Teaching business collocations

Tags: Collocations, Common Solutions, ample evidence, VN, semantic relations, bank bank, supplementary knowledge, lexical databases, business texts, Cambridge Advanced Learners, online dictionary, commercial bank, healthy competition, Princeton University, Cognitive Science Laboratory, Language Teaching, Business Students, Popescu-Furnea, Casa Crii de Siint, Language Teaching Publications, Collocations Lewis, Vocabulary, Oxford University Press, Collocation, Nattinger, Romanian Dictionary, word bank
Content: TEACHING BUSINESS COLLOCATIONS TEODORA POPESCU The importance of business lexis has long been a constant preoccupation of both teachers and learners of business English, starting with the late 1960's and early 1970's, when textbook writers designed courses that focused mainly on business-related words and terminology. Later approaches have nevertheless emphasised the need for creating textbooks that pay heed to other factors as well, such as training communication skills and functions, with a real-life orientation. The most important characteristics of the language of business English, as opposed to the language of general English, are a sense of purpose, an intercultural dimension and a need for clear, straightforward and concise communication. In order to achieve these broad objectives of business English learners, we have to find the best ways in which to teach business performance skills, such as socialising, telephoning, meetings, presentations, report writing, etc. In all these situations, a good knowledge of collocational patterns in English is of essential relevance. Collocations are words that typically occur in association with other words. By collocational competence we understand the ability to combine lexical (and grammatical) chunks in order to produce fluent, accurate, as well as semantically and stylistically appropriate utterances. The author of the widely influential Lexical Approach and Implementing the Lexical Approach, Michael Lewis, stated the following about the lexical approach: "... the Lexical Approach places communication of meaning at the heart of language and language learning. This leads to an emphasis on the main carrier of meaning, vocabulary. The concept of a large vocabulary is extended from words to lexis, but the essential idea is that fluency is based on the acquisition of a large store of fixed and semi-fixed pre-fabricated items, which are available as the foundation for any linguistic novelty or creativity." (Lewis, 1997: 15) Widdowson himself, as back as 1989, also presented a lexical view of language:
Teaching Business Collocations
"... communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules for the composition of sentences and being able to employ such rules to assemble expressions from scratch as and when occasion requires. It is much more of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns, formulaic frameworks, and a kit of rules, so to speak, and being able to apply the rules to make whatever adjustments are necessary according to contextual demands." (Widdowson, 1989: 135) The essential breakthrough of the lexical approach is that it underlines the inseparability of lexis and grammar, thus advocating an integrated approach, taking into consideration the generative power of grammatical words. The notion of colligation, in conjunction with collocation has emerged. By colligation we understand a typical grammatical patterning that a word may be found in. For example, we can say: "it is astonishing/suprising/amazing", but we can only say "It is not surprising that...". The other two near synonyms only colligate with the affirmative. Teachers need to raise their students' awareness as to the way in which different collocations (and colligations) are used in business contexts. In order to do that, we may design a task-based approach to teaching/learning vocabulary. We will present in the following some methods that can contribute to the development our business students' mental lexicon. 1 Using concordancers1 and lexical databases There are some useful online concordancers that can be used during an English class, set in a multimedia language laboratory, with Internet access, such as: x the British National Corpus, available at: http://natcorp.ox.ac.uk/lookup.html (the unsubscribed online version will only display a random selection of 50 hits); x the Web Concordancer, available at: http://www.edict.com.hk/concordance/WWWConcappE.htm, with some 27 corpora to choose from; or x the Online BLC KWIC Concordancer ­ Business Letter Corpus, available at: http://ysomeya.hp.infoseek.co.jp/, with a choice of 18 corpora.
1 a concordancer = a search engine for looking through a large body of texts, i.e. a corpus
Languages for Specific Purposes: Searching for Common Solutions 165
There also exist lexical databases, such as the Word.Net 3.0, provided by the Cognitive science laboratory, Princeton University, available at: http://wordnet.princeton.edu, which provides information about nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms, each expressing a distinct concept.
Sample Task 1 1.a) Search for the word bank through different concordancers and fill in the table below with maximum 10 collocates under each column. Consult the WordNet database as well, in order to find supplementary lexical and semantic relations.
vb. + bank
bank + vb. (both [VN] and [V])
adj. + bank
bank + noun
1.b) Use the collocates you found in sentences of your own. Translate them into your mother tongue. What differences can you notice in terms of grammar and semantic/discourse prosody? 1.c) Can you find any idiomatic expressions? 1.d) Is bank ever used as a verb? In what context and with what meaning? 1.e) Find examples where bank co-occurs with money. The first concordancer will return 1132 collocates (see Fig. 1), whereas the second only 222 (see Fig. 2). Students are advised to pay attention to the most frequent word partnerships and also to take into account the passive constructions (e.g. bank will be capitalised with $50 million, bank was put on inquiry, etc.). The information provided by the WordNet Search will add supplementary knowledge as to the other meanings of the word bank (see Fig. 3).
