Why are collocations so important in language learning?

Every language learner has at least once heard “collocations are important” and this whatever the learned language. As a student in translation, my teachers keep repeating the same but they also say that collocations in one’s native language are even more important.

[French being my mother tongue, I invest in a french dictionary for collocations and I highly recommend it for French learners: Dictionnaire des combinaisons de mots, le Robert. I use it every time I have to translate from English into French because everyone knows the collocations in their own language but sometimes they aren’t obvious, you don’t think of them so easily. French learners won’t use it the same way as I use it but it’s a good one, trust me.]

This said, I now want to show you why collocations are so important, and this might also help you if you want to write your essay about Corpora and concordance 😉

Collocations are not easily defined but you would agree if I say that a collocation is words that occur together, that go/fit together, right?  And it’s because they occur repeatedly, collocations can be identified through corpus analysis. “Native speakers read, talk and listen to quick-paced discourses because they have a vast repertoire of chunks of language in storage, ready to be produced and recognized. Having these ready-made pieces of speech makes it easier for us to express complex ideas and think faster, since all our brainspace is not occupied searching for words”. (source: http://collocationsufmg.blogspot.ie/2010/11/importance-of-collocations-to-language_23.html) This is one of the reasons why collocations are so important. It sounds more natural if you want to express something complicate and you simply use a collocation that express your whole idea at once.

Another reason is that collocations are said to facilitate the acquisition of pronunciation, which is also an important aspect for a language learner. Producing words separately encourage the speaker to put the stress on the wrong part of a word and therefore a bad pronunciation which could lead to misunderstanding.

Not yet convinced? Hmmm… What if I say that learning a new word doesn’t mean that you know how to use it? In context?Learning collocations helps students to enhance their vocabulary skills but also the knowledge of how a language is structured. This small post aims readers and students in the module LI4113 to have an idea of subject for their second essay. I already started it and I find that collocations is a good subject.

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