An Analysis of Japanese Students’ First Exposure to Corpus Data

Yoko Hirata and Yoshihiro Hirata
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Sapporo, Japan

Over the last three decades, various corpora (the plural of corpus, which is defined as a large electronic database of authentic language taken from newspapers, textbooks, transcriptions, etc.) have played an important role in dictionary compilation sectors and higher educational organizations. Despite the popularity of corpus applications for language learning, not enough research has been conducted on how novice users of a corpus or corpora can utilize these language resources. It is also difficult even for instructors to be aware of what kinds of methodological approaches work successfully for a particular group of students. This study reports the results of an investigation into the different types of challenges 38 Japanese university students encountered in the process of utilizing corpus data in their English studies. It also examines the ways the instructor dealt with the challenges arising from corpus-based activities assigned to these students. The findings indicate that students’ educational backgrounds have a very significant influence on the outcomes of their corpus consultation (i.e. concordance lines – sample sentence fragments from the database). A further key result was that introductory lexical exercises are of crucial importance in enabling students to utilize corpora more effectively.