Programme (see below for abstracts and bios)

09:00 Registration
09:15 Cécile De Cat Introduction
09:30 Michelle Sheehan A place for linguistics in language teaching? Sheehan
10:15 Bas Aarts How to teach grammar, using Englicious BSA_AARTS_PedLing Workshop July 2019
11:00 BREAK
11:30 Clare Wright How a linguistically-informed approach to fluency can enhance teaching and assessment practices
Clare Wright Defining Fluency 
12:15 LUNCH
14:00 Alex Housen Not so simple! Defining and measuring complexity in a second/foreign language   Housen – Complexity Leeds 5July2019
15:00 BREAK
15:30 Dora Alexopoulou Big classroom-based learner corpora: an empirical bridge between second language acquisition research and teaching practice Alexopoulou
16:15 James Algie Demonstration: how to use the CLC and EFCAMDAT corpora Advanced Help 2.0     CQL Help 1.3
Using the Learner Corpus 1.1   CLC demo final
17:00 Close

The list of posters appears under the presenters’ abstracts and bios.


Abstracts and bios

A place for linguistics in language teaching?

Michelle Sheehan

There is a notorious lack of linguistics in language teaching. This appears to be because we tend to think of languages as skills, and so assessment (outside of languages degrees) almost always focuses on the performance aspect of language (what you can say, write and understand) rather than on understanding of the language system itself in its different social forms. From this perspective, linguistics appears to have little to offer language teaching/teachers.

Linguistics, as a discipline, studies how languages work and how they are used. Though there are many disagreements and controversies in the field, there are also some things that all academic linguists take for granted, and these core assumptions are not always shared with the majority of language teachers. One such assumption is that grammatical systems should be described rather than prescribed. In other words, there is no ‘correct’ form of language (among native speakers), even if one particular form may be considered ‘standard’ or more prestigious for socio-political reasons. This poses obvious potential challenges for language teaching, where the standard language plays a more central role. Another such assumption (less widely shared) is that your competence in a language can be separated from your production. In a second-language context, this means that you might make frequent mistakes in gender agreement, for example, whilst knowing perfectly well how gender agreement works. Interestingly, explicit knowledge of grammar (competence) is rarely tested, however, except via production.

So how could/should linguistics feature in language teaching? Well, language is complex and an abstract understanding of the sounds and structures of the target language does not ensure accurate performance, but it surely does not hinder it, and it may even be essential to it. There is some evidence that direct instruction of pronunciation helps the pronunciation of ESL speakers (Derwing et al. 1997, 1998). In the MFL classroom, where contact time is limited, some level of explicit grammar teaching has been shown to be necessary. But what kind of pronunciation/grammar should be taught and how close to real linguistic analysis should this be? I would argue that it should be a bit more sophisticated than it traditionally is, involving active pattern recognition by students and highlighting the sub-regularities of grammatical systems rather than their arbitrariness. In the talk, I will discuss three phenomena to illustrate this point: the Romance subjunctive, French past participle agreement and Spanish object clitics. All three phenomena are subject to substantial dialectal variation and so are likely to be confusing even for advanced learners, but all are highly logical with a little bit of linguistic knowledge. Moreover, in such contexts, understanding these aspects of grammar means being aware of variation and patterns beyond the standard.

Michelle Sheehan is a Reader in linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University. Though a syntactician specializing in Romance languages, she also has a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages and a strong interest in language teaching in schools. In 2017, she began ‘Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages’ with an aim to develop introductory linguistics courses for schools. In 2019, she joined the steering group of Language Analysis in Schools: Education and Research (LASER).


How to teach grammar, using Englicious

Bas Aarts

In my talk I will discuss the introduction of grammar into the primary curriculum in 2014 and how this has been received by students and teachers. Many teachers report feelings of anxiety about having to teach grammar and this is hardly surprising, given that the government has offered them very little support. I will introduce the Englicious project, a freely accessible online platform for teachers in primary and secondary schools that helps them deliver the specifications for Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling in the National Curriculum ( I will show how the resources, projects, exercises, videos, etc. on the Englicious website can help teachers to enjoy teaching grammar engagingly.

