Jun 242011

English language course books tend to be populated with characters that live and die in the space of a short dialogue. Context is constrained because it takes time to set it up. But these writing restrictions get loosened up with video. We can take in a lot more information when we can see things happening.

Body language conveys meaning, obviously, and so does how we say things, so for example ‘Yeah right’ can signal agreement and ‘Yeah right’ can signal sarcastic disbelief. And things mean different things depending on who says them and where. If we’re going round an art gallery together and I point to a picture and say ‘That’s a nice one’, you’ll think I like the picture. But if you’re a sales person in a green grocers and I point to a cauliflower and say ‘That’s a nice one’, it means ‘I want to buy it’. We play a lot of different roles in our lives and what role we’re playing at a particular time impacts on meaning.

So imagine what it would be like to have access to a large spoken corpus that’s made up of video. Instead of reading things that people said, imagine you could see and hear people saying them. And when you burrowed down to look at how a word had been used, instead of reading rows of written text, suppose you could see and hear people saying the word in different contexts.

So imagine someone took lots of videos -say lots of interesting and entertaining and videos on Youtube. And suppose they started putting them into a database that keeps growing. And imagine that teachers and students could access and search the video corpus.

If you think this sounds cool, check out English Central’s site because they seem to be doing just that. I had low expectations when I entered the website. I had to register and wondered if it would be worth the bother. It was and I’m glad I did. What do you think?

 Posted by at 7:42 pm

  11 Responses to “Imagine…”

  1. Produce market in AmE.

  2. Ha! What would I do without you John! 🙂

    Oddly enough, I’ve heard the word ‘marketing’ used in an interesting way recently. My mother-in-law describes ‘doing the shopping’ as as ‘marketing’. My husband says it’s an old fashioned use of the term. Do any other American readers use it?

  3. I have absolutely never heard “marketing” used that way, not even in old books. (“Going to market” is an extremely old-fashioned term, but “marketing” used that way is just something I’ve never heard at all.) I’d probably mark it as an error if I ran across it, to be honest. Huh.

  4. Thanks, Clarissa. Then I wonder if she says ‘going to market’, and I just got it wrong. I’ll keep my ears open and try to jot down what she says next time.

  5. …although, without checking, it does seem to me that the term “marketing” must come from what used to happen at the marketplace -i.e. the attempt to make one’s vegetables more attractive than your neighbours, but then just a random thought 🙂
    p.s. yes, EnglishCentral is a super site and videos are great – have you seen RealEnglish?

  6. Yo Karenne! Funny you should mention Real English because I was just there and I like it. But it seems to be constrained to one genre (interviews) and one context (strangers in a street). Or am I looking at the wrong site?

  7. […] tag when each word is spoken in the metadata of the video clips, and make them quickly searchable. (I mentioned the search capabilities over at English Central the other day – similar […]

  8. Vicki,

    Great thoughts. Don’t you love “possibility”? That is what keeps me going and keeps me learning, especially vis a vis tech.

    I’m really primed through the possibility that aggregation of large data can offer both researchers, publishers and too, in the trenches teachers.

    All my own activity online is really about finding/promoting the better ways to use tech for language learning. Separating the wheat from the chaff. Kinda what all us bloggers do.

    I’m enamored by how EnglishCentral can pull anonymous speech data from youtube (sounds – words but also in the near future, real prosodic data of utterances) and begin the makings of a strong video corpus. [ but here is a David Crystal cautionary note – http://bit.ly/lV1idC ] The possibility of this is endless. Imagine pulling up those highly contextual dependent words and seeing them used in video context? And as you mention – all the paralinguistic features of language are there…. This “pulling up” of data as playlists, will soon be a bigger part of EnglishCentral.

    Karenne – Mike is a true pioneer in video and language. He should have a seat of honor at any ELT table. I see his style and “way” copied even today…. especially how publishers make their videos these days. They’ve adopted his “people on the street” approach but without the same “REAL”. And no one approaches his supportive, positive manner.

    Let’s see where the future (video) takes us! Our market will have a lot more abundance, I’m sure….


  9. My wife (born 1943) said that her grandmother used the phrase, but her mother (born 1922) did not. So the phrase was current in the early part of the 20th century. Google Books Ngrams tends to confirm this, showing peak usage of go(ing) marketing in American English books between 1920 and 1940, probably lagging an earlier peak in spoken use.

  10. On interesting, thanks John. My mother-in-law must have been born in 1918, so I reckon she might be one of the last users.

  11. […] I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m a big fan of English Central because of the  variety of videos on offer. Another site […]

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