The PELC Word-Phrase Table – Why Personalising

Phrases and Collocations works

PELC Word-Phrase Table:
The concept of recording new words and phrases in a word table is hardly innovative. However, I advocate a far more detailed and personalised approach to recording newly-learned words and phrases.

To explain the essence of the PELC Word-Phrase Table, let us imagine that I’m a typical intermediate level learner of English who is striving to become a more advanced speaker. I have recently come across the following vocabulary and collocations related to relocating to a new country (I will, in fact, be moving to Poland soon):

  • move to
  • settle in
  • pay the bills
  • cost of living
  • compared with

What can be done with these words and phrases to achieve spoken fluency in a second language?

 

Step 1: Create a Word-Phrase table
Create a Word-Phrase table on a google doc or on Word, and input the second language words and phrases in the right-hand column, thus:

1.move to
2.
settle in/into
3.

pay the bills
4. cost of living
5. compared with/to

 

Step 2: First language target words
If it helps, you can add first language translations in the left-hand column. Alternatively, you could add a longer definition for each word/phrase in English. I have translated the target words and phrases into Polish:

1. przeprowadzić sięmove to
2. zaaklimatyzować się, zadomowićsettle in/into
3. płacić rachunkipay the bills
4. koszty utrzymaniacost of living
5. w porównaniu z / docompared with/to

 

Step 3: Record collocations after a dash (-)
With the help of a teacher, someone who is proficient in English, or a good book on collocations, you can add collocations and common phrases under the second language words. Use a dash (-) before collocations:

1. przeprowadzić sięmove to
- move to Poland
2. zaaklimatyzować się, zadomowićsettle in/into
DEF: be comfortable in a place
- settle into a new city
- settle into a new home
- settle into a routine
3. płacić rachunkipay the bills
4. koszty utrzymaniacost of living
- rising cost of living
- an increase/fall in the cost of living
- low/high cost of living
5. w porównaniu z / docompared with/to
ALSO: in comparison to

* DEF = definition

 

Step 4: Personalised sentences after a star (*)
Add personalised sentences after a star (*). These should be TRUE sentences about past experiences, present circumstances and future plans. Personalised sentences can also be opinions. Ideally, a teacher should be employed to proofread and create audio files of all the personalised sentences:

1. przeprowadzić sięmove to
- move to Poland
* I’m planning to move to Poland in the Spring

2. zaaklimatyzować się, zadomowićsettle in/into
DEF: be comfortable in a place
- settle into a new city
- settle into a new home
- settle into a routine
* I taught in quite a few European towns and cities between 2006 and 2013 so it shouldn’t be a problem for me to settle into a new routine in Gdańsk
3. płacić rachunkipay the bills
* In Serbia, I was used to going to a bank to pay the bills
* I’ll probably pay my bills online in Poland
4. koszty utrzymaniacost of living
- rising cost of living
- an increase/fall IN THE cost of living
- low/high cost of living
* I don’t think I’ll notice a big difference in the cost of living between Gdańsk and Novi Sad
5. w porównaniu z / docompared with/to
ALSO: in comparison to
* Compared to the Serbian city of Novi Sad, where I lived for four years, Gdańsk is an extremely clean city

 

Step 5: The power of visualisation and how to master common English grammar structures

1. przeprowadzić sięmove to
- move to Poland
* I’m planning to move to Poland in the Spring
2. zaaklimatyzować się, zadomowićsettle in/into
DEF: be comfortable in a place
- settle into a new city
- settle into a new home
- settle into a routine
* I taught in quite a few European towns and cities between 2006 and 2013 so it shouldn’t be a problem for me to settle into a new routine in Gdańsk
3. płacić rachunkipay the bills
* In Serbia, I was used to going to a bank to
pay the bills
* I’ll probably pay all my bills online in Poland
4. koszty utrzymaniacost of living
- rising cost of living
- an increase/fall IN THE cost of living
- low/high cost of living
* I don’t think I’ll notice a big difference in the cost of living between Gdańsk and Novi Sad
5. w porównaniu z / docompared with/to
ALSO: in comparison to
* Compared to the Serbian city of Novi Sad, where I lived for four years, Gdańsk is an extremely clean city

In the table above, you can observe another key feature of the PLIS Word-Phrase Table – the use of visualisation. Italics, colour, different fonts and bold font can boost your visualisation skills. Many learners claim to be auditory or kinaesthetic learners which should not mean they have to discount the powers of visualisation. In fact, I believe that many learners avoid visualisation techniques due to the effort involved.

