993, p. 95). There were a number ofobjections to the lexical approach at thebeginning; however, over time, a lot of researchershave come out in favor and the lexical approachhas found its way into the classroom.The principle of the lexical approach is toçallow learners to experience language items innatural contexts and to learn from their experience.The approach relies crucially on the concept ofthe learnersû corpusé (Willis, 1994, p. viii) . Itfocuses on çdeveloping learnersû proficiency withwords and word combinations. It is based on theidea that an important part of language acquisitionis the ability to produce lexical phrases as chunksand that these chunks become the raw data bywhich learners perceive patterns of languagetraditionally thought of as grammaré (Lewis, 1993,p. 95).In sum, the lexical approach gives moreimportance to vocabulary than grammar. Oneway to apply the lexical approach in the classroomis to focus on collocations.
The lexical approach on collocations 
What is collocation?
Under this topic, collocation, which is animportant element of the lexical approach, ishighlighted. The definition and classification ofcollocations are briefly discussed.Lewis (2000) defines collocation as çthe wayin which words co-occur in natural text instatistically significant waysé (p. 132). For Nattingerand DeCarrio (1997), collocations are defined asçstrings of specific lexical items that co-occurwith a mutual expectancy greater than chance,such as
rancid butter 
curry favor 
é (p.36).While for James (1998), collocations are çtheother words any particular word normally keepscompany withé (p. 152).Collocations can be classified in many ways.For example, Baker (1997) divides collocationsinto lexical collocations, collocations that involvecontent words, e.g.
strong coffee 
, and grammaticalcollocations, collocations that involve grammaticalstructure, e.g.
turn on the radio.
According to Wei(1999, p. 5), collocations are categorized into 1)lexical collocations, e.g.
a major difference 
; 2)grammatical collocations, e.g.
aware of 
(grammatical collocation that contains apreposition),
have someone do something 
have something done 
(grammatical collocationthat involves a grammatical structure) and 3)idiomatic expressions, e.g.
kick the bucket 
.Meanwhile, Hill (2000) suggests four kinds ofcollocations:1) unique collocations e.g.
foot the bill 
, 2) strong collocations e.g.
moved to tears 
;3) weak collocations e.g.
a good weekend 
andlastly 4) medium-strength collocations, e.g.
do the laundry 
.In brief, collocation is the way one wordfrequently or always comes together with anotherword or words for no specific reasons. These co-occurrences or word partnerships are observedbecause of their regular co-appearances and theyare mainly classified as lexical, grammatical andidiomatic.
Why should collocations be focusedon in EFL/ESL classroom teaching?
In this part, the reasons why collocationsshould be taught are suggested and relatedliterature is given to support those reasons.Collocation is arbitrary and unpredictable,(Benson, Benson and Ilson, 1986; Lewis, 1997;Woolard, 2000; Lewis, 1997). For example, it iscorrect to say
to make the bed 
but not
to do the bed 
to turn on 
but not
to open the light 
sales volume 
but not
sales amount 
bread and butter 
but not
butter and bread 
to shrug oneûs shoulders 
but not
to shrug oneûs arms 
, etc.Obviously, it is hard for EFL learners to cope withand to produce collocations effectively ifcollocations are not focused on andpracticed.

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