Teaching Business Collocations
Fig. 1 Web Concordancer
Languages for Specific Purposes: Searching for Common Solutions 167 Fig. 2 Online BLC KWIC Concordancer
Teaching Business Collocations
Fig. 3 Word Net Search 3.0
Languages for Specific Purposes: Searching for Common Solutions 169
1.a Students work in pairs and a suggested answer is presented below.
vb. + bank back control rob run sell ask convince instruct show to talk to
bank + vb. [VN] confirms cancellation /receipt [VN] stops payment [VN] refuses/returns a cheque [VN] offers a loan [VN] handles financing of ... [VN] advises on privatisation [V] collapsed
adj. + bank central commercial cooperative investment leading merchant private savings state-run
bank + noun account balance charges cheques customers debt director guarantee reference statement
Next, the students are asked to analyse some of the grammatical features of the collocations they found.
Syntagmatic / paradigmatic relationships
node bank
verb confirms
DO cancellation receipt of draft
verb instruct ask verb provide open open readjust
DO (node) a bank a bank DO credit a letter of credit an account an account
to-infinitive clause object to accept a draft to open an account to pay an invoice to extend an overdraft to hold a cheque prep. phrase (node) with a bank with a bank with a bank
Teaching Business Collocations
1.b Some differences between Romanian and English are to be noted:
Romanian translation
an organization that
provides various financial
services, for example
keeping or lending money2
building in which this
business takes place
people working for the bank a solicita bncii/la banc
a convinge pe dl/dna de la banc
a оnsrcina banca (s fac o plat)
show to
a prezenta (o situaie) la banc
talk to
a vorbi la banc/cu cei de la
1.c Idioms break the bank = not break the bank (informal, humorous) if you say sth won't break the bank, you mean that it won't cost a lot of money, or more than you can afford: We can just get a sandwich if you want ­ that won't break the bank.3
1.d bank v. 147 [BLC2:23:05167] We bank with the local branch of the Barminster [V] ~ (with / at...) to have an account with a particular bank: The family had banked with Coutts for generations.4
1.e money + bank
prepositional phrase (node2)
a bank
a Bank Account
withdraw money
a bank cash point
2 Oxford Advanced Genie CD-ROM 3 Oxford Advanced Genie CD-ROM 4 idem
Languages for Specific Purposes: Searching for Common Solutions 171
2 Using business texts / creating own corpora and using dictionaries Different online business texts x articles from the business press: The Economist, Financial Times, etc.; x company web pages: http://press.benettongroup.com/, http://www.marksandspencer.com/, etc. may be used in order to extract common collocations, which may be afterwards used to design meaningful tasks.
Sample task 2
2.a) Match the words in the columns to form suitable collocations.
e.g. 1.d) ample evidence
1 ample
a) competition
5 attract a) debate
2 commercial b) investors
6 crimp b) funds
3 healthy
c) funding
7 play
c) growth
4 responsible d) evidence
8 stir
d) role
2.b) Now fill in the gaps in the texts with the collocations you found. You may want to change their form (e.g. base form to -ing form): Commercialisation is changing microfinance--and 1. ___________ ___________. Some believe microlenders have no business making money from the poor. In many countries various rules, like interest-rate caps, have been put in place to 2. ___________ the industry's ___________. This is despite 3. __________ __________ that where there is 4. ___________ ___________ in microlending, as in Bosnia and Peru, interest rates tend to drop substantially. Most experts in IFIs and elsewhere believe the for-profit sector must 5. ________ _ ________. Microlenders that can 6. __________ commercial ________ ­ deposits, loans, the capital markets ­ have the potential to become self-sustaining, rather than relying on the charitable instincts of others. Socially 7. __________ __________ are already pouring in. And even the purely profit-minded have begun to open their wallets. According to a study of 200 microlenders by MIX, which collects data on the microfinance industry, 8. ___________ __________ grew to $7.3 billion in 2005, from $4.9 billion two years before. (http://www.economist.com)
Teaching Business Collocations
Answer: 1 stirring debate 2 crimp ... growth 3 ample evidence 4 healthy competition
5 play a role 6 attract ... funds 7 responsible investors 8 commercial funding
Sample task 3 3.a) Match the words in the two columns so as to form suitable collocations. e.g. 1.h) clearing bank
1 clearing 2 crossed 3 bearer 4 bank 5 deferred 6 dishonoured 7 due 8 legal 9 mortgage 10 portfolio 11 promissory 12 credit
a) management b) interest c) date d) tender e) note f) loan g) vault h) bank i) worthiness j) cheque k) bill l) securities
3.b) Now match the collocations you found above with their corresponding definitions. 1 __________ security (such as a bank note) that the issuer considers is legally owned and negotiable by the person who possesses it. 2 __________ a room with thick walls and a strong door, which is used to store money or valuable things in safe conditions. 3 __________ condition in which the payment of interest is postponed. 4 __________ a British commercial bank which is a member of a bankers' clearing house, through which cheques are cleared. 5 __________ degree to which customers are certain to pay debts promptly, degree to which they are worthy of being allowed credit. 6 __________ one which the drawee (the debtor on whom it is drawn) has refused to accept, or which the acceptor (the person who has agreed to pay it) fails to pay when it is due. 7 __________ a document which contains a promise to pay a stated amount of money to a stated person either on a fixed date or when the money is demanded.
