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Using the Internet as a Corpus in German Classes at the Beginner's Level
Nowadays, the Internet has become a huge common information resource for society. But if we shift our viewpoint a little further, the Internet itself could be considered not only as an information resource but also as a huge Corpus, including an enormous number of socially and stylistically varied texts. In this paper, we discuss the concept of learning activities in German classes for beginners, using the Internet as a huge German corpus, and the search engine Google as a kind of concordance software. In so-called mainstream CALL practices, which prefer to call themselves e-learning rather than CALL, the online distribution of drill-type learning materials still plays a main role. But here, in contrast, we want to show the possibility of the Internet for supporting explorative language learning.
First, we give a brief historical overview of corpus use in foreign language education from the early 1980s to today.
Second, we discuss the three main advantages of the Internet as a corpus for learners:
1. the Internet offers authentic data,
2. the Internet offers a wide variety of texts,
3. the Internet makes it possible to use so-called image search.
We also pay attention to the widely-alleged two main disadvantages of the Internet as a corpus for learners at the beginner's level:
1. authentic data are often too difficult,
2. the Internet often contains a certain portion of not only stylistically but also grammatically false data, which are produced by non-natives and also by natives.
Third, we illustrate the concept of concrete searching activities with the search engine Google, such as finding the examples of proper combinations of quantity indications and material nouns and presenting these results graphically, or systematical searches of the words which belong to the same word field with the help of expressions including asterisks as wild cards.
Finally we discuss some learning strategies which are important for explorative learning with the Internet as a corpus, in order to avoid the negative influence of the above-mentioned disadvantages.
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