In 1, I have used the colour green to highlight move to. Green helps me to create a strong association between a green traffic light, which cars can move through, and my anticipated move to Poland.

In 3, notice how I have marked used to + ing, thus highlighting a grammatical structure rather than a lexical one. My aim here is to emphasise the fact that used to is followed by -ing, and not a to + infinitive pattern. When I learned Serbian, I included grammatical structures in my Word-Phrase Table, and I was consistent in applying these structures in a range of contexts when speaking the language. Using my own experience as a point of reference once again, other true sentences containing this used to + ing structure can be added in a separate row, thus:

6. przyzwyczajony doused to (+ing)
* I’m used to teaching in the evening
* I’m used to walking and only use my car when I have to

Therefore, the PELC Word-Phrase Table is not solely intended for words and collocations, but also a means to record and personalise common grammatical structures.

 

Step 6: Deep learning and minimalism
After collocations and personalised sentences have been added to your table, you should seek to settle yourselves into a routine of revising, rereading and, if audio files have been sound recorded, listening to your personalised sentences. If you update your table on a regular basis – daily as PELC recommends – then revision should take place every day. After a few months have passed, and presumably less language is being added to the table once your incidental acquaintanceship with new words and collocations begins to decrease, revision can be done every second day. At this stage, you can cover the right-hand column with your hand and only use the first language word as a prompt, as you might be able to recall the L2 word, collocations and personalised sentences without looking at the table. After five months, for example, you may only need to revise the table every five to seven days.

If you read, or listen to, personalised sentences on a regular basis, they will slowly but surely become part of your spoken language range. Indeed, you will find that these sentences are “swimming” in your brain when you speak English. This is the essence of fluency – being able to retrieve pre-learned personalised collocations and sentences automatically during conversation without thinking.

For deep learning to occur, I advise you not to read your sentences aloud, but instead focus hard on the sentences while mumbling faintly or moving your lips to the words. After all, this revision is not about practising reading and pronunciation skills.

With the Word-Phrase Table, one can observe how organisation and minimalism are key components of success. There is no need for the excessive use of one’s first language – a translation of the target word should be enough. Abbreviations (pl., n. and adj.) allow for the inclusion of further linguistic information related to each target word. In 1, for example, notice how I have added relocation, a noun, as a possible substitute for the base form of the verb move:

1. przeprowadzić sięmove to
- move to Poland
rz. relocation
* I’m planning to move to Poland in the Spring

Finally, deep learning is about viewing English as a language of chunks. I firmly believe that it is more productive to break down personalised sentences into more manageable parts, rather than become obsessed with tenses and other grammatical features. For example, this personalised sentence from row 2 in the table can be broken down thus:

* As / I’ve taught abroad / for six years / , it shouldn’t be / a problem / for me / to settle into / a new routine/ in Gdańsk.

Therefore:

  • As (because; a conjunction linking a subordinate clause)
  • I’ve taught abroad (present perfect simple)
  • for + a length of time (for six years, for ten days, for fifteen minutes)
  • it shouldn’t be (not “it shouldn’t to be”, which many learners of English say)
  • a problem (a – used when not referring to a specific problem)
  • for me (‘to me’ preferred for personal opinions)
  • to settle into (to + infinitive)
  • a new routine (not referring to a specific routine here, so ‘the’ is not required)
  • in Gdańsk (in + place name)

In summary, if you regularly revise and start to memorise your personalised sentences, you should not need to start analysing why a is used instead of the, or why it’s for me instead of to me. Retrieving personalised sentences, or certain parts of personalised sentences, during conversation automatically leads to the correct production of grammar. If your sentences are grammatically correct, and you try hard to incorporate them into your speech during conversation, then you should not need to worry about being accurate all the time. Take the pressure off yourself.

I can provide more details about the PELC Word-Phrase table during a free initial consultation meeting.

 

THE BENEFITS OF USING A WORD-PHRASE TABLE:

  • Record collocations after a dash (-)
  • Write true personalised sentences about personal attitudes, experiences and familiar situations after a star (*)
  • Easy to access and develop a repetition schedule
  • The possibility to use different colours, fonts and letter sizes to enhance visual memory skills which, in turn, increases the probability of recalling key collocations, grammatical information and whole personalised sentences
  • Enlist a native speaker to make sound recordings of personalised sentences

You can speak English powerfully and confidently!

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