Bas Aarts is Professor of English Linguistics and Director of the Survey of English Usage at UCL where he teaches English grammar. He leads the Englicious project ( and advises the DfE on the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling tests. His recent publications include Oxford Modern English Grammar (OUP, 2011), the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (edited with S. Chalker and E. Weiner, 2nd edition 2014, OUP), and How to Teach Grammar (with Ian Cushing and Richard Hudson, OUP, 2019)


How a linguistically-informed approach to fluency can enhance teaching and assessment practices

Clare Wright

This talk adds to our understanding of how language analysis can help teachers and learners improve second language fluency, by looking at the impact of using different speaking tasks, both monologic and dialogic, and understanding the interrelation between linguistic, cognitive and pedagogic factors impacting learners’ speech. We start with an introduction to what we currently understand about second language fluency – based principally on Segalowitz’s (2010, 2016) useful three-way framework (cognitive fluency, utterance fluency and perceived fluency). We then expand that framework in the light of research which typically take either a “broad” or “narrow” definition of fluency (Lennon 1990). We examine how such research relates to the goals many teachers may have in teaching for communicative competence (CLT), and how analysing the language used in typical CLT approaches shows up the complex impact of cognitive load on fluency.

We evaluate how far CLT works for teachers in different contexts, and what the challenges are for teachers and learners in handling fluency across different tasks and settings. We compare why some speakers may perform well in prepared or rehearsed tasks, e.g. for high-stakes tests such as school exams, or for CEFR/IELTS assessments, but may then fail to transfer that speaking ability to unprepared spontaneous interaction. We compare how moving from a foreign language classroom to an immersion setting, e.g. during study abroad, may impact on fluency. We finish with findings from a representative sample of languages, English, French, Spanish and Chinese, to explore what’s similar and what may be different in understanding second language fluency, and discuss implications for teaching practices.

Clare Wright joined the University Leeds in 2016 after stints at Newcastle and Reading Universities. Her research, drawing on over 20 years’ experience as a TESOL/EAP teacher, primarily investigates how linguistic, cognitive and pedagogic factors affect fluency development during Study Abroad. She is currently pursuing projects on teaching and learning Mandarin with colleagues in Shanghai Jiao Tong University.


Not so simple! Defining and measuring complexity in a second/foreign language

Alex Housen

Complexity (alongside accuracy and fluency) is an important descriptor of second/foreign language (L2) performance, and a reliable indicator of language proficiency and development. Since the 1990s, much research has been dedicated to complexity, but how it is defined and measured remains controversial.

In the first part of the talk, I will propose a model of (second/foreign) language complexity informed by applied linguistics, and discuss how the lack of consensus has led to inconsistent findings in empirical research.

In the second part, I use that model to classify the complexity measures that have been used in studies based on Task-Based Language Teaching, and discuss what these measures can and cannot reveal with respect to second language proficiency and learning.

I then take a closer look at some concrete measures of lexical and grammatical complexity and discuss their validity and logic as well as the methodological and practical challenges that their calculation presents, particularly for the assessment of learners’ oral and written language.

Alex Housen is Professor of English Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at the University of Brussels (VUB). His research focuses on linguistic, cognitive and social factors in second language acquisition (SLA) and teaching, bilingualism, and bilingual and second language education. His recent publications deal with language complexity and cognitive mechanisms in SLA.


Big classroom-based learner corpora: an empirical bridge between second language acquisition research and teaching practice

Dora Alexopoulou

The increasing use of online language learning platforms creates opportunities for collecting L2 data at an unprecedented scale from a wide range of contexts, for e.g. learners from a variety of linguistic and educational backgrounds around the world. Learner corpora from online language learning provide new opportunities for fundamental empirical research on the learning patterns of very diverse groups of learners with typologically varying mother tongues and with different proficiency. Importantly, data extracted from an educational learning environment can be an empirical bridge between developmental lab-based second language acquisition research and language proficiency in education.

