#Lexconf2013 – The Lexical Teaching conference 2013

Just got back from London, wanted to quickly write down some thoughts on this new ELT conference before I forgot them. It was notable for me as well since it was my first “proper” workshop talk i.e. not one done with work colleagues! I’ll save my talk experience for another post.[Update: read about my talk experience]

The opening plenary talk by Michael Hoey was excellent, I had watched a talk by Tony McEnery (1 hour long but worth it), on the train the day before, that used and extended priming theory and was eager to learn more. Hoey tackled three criticisms made of the Lexical Approach:

  1. It ignores how language is learned
  2. It has no theoretical basis
  3. It applies only to Indo-European languages

For the first criticism he marshalled evidence from psychological studies on semantic priming and repetition priming. However this evidence, as presented by Hoey, only shows that there is such a phenomena and it may apply to first language acquisition but it did not address second language learning. The theoretical underpinning was a much stronger defence against criticism two, as Hoey outlined his theory giving interesting examples from his corpus of newspapers and the final criticism was dealt with by research on the Chinese language which shows the same collocational, colligational, semantic and pragmatic patterns as appear in English.

Hugh Dellar’s talk on Working Exercises Hard gave a clear view of his approach to using a text. He presented the audience with a gapped text of words related to building up a business. His approach is to plan in advance other examples of language which uses the surrounding chunks (or ambient language) in addition to the chunks of language related to the missing words. Good ideas to put into practice.

The next talk was by Kate Mansfield and Richard Paterson on Exploiting Academic Vocabulary. They drew out the differences between IELTs vocabulary and Academic Word List (AWL) vocabulary. They pointed out the weaknesses in the AWL such as whether it needs updating, no focus on collocations and no discipline specific vocabulary. The last weakness can be addressed by building a corpus of the relevant discipline then using a concordance program to compile a word list. This part of the talk nicely overlapped with my talk and I was happy since the use of diy corpus was being recycled and re-used, a key principle in the lexical approach.

The closing plenary by Hugh Dellar was on Teaching Grammar Lexically, where he emphasized grammar as it appears in real world situations. In addition to the traditional approach of form and function we need to give examples to students of how structure works with lexis.

The Q&A session with Michael Lewis was entertaining, for an ELT recluse he had the look of a fashionably dressed beat poet. All in black with a contemporary haircut and subtle goatee. He seemed to enjoy the questions as seen by some of his playful responses. An interesting response was that you can’t rationally sequence a lexical syllabus. A response which drew a big rolling of eyes by coursebook writer Hugh Dellar in an informal comment afterwards. Though I think Lewis is right to offer a weak form of the lexical approach as evidenced by him saying that as to the question of teaching practicalities that was up to the teacher to decide.

I am sure there were many omissions, misrepresentations, outright errors in my summary. Please comment so I can correct them. And of course I missed the talks by Nik Bilborough, Luke Fletcher, Leo Selivan (missed him at the last TESOL France as well), Andrew Walkley, and Phillip Kerr. So I also look forward to other write ups of the conference.

I do hope that this conference will have a future as it is exactly the kind of small, focused conference that is greatly missing in ELT currently. I also of course enjoyed meeting familiar people from the interwebz away from keyboard and new people not known from social media. Thanks for reading.

Update 1:

Be sure to keep an eye on the Lexical teaching conference, comments and questions page.

Update 2:

A great write-up of the conference by Laura Laubacher/‏@LaubacherLaura

Update 3:

Hugh Dellar has done a Brainshark version of his talk Working Exercises Hard, related @LexicalLab blog post summary. Michael Hoey’s slideshare The Lexical Approach and Lexical Priming: a comparison between English and Chinese, related @LexicalLab blog post summary. Leo Selivan’s Prezi Collocations:Recording, revising, recycling, @LexicalLab blog post summary with links. Nick Bilborough’s Just go with the flow slides and write up of his talk by @LexicalLab; @LexicalLab thoughts on corpora and concordancing including links to my related posts in this area. Andrew Walkley’s write-up of his talk on Lexis and listening with links to his slides.

Update 4:

Hugh Dellar has put up a screencast of his closing plenary on Teaching grammar lexically. Commentary on Hugh Dellar’s closing plenary by @LexicalLab; Phillip Kerr’s talk on translation and learning lexis summarised by @LexicalLab

Update 5:

@LexicalLab has commentary, including links to presentation slides, on: Kate Mansfield and Richard Paterson’s Exploiting Academic Vocabulary; Nick Bilborough’s Chunks and Memory; Michael Lewis’s Q&A session Michael Lewis Speaks!

Update 6:

Unfortunately all the Westminster Celt blog posts are offline, hopefully the archives have been saved and we can expect them back online sometime!

Update 7:

Some of the Westminster Celt blogs have been archived by Wayback machine yeah! Check above links.


11 thoughts on “#Lexconf2013 – The Lexical Teaching conference 2013

  1. Ahh, you beat me to it, Mura! 🙂 I haven’t yet organised my furiously-scribbled notes from the sessions yesterday into anything like a coherent blog post.

    Good to meet you there (albeit briefly!) and good to read this admirably concise summary of what you enjoyed from the day. I attended some different sessions to you (namely Nick Bilbrough’s and Philip Kerr’s talks) and hope to produce a summary soon… watch this space!


    1. I guess publicity was aimed at UK based audience and Modern Foreign Language teachers also I heard

      hopefully interest like yours may mean conference will happen again, you should pester Andrew Walkley and Hugh Dellar 🙂


  2. Thank you, Mura, for a summary that will make me go back to the books. It sounds like a great conference. Thanks for all the links, too!

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