Last week, Professor McCarthy gave this online talk for ALS DELTA candidates. It was a brilliant presentation and I am very glad I attended it!

🗝️ Key takeaways.

Top 40

 Top 40 words in written corpus are grammatical items:

In spoken corpus, items include hesitations pronouns, not, do, so etc.

We all hesitate and take our time. However, when students hesitate, we think it’s a problem..but natural spoken English includes hesitation!

collocations and chunks:

collocations: statistical measure of words occuring together.

chunks are words cemented, glued, stuck together firmly.

Learner corpus

How creating a learner corpus (electronic collection of learners’ responses) can help teachers:

We can identify which miscollocations are ‘fossilised’. Here are examples of miscollocations with make, at levels B1-C2. We can see that make business is the most ‘stubborn’ error.

We can measure error reduction by level.


Binomials are two words connected with or/ and in fixed order, e.g.

In English we say black and white, not white and black, we say pros and cons not cons and pros.

Students may produce them inaccurately because of:

  • L1 transfer -in Greek, we say white and black
  • memory problems
  • lack of exposure

Here are examples of binomial-related confusion at different levels:


Professor McCarthy said learners can function with 4,000 words – these will cover them for 90% of what they want to do.

Another thing I’ve learned from Prof. McCarthy

Every single slide, every single piece of information was interesting. He presented and explained everything clearly, without rushing any parts. He paused and gave us think time. His slides included useful tables and charts rather than text overload. His voice and whole presence was calm and very positive. Food for thought!