In this talk I will show how investigating some basic SLA questions in learner corpora can directly inform teaching practice. Specifically, I will show how looking at the trajectory of linguistic complexity, error patterns and native language influence across a variety of teaching tasks can help construct learner profiles that can inform curriculum questions like who to teach what and when. I will also briefly review educational applications combining SLA, corpus and computational research.

The corpus underpinning the research is the EF-Cambridge Open Language Database (EFCAMDAT), an open access corpus consisting of student writings submitted to the online school of EF Education First, an international school of English as a foreign language. EFCAMDAT stands out for its size, comprising of 1.2 million scripts, the diversity of student backgrounds and the variety of its 128 distinct writing tasks spanning across the proficiency spectrum. The talk will be followed by an overview of available learner corpora and demo of EFCAMDAT and the Cambridge Learner Corpus.

Dora Alexopoulou is a Principal Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, PI of the EF Research Lab on Applied Language Learning.



What does utterance fluency tell us about oral language proficiency?

Zoe Handley (University of York)

Utterance fluency (temporal features of the speech sample, including syllable, pause and repair rate) has long featured as a key descriptor in the ratings scales employed in standardised speaking tests (Tavakoli et al., 2017). While there is an increasing body of evidence for the validity of the descriptors used in oral language assessment, that evidence is often compromised by circularity (de Jong et al., 2012; de Jong et al., 2013). For example, analytic ratings are often correlated with holistic ratings based on the same speech sample.

With a view to overcoming this problem, this study applies de Jong et al.’s (2012; 2013) approach to the validation of descriptors for the assessment of Dutch to the validation of descriptors for English. That is, it attempts to develop a componential model of English speaking proficiency (de Jong et al., 2012) and explores the relationship between independent objective measures of linguistic knowledge and processing obtained and objective measures of utterance fluency based on learners’ performance on a speaking task (de Jong et al., 2013). The study is novel in its use of productive measures of linguistic knowledge and processing, and its attempt to independently measure efficiency of syntactic and morpho-syntactic processing.

73 Chinese learners of English studying at masters level participated in the study. 34 were studying in the UK and 39 were studying in China. Each learner completed seven tasks: 1) an IELTS-style monologic narrative speaking task, 2) the productive levels test, 3) the word associates test, 4) a picture naming task, 5) a grammar knowledge test, 6) a novel sentence inflection and agreement task designed to measure morpho-syntactic encoding, and 7) a novel sentence transformation task designed to measure syntactic encoding.

Measures of utterance fluency commonly referred to in speaking assessment descriptors were calculated by hand based on the learners’ performance in the IELTS style monologic speaking task. Accuracy and reaction times were recorded for the picture naming and sentence construction tasks. Correlation analyses were then conducted to examine the relationship between utterance fluency and communicative adequacy, and between measures of linguistic knowledge and processing and utterance fluency. Finally, regression analyses were conducted to produce a model of speaking proficiency. Implications of the findings for development of descriptors for the assessment of speaking proficiency and teaching will be discussed in the conclusions.

De Jong, N. H., Steinel, M. P., Florijn, A. F., Schoonen, R., & Hulstijn, J. (2012). Facets of speaking proficiency. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34, 5-34.
De Jong, N. H., Steinel, M. P., Florijn, A., Schoonen, R., & Hulstijn, J. H. (2013). Linguistic skills and speaking fluency in a second language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 34(5), 893-916.
Tavakoli, P., Nakatsuhara, F., & Hunter, A. M. (2017). Scoring validity of the Aptis Speaking Test: Investigating fluency across tasks and levels of proficiency. ARAGs Research Reports Online.

