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Using “chunks” to study English

Have you ever heard of the word “chunk” – meaning a big piece of something? (Think chunk of wood/money/meat). This useful word has also found its way into language teaching, were it connotes any sequence of words bigger than a single word, which forms a lexical whole.

“Chunks” can consist of any of the following:

  • Collocations e.g., product launch, brand name, make money

  • Fixed expressions e.g., as a matter of fact, to whom it may concern

  • Formulaic utterances e.g., You've got to be kidding, Hang on minute

  • Sentence starters e.g., You might consider, For Example

  • Verb patterns e.g., keeps changing, remember to call/eat/etc.

  • Idioms and catchphrases e.g., Back to square one, ballpark figure

Chunks convey meaning as a whole and don’t have to be broken down into parts of speech or grammar units to be understood. This makes it easy to use if you want to communicate a specific idea, without having to create new sentence structures. Simply paste the whole chunk into its slot in the sentence.

This approach is especially effective in Business English teaching, as business language follows set patterns that are considered professional. For example:

  • “It has come to my attention”

  • “With regards to/the proposal under consideration”

  • "It would be highly appreciated if”

There is no need to analyze the subparts of these sentences as it will yield no further insight into their overall meaning. Learning, in this case, should focus on understanding their meaning, function and context.

At Business Jam we incorporate this Lexical Approach in our eclectic learning methodology. For more information, consult the following references:

Lewis, Michael. 1993. The Lexical Approach: The state of ELT and the way forward. LTP: Hove

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