Lexical chunks are hip. Lexical chunks are useful. Lexical chunks are necessary for EFL / ESL students to become fluent. Lexical chunks are invisible, though, and that’s a shame. American actress Betty White will show you what I mean.
A lot of what our students ought to be learning in terms of lexis is, perhaps ironically, the stuff they’re least likely to notice. Why on earth would a student pay any amount of attention to lexical chunks such as “set the example”, for instance, when both set and example are perfectly familiar words, combined in a perfectly understandable way?
If the idea of going beyond individual words and teaching multi-word lexical chunks makes any sense to you, then the first step, I believe, is to train your eyes and your years to notice the seemingly invisible. By seemingly invisible, I mean lexical chunks that don’t really leap off the page or the video screen because they’re not difficult or unknown or odd-sounding or whatever. So here’s a short task:
In May 2010, actress Betty White was invited to host an episode of Saturday Night Live. Her hilarious opening monologue, in which she gently slammed Facebook and its users, became an instant YouTube hit.
Imagine you’re considering using this video with your intermediate students. Watch the excerpt and try to listen out for as many “invisible” lexical chunks as you possibly can, so that, later on, you can choose five or six items to highlight in class.
Remember: focus on chunks rather than individual words and on combinations of “old” words rather than on “new” words. Ready?
Now watch a subtitled version of the same excerpt, with my personal choice of lexical chunks potentially – and I say potentially – worth exploring. Ready?
You might have overlooked one or two or a lot of invisible lexical chunks, but I can assure you that your students would have done far worse.
And this is such a shame. There’s so much out there that they’re missing out on.
Be sure to check this other post on teaching lexical chunks.
Thanks for reading.