Dr. Anne O´Keeffe

Valorising Learner Competence: how can we see beyond errors in learner language and value growth in competence?

This plenary session will focus on the positives of learner language, especially in terms of lexical and grammatical development by exploring the notion of learner competencies. As language teachers, it is often easier to see what learners get wrong at a particular stage of language learning rather than what they have gained when compared with a previous level. Errors are essentially easier to identify and, as teachers, we can address them pedagogically. Historically, the exploration of errors has informed syllabi through contrastive analysis of learners’ first language with the target language. Additionally, error analysis has improved our understanding of the concept of ‘interlanguage’. However, in this talk, I will attempt to show, using examples, that learners, at all levels, are moving along a developmental pathway. Errors are part of this development but in tandem with errors, there are many developing competencies. As part of the talk, some learner examples will be used from the 55-million-word Cambridge Learner Corpus (CLC) which comprises over 200,000 English Language exam scripts, from over 200 countries, from speakers of over 140 first languages. By looking more closely at learner competencies, it is hoped to bring focus to the positive side of language teaching, learning and development.

Dr Anne O’Keeffe is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, in Ireland. Her teaching career started in the 1990s in Barcelona when she taught English in Manresa. Over the years, she has published numerous books and research articles. These range across English Language Teaching, English discourse and corpus linguistics and include From Corpus to Classroom (2007, Cambridge University Press, with Michael McCarthy and Ronald Carter), English Grammar Today (2011, Cambridge University Press, with Ronald Carter, Michael McCarthy and Geraldine Mark), Introducing Pragmatics in Use 2edn (2020, Routledge, with Brian Clancy and Svenja Adolphs). She also co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Corpus Linguistics (with Michael McCarthy). She also developed the online resource: English Grammar Profile (Cambridge University Press), with Geraldine Mark. Dr O’Keeffe is co-editor of two Routledge book series, Routledge Corpus Linguistic Guides and Routledge Applied Corpus Series.