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Learning a foreign (technical) language without a text book: the Ko[Gloss] project

What is the quickest and easiest way of learning a foreign language? Technical terminology in particular always poses a great challenge to language learners. The European Ko[Gloss] project offers a brand new digital method of learning a foreign (technical) language.

As anyone who has learnt a foreign language will know, learning lists of vocabulary by heart and figuring out abstract grammatical rules is hard enough, yet this is only the half of it when it comes to communicating in the new language. The trouble starts when it is time to form whole sentences, and the language learner is uncertain whether teeth are brushed or cleaned in German, and why the phrase 'den Ball flach halten', (literally – 'keep the ball flat', which means ‘don’t get worked up’) is used, when there isn't even any ball.

Foreign (technical) languages: more than simply foreign words

Technical terminology can often cause headaches in foreign language learning: for instance, which verbs are used in business German for talking about percentages, inflation rates and labour market figures? What does it actually mean if 'growth is negative'? Standard reference books do not always provide the answers to these kinds of questions.

Dictionaries for foreign language acquisition are readily available. There are also reference books for technical terms in various fields of work. But where can help be found for questions regarding collocations and language patterns rather than individual expressions?

Learning a foreign language: the Ko[Gloss] method

In cooperation with the Universities of Vilnius and Tartu and with Ventspils College, the University of Duisburg-Essen has developed the Ko[Gloss] method, which enables technical terms to be learnt in foreign languages within a global context. The method uses authentic texts from various professions and topics, which are analysed with a particular focus on the linguistic features, and the results are documented in the form of a glossary. Typical linguistic patterns in specific areas can thus be identified and acquired for use, allowing a language to be learnt without learners having to concentrate solely on single technical expressions.'Little specialist linguistic knowledge is necessary for compiling and evaluating the texts. This means that, after only a short induction period, KoGloss can be used by individuals with different levels of linguistic skill,'say the project initiators. 'In addition to the wealth of knowledge gained from working on the text material, the result is a glossary with specific linguistic patterns that are characteristic of a particular technical field or help understand the language used in a special topic. The method is also suitable for drafting foreign texts and constructions.'

Learning a foreign language in the right context: recognising and using linguistic patterns

The first stage of the Ko[Gloss] project involves collecting a wide range of data representative of the chosen area. The collected data can, for example, come from various texts in newspapers, magazines, and technical and/or official publications in the foreign language, which can be found online or can originate from one's own professional background. This material can then be examined using software which is freely accessible, in order to analyse the occurrence and the function of particular linguistic patterns. The results are then documented in a digital reference work – the glossary.

Who is this method of learning languages suitable for?

For anyone who has to understand or draft technical texts for work or study purposes. Ko[Gloss] aims to help both native speakers and foreign language learners develop a better understanding for language. Furthermore, the glossary provides learners with a very specific tool for practical usage.

Additional information on how to learn a language with Ko[Gloss] is available on the website of the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Tell us your opinion!

Do you know of any other projects and approaches similar to Ko[Gloss]? Do you yourself use digital platforms to learn new languages? Or do you have a different method of learning a new language? We would love to hear from you about Ko[Gloss] and foreign language acquisition in the comments below.


Author: Daumantas Katinas

December 2012


Alexey Piatilyshnov
5 January 2013

what does mean this information for, exx, me?How to participate and study the language with method?How to involve my daughter,elder form's schoolgirl,before she might be apply to these Universities?

Alexey Piatilyshnov
5 January 2013

what does mean this information for, exx, me?How to participate and study the language with method?How to involve my daughter,elder form's schoolgirl,before she might be apply to these Universities?

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