Languages for Specific Purposes: Searching for Common Solutions 173
8 __________ one with two parallel lines drawn across it, usu. by the drawer or his agent, e.g. his bank. This practice lessens the risk of loss by dishonesty. 9 __________ the date on which some debt, such as an interest payment or a bill of exchange becomes due to be paid. 10 __________ the administration of a collection of company shares and other investments that are owned by a particular person or organization. 11 __________ the form of money in which a person has a right by law to pay a debt, and which the creditor must by law accept in settlement of the debt. 12 __________ a loan to finance the purchase of real estate, usually with specified payment periods and interest rates. The borrower (mortgagor) gives the lender (mortgagee) a lien on the property as collateral for the loan. The mortgagor's lien on the property expires when the mortgage is paid off in full. (Toma, M. and Popescu, T., 2004: 107)
1 bearer securities 2 bank vault 3 deferred interest 4 clearing bank 5 credit worthiness 6 dishonoured bill
7 promissory note 8 crossed cheque 9 due date 10 portfolio management 11 legal tender 12 mortgage loan
Starting from the explanations given by an online dictionary, one could create a word-formation exercise. The example below was created using the information provided by the Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary (the online version, see Fig. 4 below).
Teaching Business Collocations
Fig. 4 On-Line Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary Sample task 4 Fill in the gaps with the corresponding forms of the word bank. 1 High street __________ have been accused of exploiting small firms. 2 She is currently Hollywood's most __________ actress. 3 His __________ as a pop star decreased as he got older. 4 She was a successful __________ by the time she was forty. 5 The company was forced into __________ . 6 The intricacies of international __________ remained a mystery to him. 7 "Do you think she'll come?" "I wouldn't __________ on it." 8 She was commissioned to work on a joint program __________ by the U.S. space agency. 9 The recession has led to many small businesses going __________ . (Toma, M. and Popescu, T., 2004: 108)
Languages for Specific Purposes: Searching for Common Solutions 175 Answer: 1 High street banks have been accused of exploiting small firms. 2 She is currently Hollywood's most bankable actress. 3 His bankability as a pop star decreased as he got older. 4 She was a successful banker by the time she was forty. 5 The company was forced into bankruptcy. 6 The intricacies of international banking remained a mystery to him. 7 "Do you think she'll come?" "I wouldn't bank on it." 8 She was commissioned to work on a joint program bankrolled by the U.S. space agency. 9 The recession has led to many small businesses going bankrupt. The above tasks serve as a modest model for materials designers, and we want to underline that the list of examples may continue, and each teacher is called upon to design his/her own vocabulary tasks and activities, and to adapt different lexical-approach methods to the specific needs and individual proficiency level of his/her students. What we should always bear in mind is the necessity to design real-life, authentic tasks, which will eventually enhance our business students' mental lexicon, as well as improve their communicative performance in an English-speaking environment. References Brown, D. (1974) Advanced Vocabulary Teaching: The Problem of Collocation. In RELC Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1-11. Firth, J. R. (1957) A Synopsis of linguistic theory, 1930-55. In Palmer, F.R. (ed), (1968) Selected Papers of J.R. Firth 1952-59. London/Harlow: Longman. Greenbaum, S. and Quirk, R. (2004) A Student's Grammar of the English language. Harlow: Longman. Kjellmer, G. (1987) Aspects of English Collocations. In Meijs, W. (ed) Corpus Linguistics and Beyond. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Lewis, M. (1993) The Lexical Approach. Hove: language teaching Publications. --. (1997) Implementing the Lexical Approach. Hove: Language Teaching Publications. Lewis, M. & Hill, J. (1998) What is Collocation? Hove: Language Teaching Publications.
Teaching Business Collocations
Lewis, Morgan. (2000) There's Nothing as Practical as a Good Theory. In Lewis, M. (ed) Teaching Collocations. Hove: Language Teaching Publications. Nattinger, J. (1988) Some Current Trends in Vocabulary. In Carter, R. & McCarthy, M. (1988) Vocabulary and Language Teaching. London/New York: Longman. Oxford Advanced Genie CD-ROM. (2003) Oxford University Press. Popescu-Furnea, T. and Toma, M. (2003) Business Collocations. English- Romanian Dictionary. Cluj-Napoca: Casa Crii de Siint. Toma, M. and Popescu-Furnea, T. (2004) Reading and Vocabulary for Business Students. Part II. Cluj-Napoca: Casa Crii de Siint. Sinclair, J. (1991) Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Widdowson, H. G. (1989) Knowledge of Language and Ability for Use. In Applied Linguistics, Vol. 10, No.2, 128-137.

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