Examining the relationship between L1 fluency, L2 fluency and working memory capacity in dialogic and monologic performances

Nada Alsheehri (University of Leeds)

The speech production processes generally used by people to communicate are not always effortless and smooth. When speakers have difficulty in formulating or articulating a stream of words, the speech production is disrupted and punctuated by disfluency markers such as fillers, repairs or repetitions (Felker et al., 2019). Research on investigating the relationship between first language (L1) and second language (L2) fluency is of interest because some L2 researchers (e.g., De Jong, 2016; Peltonen, 2018) have found that fluency is a personal trait while others, such as Derwing et al. (2009) have found fluency is a language-specific trait.

Little is known about the operationalization of fluency measures in dialogue and monologue, for example, the between-turn pauses, filled/unfilled pauses, and turn-takings. It is still unknown whether L2 dysfluency in dialogue and monologue is due to the individual differences (IDs) such as, working memory capacity (WMC) and L1 fluency. Working memory is known as “the temporary storage and manipulation of information that is assumed to be necessary for a wide range of complex cognitive activities” (Baddeley, 2003, p.189). There is a growing interest in understanding the relationship between WMC and human cognitive operations such as oral production. The available literature on language learning and processing has highlighted the close relationship between IDs in WMC, L1 and L2 acquisition as shown in speech production models of L1 Levelt (1989) and L2 De Bot (1992) and Kormos (2006).

Therefore, this study aims to examine the relationship between L1 fluency, L2 fluency and WMC of L2 learners when they are performing dialogic and monologic tasks. Seventy L2 university students will take two WM tests: Operation Span Test and Backward Digit Test. Then in pairs, the students will be asked to exchange opinions about a popular topic in L1 (Arabic) and L2 (English). Finally, one-on-one with the researcher each participant will speak to a microphone about a personal experience. Selection of fluency measures will be used to examine participants’ speech samples in both modes. The temporal aspects of fluency will be measured by PRAAT software (Boersma and Weenink 2013).

Using a learner corpus to inform the development of a self-directed diagnostic and language learning tool

Caitlin Neachtain (Mary Immaculate College)

This preliminary study provides an overview of the issues facing Irish language students at third level in order to inform future strategies to support learning and improve outcomes.

Despite significant time resources being devoted to the teaching of Irish at primary and post-primary level, various reports support the conclusion that learners’ levels of competence in the language have declined significantly across all key stages, including at third level and beyond (Harris et al., 2006; Hislop, 2013; Ní Mhaonaigh, 2013).

This investigation contributes data on language learners’ self-assessed competency levels, where research participants reflect on language competency “Can do” statements, based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

These results are then compared with a learner corpus comprising samples of participants’ written work in order to assess the reliability of learners’ beliefs in relation to their language skills.

Finally, this exploration also investigates language learners’ attitudes towards Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) along with their motivation with regard to self-directed learning and towards learning Irish.

Preliminary results reveal that learners’ understanding of their individual language competencies diverges significantly from their written output. These results will establish the terms of reference for the development of an online language diagnostic resource to support autonomous language learning in tandem with informing pedagogical requirements in third level language education in Ireland.

Interaction, L2 Lexical Acquisition and the Development of Fluency and Accuracy – the case of Tandem Learning

Tim Lewis (The Open University)

It is a commonplace that interaction holds the key to second language acquisition (Long 1981; 1996). However the precise mechanisms by means of which that occurs remain a topic of dispute. For some (Long 1991; Doughty and Williams1998) it is the negotiation of form, in form-focussed interactions that leads to second language development. Others (Varonis and Gass, 1985; Smith 2003) argue instead that – whether in the classroom or online – it is the negotiation of meaning, rather than that of form, which promotes acquisition. Yet others (Bannink and Van der Zwaard 2016; Foster and Ohta 2005) have suggested that the presence and the rôle of negotiation in pedagogic interactions between native and non-native speakers has been exaggerated.

