The Schema for English Language Learning

Mutsumi Imai’s book, “English Self-Taught Method,” published last month, seems to be widely read. It is an instructional book for effective English learning based on cognitive science. I have just finished reading the book, and what caught my attention were “Chapter 5: Basic English Schema Search Method Using Corpus” and “Chapter 6: Advanced English Schema Search Method Using Corpus”. In these chapters, the author explains that learners are expected to be active learners using corpora, rather than passive learners, and gives specific instructions on how to use online corpora. The aim is to learn the schema of the target word by oneself based on the information such as frequency, co-occurrence, example sentences, and related words provided by the corpus. The following is a list of online tools, including corpora, that are available free of charge (Imai, 259–60).

 Weblio English-Japanese/Japanese-English Dictionary

 Cambridge English Dictionary

 SkELL (= Sketch Engine for Language Learning)

 COCA (= Corpus of Contemporary American English)

 WordNet: A Lexical Database for English

Chapters 5 and 6 of the book, as well as a 50+ page section titled “Inquiry Practice,” cover a variety of topics that can be used not only for learning English but also for research in English linguistics, and are useful for university students majoring in English language studies or English history. It will provide hints for research using corpora.

The keyword “schema” that runs through the book is paraphrased as “knowledge beneath the surface of the iceberg. In order to truly master English words and expressions, it is necessary to acquire “schema,” the encyclopedic knowledge that surrounds them. It is certainly necessary for the acquisition of English words and expressions.

(Please excuse me for being self-serving here…). On the other hand, to understand the English language, it is necessary to understand the schema of English. This is knowledge of the sociolinguistic environment surrounding English and the history of English as a language (i.e., the history of English). This is encyclopedic knowledge that lies beneath the surface of the iceberg and cannot be acquired naturally. It must be actively learned.

Reading this book, I realized that the history of English is part of the “schema of English” and “knowledge of the surface of the iceberg that is English.

Mutsumi Imai, “Eigo Dokugakuho” (English Self-study Method), Iwanami Shoten (Iwanami Shinsho), 2020.