Sunday saw the second day of the Blended Learning course, and it was also the day on which I ran a session on Concordancers.

Sunday saw the second day of the Blended Learning course, and it was also the day on which I ran a session on Concordancers. It is curious that whenever I run a training session on technology, and ask teachers to identify areas that they are not familiar with, concordancers come up consistently an area which is largely unknown. Some practising teachers do not know where the stress is in the word, unsurprising if it is unknown to them. I write ‘curious’, because Michael Lewis, author of the Lexical Approach, maintains that the study of language through concordancers, and the identification of collocations and word frequency, is an event of massive importance in language teaching and learning. At last, we can know how language is used, through studying written and spoken corpora. We all use coursebooks whose authors have all used concordancers to verify authentic uses of language. When I first started at Warwick University, one lecturer said: datas. I thought this word was uncountable! Does it exist, in an EAP (English for Academic purposes) context? This is a good example of when searching for a term in a concordancer is a useful activity. Students can look at examples of language they are getting wrong – such as ‘persons’ and ‘people’, and draw conclusions about usage. You (or students) can do a trial search of the British National Corpus at For the hands-on part of the training session, I subscribed to a site called Sketch Engine on a 30-day free trial. This was recommended to me by lexicographer Michael Rundell, who said it was a vital tool in creating the Macmillan English Dictionary. I am looking forward to exploring it! While some believe the world of corpus linguistics is dry and dusty, it is actually strangely fascinating!


Dear Pete

I don't really know that much about concordancers, and though I would love to use them in class I don't have access to computers to do that! The problem is I don't really know where to begin. Can I use them to help me prepare activities, or should I just give the address to my students to check out on their own computers at home?



Hi Chris

If students are having a problem with certain words or phrases, you could print out the results of a concordance search and take it in to class. Students then study the data to make deductions. Possible areas which could be addressed in this way are easily confusable words such as effect / affect. Or the difference between people / the people.

Using printed out concordance lines in EAP is something my colleagues do to help teach writing skills.

It is possible to print off a concordance return, then delete actual KWIC (key word in context) so that students use the surrounding language to locate the word.

I am sure Bill Maskull did things like this in an old set of books for Collins COBUILD, but such memories are lost in the mists of time and I don't know if this material is still in print. Does anyone know?

There are good introductions to concordancers in Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly's book on how to teach English with technology, and my own on Blended Learning.

Hope this helps. It's good that you can use concordance results without actually needing a computer in the classroom, although sending students to do quick free searches is of course a nice activity to help clarification and encourage learner autonomy. They could certainly research at home.

Best wishes

Dear Pete, I hope you still remember me from the Brazil tour to promote Blended Learning, of which you signed a copy for me (after we went through a ghastly experience together in a certain school in Rio).

Anyway, this is to share the website , which is a fantastic tool, not only to check word partnerships and word frequency, but also to obtain concordancers.


Hi there

thanks a lot for sharing this link. I like the little 'bar charts' which appear. Definitely worth investigating

I do hope all is well in Brasil - I do have such great memories of that trip (tho' not of that particular day!)

all my best wishes


Dear Pete,

 it's so interesting to read your views on the use of technology in the classroom! I must admit that even if I know just a little about concordancers (I need to keep reading about them) I usually try to share links with my learners so that they can work on their own at home. My learners are aiming at a CEF C 1 level so I insist on the fact that they should try to sound as natural as possible, so I tell them to search for a word and see the most common combinations and choose the one that best suits what they wish to express. is a link well worth trying and browsing around!

 Just a simple idea

 Best wishes from Uruguay!


Dear Laura

Thanks for your interesting mail.

Also the link to Lextutor - wow; there's so much there!

I remember reading how selecting the most appropriate collocation is one way that advanced learners start to sound more natural. Very challenging!

Best wishes to you


Tom Cobb's lextutor site is brilliant and a must for all EFL teachers. If you really want to roll up your lexical sleeves and dig around the BNC (British National Corpus) and the COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) you should poke your nose around Mark Davies website at - the query syntax takes a bit of getting used to, but all the help files are there.  Well worth the effort.  Mark has now added a social networking dimension to his website, for those of the facebookish generation. |

Hi Pete!

I just joined Teaching English and think it's excellent to exchange ideas among teachers. Congrarulations to all!

One thing I'd like to point out is that I tried to log in to and I got this message: "Oops! This link appears to be broken." 

Do you know if the site is under maintenance or something? I just couldn't access it through any of the suggested possibilities.

Wait for an answer!

Greetings from Chile!


Thanks Steven

The lextutor site looks great. Will explore further when I get home - I wish there were more hours in the day! The more you explore, the more you want to know! Thanks for sharing this link


Hi Eduardo

hmmm, I clicked on the link and it does seem to say that the site is undergoing maintenance - ah, well, maybe I will check after the weekend

best to you