The English Grammar Profile (EGP) is a sister resource to the English Vocabulary Profile, and has been put together by Anne O'Keeffe (Limerick University) and Geraldine Mark, the co-authors, along with Ron Carter and Mike McCarthy, of English Grammar Today (Cambridge University Press). Mark and O'Keeffe investigated the extensive data in the Cambridge Learner Corpus to establish when learners begin to get to grips with different linguistic structures.
A series of insights from their research will be posted on this page, each one putting the spotlight on an interesting aspect of learner grammar development. Please note that all of the learner examples come from the Cambridge Learner Corpus, a 55-million word electronic collection of written learner data. The examination and the candidate’s first language are given in brackets after each learner example.
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At the B1 level the range of discourse markers used by learners significantly expands. For example, learners use a range of phrases as discourse markers to introduce contrasting statements. On the other hand and on the contrary are just a few of the phrases that are used frequently at the B1 level. Both phrases become more frequent in learner work as they progress through the CEFR levels and are used by B2, C1 and C2 learners more frequently than native speakers.
On the one hand, going to a large school is better for making friends, but on the other hand, I think you can learn better in a small school. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)
My new teacher, on the contrary, understands us and I think she is skilful, because during the first lesson she organised a game. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Italian)
On the contrary, you must eat more fruit and vegetables during the day. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; French)
A range of words and phrases are used at the B1 level as discourse markers to add information. Some of these appear at the A2 level among speakers of Romance languages. For example, moreover, in addition and besides are used quite often by French learners at the A2 level, and at B1 a wider variety of learners are able to use these and other expressions.
Moreover the health of our staff and customers is essential. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; German)
Besides, you’re 18 years old and you aren’t a baby. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Italian)
Furthermore, I think that you should do some small exercises during your break. For example, you could go running in the morning and evening. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Russian)
At this level learners can also use you see and the thing is as discourse markers to mark new knowledge, usually in informal contexts.
You see, in the park, you can enjoy fresh air… (Cambridge English: Preliminary for Schools; Vietnamese)
The thing is, if I could move, I’d go to the countryside. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Portuguese)
Adverbs also present a significant point of learner development at the B1 level. Learners can, for example, use adverbs as discourse markers to indicate attitude or viewpoint.
Unfortunately, they filmed only the building and the garden, not the students! (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Italian)
Actually, I do not have much time to watch television. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Chinese)
Surprisingly, the suitcase was Lucy’s. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Farsi)
Learners can also use sequencing adverbs as discourse markers to organise a text.
Firstly, we need a good expert to run the course. Secondly, good materials are needed. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Chinese)
First of all, I must tell you that it always depends on how badly you want to do something. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Spanish - Latin American)
Secondly, I know you like a healthy life so if you don’t eat too much candy and unhealthy food, you can keep fit easily. And lastly, please believe in yourself. I know you can do it, and don’t give up the exercise. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Turkish)
Finally, I would be grateful if you would arrange a car from this airport. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Russian)
So, a great expansion in the range of discourse markers used by learners is seen at the B1 level. Learners make significant improvements in their uses of adverbs as well as discourse markers that present contrast, additional information, new knowledge or attitude. Learners at the B1 level show competence in using discourse markers in a variety of contexts, including the informal. As learners progress to higher levels, the formal context becomes key to learner advancement.