When using Antconc for the first time during my Principles of Language and Linguistics assignment, I thought the software was more my foe than my friend! I am sure my fellow first time Antconc user, Salwa will agree with me on that! This was due partly to the lack of experience in using the software and unfamiliarity with the software’s features. Nevertheless, this FREE Corpus Analysis software allowed me to investigate the most common collocations and semantic associations found in different Business English course books. If you have never heard of Antconc before, this may be a little confusing at first! Where do I start? Well, Antconc was first created by Laurence Anthony and released in 2002. As Laurence defines, ‘Antconc is a freeware, multi-platform, multi-purpose corpus analysis toolkit, designed specifically for use in the classroom. It hosts a comprehensive set of tools including a powerful concordancer, word and keyword frequency generators, tools for cluster and lexical bundle analysis, and a word distribution plot’. For these reasons, Antconc can potentially be very useful in language teaching and learning.
I used Antconc’s concordance and word frequency feature to focus on the most common lexical relationships in a given text. This can be really exciting in the classroom as teachers can build their own corpus and get students to focus on the words that are most likely to appear together. Antconc is also useful in the realms of Business English as students can adopt a lexical approach to learn ‘language chunks’ rather than single word units. For Ellis (in Nation, 2001:318), ‘language knowledge is collocational knowledge’. Here, he refers to how students store language chunks in their long-term memory on the basis of how likely particular chunks will occur (Ellis, 2001 in Nation, 2001). Language fluency is likely to increase when students recall these learnt collocations and apply them productively in their speaking and writing.
Antconc can also be used to teach vocabulary and idioms. Teachers can upload single text files on Antconc relevant to the lesson topic. As a class, students can focus on specialised vocabulary in different text types and genres such as law, story books, greetings etc. This is a good platform for teaching common vocabulary and pronunciation. An interesting gap-fill activity using Antconc is created by using the concordance feature. Teachers can choose to replace specific words using asterisks and students have to read the context to figure out the missing word.
Another activity using Antconc is to divide students in small groups, instruct groups to focus on different sets of concordance lines to see if they notice any patterns in the concordance sets. This is a great approach to communicative language teaching as students can exchange ideas, opinions and views and thus negotiate language meaningfully. If you are interested in using Antconc, simply click here to download. There are also useful step-by-step guides to using Antconc on YouTube. What are you waiting for? Get started now! I would love to know if you have ever used Antconc before and if you found it useful.
Reference: Nation, P. 2001. Language Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. This is a great and easy to read book on how to teach vocabulary and collocations. Take some ideas from the book and create your own corpus.