Podcast E7: Using corpora (language databases) to improve your writing

In this episode of Coffee, Tea, or Something Stronger?, Clare Lynch talks to English language expert Jeanne McCarten about using language databases to ease the writing process. Corpora (singular "corpus") are large databases of texts that are used for research into the way language is used.

Tune into this episode to discover:

  • What is a corpus? And why are they useful?

  • How learners of English can use corpora to write and speak like native speakers

  • Using corpora to overcome particular writing challenges

  • Beating writer’s block with corpora

  • How to approach publishers with your manuscript

  • How to get started when writing a piece

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About Jeanne MccARten

Jeanne McCarten has been involved in English Language Teaching in various roles for over 35 years. As a teacher, she has taught in Sweden, France, Malaysia and the UK, teaching at all levels from beginners to very advanced students. As a publisher, she specialised in developing grammar and vocabulary materials as well as materials to prepare students for Cambridge examinations. She was also closely involved in the development of the spoken English sections of the Cambridge International Corpus. Currently a freelance ELT writer and occasional teacher, her main interests lie in applying insights from corpus research to language teaching, about which she has published several academic papers. She is co-author of the internationally successful and ground breaking corpus-informed courses Touchstone, Viewpoint and Grammar for Business, all published by Cambridge University Press.


Some free-to-use corpora

British National Corpus: 100 million words of text taken from a range of genres, including spoken, fiction, magazines, newspapers and academic).

Corpus of Contemporary American English: The largest freely available corpus of English, containing more than 560 million words of text.

British Academic Spoken English Corpus: Collection of 160 lectures and 40 seminars recorded in a variety of departments in the Universities of Warwick and Reading.

Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English: Searchable collection of transcripts of colloquiums, seminars, lectures, dissertation defences and other events at the University of Michigan.