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False Friends in Learner Corpora

A corpus-based study of English false friends in the written and spoken production of Spanish learners


M Luisa Roca-Varela

This book is conceived as a contribution to the general understanding of learner language. It presents an innovative approach to the study of English false friends. False friends are a current issue for those learning and working with languages since these lexical items may spring up in different contexts of our everyday life. The book identifies false friends in real samples of learner English, reflects on the difficulty of these words and illustrates the specific problems which should be addressed in the EFL classroom. The ultimate purpose of this book is to cast new light on both the skillful and awkward use of false friends in learner English.
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1. False Friends in Applied Linguistics: Key Issues


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1.   False Friends in Applied Linguistics: Key Issues

1.1   Introduction

Lexis has been long disregarded by language teachers in traditional English classrooms. However, in the last decades of the 20th century, linguists and researchers started to show a growing interest in the role of lexical acquisition in language teaching which has lasted up to the present (Nation, 1990; Lewis, 1993; Ellis, 1994; Singleton, 1999; Schmitt, 2000; Bogaards and Laufer, 2004). In fact, vocabulary is now considered as a central issue for language learners to be effective and accurate in the communication process. The present study acknowledges the prominent role of word knowledge while analysing the interlinguistic phenomenon of false friends. False friends (FF henceforth) are lexical items in different languages that resemble each other in form but have different meanings (Chalker and Weiner, 1996; O’Neill and Casanovas, 1997; Colman, 2009).

Despite the fact that false friends have a long tradition in language research, these words are a current issue for those learning and working with languages since they can be found in many contexts of our modern life, including the names of public buildings (e.g. French Hôtel de Ville “city townhall”), the titles of famous songs (e.g. Ai se eu che pego1 “if I catch you”), some road signs (Swedish farthinder “speed bump”), or the daily news (e.g. David Beckham’s career in pictures2). Thus, English headlines, such as “Highly processed foods advertised as “low fat” are often loaded with...

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