This poster proposes a rather different model from that of negotiation as the means whereby second language development takes place in such interactions. To do so, it uses data drawn from an e-Tandem exchange between adult learners in China and UK. Tandem Language Learning draws on a long tradition of peer learning and teaching. Its key principles are autonomy and reciprocity. It can also claim to offer an authentic form of intercultural learning. In the digital age, it has continued to evolve in ways that have enabled successive generations of language learners to benefit from working in partnership. This study explores the ways in which its core practices – including 50/50 dual language use and error correction by partners – contribute to its effectiveness as an approach to foreign language learning.

In particular, the author argues that recurrence and relexicalisation are key drivers of learning in E-Tandem exchanges and that these contribute to the uptake of lexicogrammatical constructions, otherwise known as formulaic expressions. The acquisition of these multi-word expressions has been argued to enhance both the accuracy and the fluency of learner output (Boers 2006; Wood 2009). The author therefore suggests that Tandem exchanges are particularly well suited to developing accuracy , fluency and interactional competence in the foreign language. He concludes by drawing a parallel between the learning mechanisms inherent in Tandem Learning and those associated with usage-based language (UBL) acquisition theories. These are hypothèses the author will be testing in a joint research project with colleagues from the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) (Rio Preto campus), Brazil, who have amassed a sizeable bilingual (English/Portuguese) learner corpus of Teletandem interactions over a period of years. ”

Using contrastive linguistic analysis to improve fluency in a foreign language with reference to Japanese learners of English

Rachel Robinson and Mika Takewa (University of Leeds)

Many international students at university in the UK are required to study their chosen discipline through English as the medium of instruction (EMI). While they are often aware of the importance of building a wide vocabulary as well as developing their knowledge of grammar in a bid to be ‘more academic’, students can often seem less focused on developing their spoken skills such as pronunciation and fluency (or fluidity) in the target language. Fluency in a foreign language may not necessarily require native speaker-like pronunciation, as is reflected in the marking schemes of examinations such as the IELTS speaking test, for example, where the descriptors differentiate between ‘fluency and coherence’ and ‘pronunciation’. While it can be argued that pronunciation of individual words or sounds is more to do with accuracy than fluency, there are clearly additional features of pronunciation that can contribute to a learner’s disfluency (production) as well as causing problems of reception.

In our poster presentation we focus on these suprasegmental features such as syllable structure, rhythm and aspects of connected speech. Focusing on a particular group of learners, Japanese speakers, we identify some specific issues and analyse them contrastively with English in an attempt to offer practical ideas for use in the classroom which aim to raise students’ awareness of such features without overburdening them with linguistic theory.

The impact of semantic network elaboration on EFL learners’ L2 Utterance fluency

Sara Ebrahimi (University of York)

The current study contributes to the relationship between the lexical knowledge and speech fluency, as it is claimed that “lexical knowledge is the greatest impediment to spoken L2 fluency” (Hilton, 2008, p. 162). This is more evident in unbalanced bilinguals, as it disrupts parallel processing; hence, the speaker cannot deliver the utterance smoothly (Skehan, 2009, DeJong & Vercellotti, 2015). The purpose is to investigate the relationship between certain type of vocabulary teaching technique, semantic mapping, and ELF adult learners’ fluency of speech. Semantic mapping is defined as a classification strategy, resulting in a network of ideas and concepts interlinked together, which is not directly tapping the participants’ oral fluency, but it activates and builds on their prior knowledge of vocabulary through the process of discussion (Johnson, Pittelman, & Heimlich, 1986); therefore, it involves deeper levels of processing. The study aims to determine if training students with semantic mapping, which has been proven to have a positive impact on the elaboration of semantic network, results on enhanced measures of utterance fluency. A total of thirty EFL participants in intermediate level of language proficiency took part in the study. They took part in pre, post and delayed post-tests on picture narrative to determine the oral fluency of speech. The participants were randomly allocated into experimental and control groups. Four sessions of intervention between the pre and post-test were held, training the experimental group participants with semantic mapping technique to review the already learnt vocabulary, while the control group was presented with the traditional way of training the students with wordlists.