Introducing the Word Sketch Engine, a software tool developed by UK academics, guaranteed to improve your Chinese word power tenfold in a matter of weeks!!!
No, seriously, this isn’t spam. I’m involved with the evaluation of the Sketch Engine’s Chinese version at Ming Chuan University. We’d like to invite keen Chinese learning Forumosans to use the Sketch Engine (SkE for short) in their studies, to help with reading and vocabulary learning.
For further details, please read on. Or just go straight to mcu.edu.tw/~ssmith/walkthrough if you prefer! When asked to log in to Sketch Engine, use the name mcu02, and the password forumosa.
What’s in it for me?
You would potentially get a great boost with vocabulary acquisition, and definitely a lot of exposure to authentic newspaper Chinese (from either China or Taiwan or both, as you please). You would get to read real sentences containing the vocabulary you’re interested in – a far cry from the arbitrary vocab offerings in certain textbooks!
What is the Sketch Engine?
It’s called a “corpus query tool”. It’s a computer program, with a decent web interface, which reads in a vast corpus of Taiwan and mainland newswires to generate a short Word Sketch, a one page summary of the most common contexts in which a given word may be found. SkE was designed to help in compiling dictionaries, actually, and has already been used in Longman and OUP publications, but now we want to see how it performs as a tool for helping non-native speakers to learn Chinese.
There are versions of SkE for English and other languages too, but this research is interested in the Chinese version.
What features does it have?
There’s something called a Word Sketch, which shows you how a word patterns. Suppose you know contribution is 貢獻,but you don’t know whether to say 進行貢獻 or 做出貢獻. Well, you would just fire off a word sketch for 貢獻 (or one of the verbs), and that would tell you what the most significant collocate is.
Another thing it does is Sketch Differences. Imagine you wanted to clear up once and for all the difference between 高興 and 快樂. You could of course also run a word sketch to help with this problem, but with Differences you get a summary of the two. You are shown contexts where only 高興 is possible, contexts where only 快樂 is possible, and contexts where both are OK. There’s a colour coding system, so you can see quickly which is which.
What do you want me to do?
Use it in your studies! Every time you would normally reach for the dictionary, stop. You know you’re supposed to figure out the meaning from context by yourself… the Sketch Engine can help you (we hope) to do just that. We think it’s potentially a great learning tool, but we want to see scientific evidence of that.
What’s the next step?
You need to go to http://mcu.edu.tw/~ssmith/walkthrough. Here, you will be invited to take a short questionnaire (we’re calling it a pre-test, because we plan to ask you to do a post-test after a few weeks of using SkE in your studies). There are some questions on your background, including contact details, and on your current knowledge of collocations – we hope you will find the latter interesting.
Next, you’ll be taken on a walk through the Sketch Engine software (this will include logging in: use the name mcu02, and the password forumosa). You might want to set aside an hour to work through everything (you can always do the pre-test and then come back to the walkthrough later, of course).
Of course, you are under no obligation to participate, and having agreed to participate you are still free to withdraw at any time. And of course we wouldn’t use your personal data for any purpose other than our research: if you wanted to be anonymous that would be fine by us. Please offer feedback, too, via PM or this thread, as you please.