Swiss learner corpus SWIKO

Teaching and learning languages, assessing and evaluating language skills
Project management:
03.2016 to 12.2019

Current approaches to foreign language teaching and learning focus strongly on language in use. The overarching aim is communicative competence, a consequence of, mainly, the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR, 2011). A second, partly related tendency is content-based instruction, often applied in CLIL approaches (Content and Language Integrated Learning), in which learners are expected to expand their knowledge in foreign language classes. By contrast, grammar and vocabulary work receive much less attention.

In this context, the SWIKO project investigates how linguistic competence develops. The learners’ language will be elicited through language use tasks – in speaking and writing – specifically when learners carry out linguistic macro-functions such as describing or explaining, which are of particular importance in content-based instruction. The Dynamic Language Learning Progressions approach (DLLP, e.g. Bailey et al. 2014) serves as a reference.

SWIKO aims to describe the actual processes of language acquisition in selected areas of linguistic competence. Using concepts and methods from corpus linguistics, the students’ actual developmental stages will be elicited, processed and exemplarily analysed. This will result in an empirical contribution towards a better understanding of the acquisition of linguistic structures in the context of “new” approaches to foreign language teaching and learning (research relevance). It should also answer, on the basis of initial interpretations of the targeted corpus, the practical question as to how realistic curricular goals for linguistic competences are: does learner performance in oral and written productions actually correspond to what the curriculum prescribes?

Purpose – Expected results: 

The innovative element in SWIKO is the application of corpus-linguistic methods to describe linguistic competences in the context of learning a foreign language at school. Another new feature is the documentation of the development of linguistic competences as they occur in current curricular practices of teaching foreign languages at school (consideration of both languages in accordance with the 3/5 model; focus on language use; content-based instruction).

It is planned to prepare the SWIKO corpus for public use. By using the MERLIN model, the corpus could be made available for curriculum and textbook design as well as for planning and assessing learning activities that focus on linguistic forms.