Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BLOGGER SCRIBE - next generation corpus-assisted language production

GOOGLE scribe started out in the famous GOOGLELABS site, where all things GOOGLE first appear and then either wither and die, or go on to make it big in the real world.  See Kuntal Loya's blog post for details about SCRIBE.

It was developed to encourage people to write more blog posts, and was developed for people who use English as their first language.  Here is a screenshot showing how GOOGLE SCRIBE works in as it tries to assist us as we write.

Why does GOOGLE want people to write more, you may ask.  Well, GOOGLE doesn't generate much of its own content.  YouTube is a classic example of this.  Instead, it relies on us to create the content which then enables GOOGLE to drive their advertising services and make billions of dollars.  User-generated content seems a nice idea, but they found that people tend to have 'writer's block' when it comes to creating regular blog posts, so SCRIBE was designed to overcome this.  It checks what you write against a corpus of billions of words of English, and based on the words you have already typed, it will suggest some likely words to follow.

As a teacher of English as a foreign language, I thought that this tool might be very handy indeed for my students.  So, I asked a few to try it out, and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  They all reported that it allowed them to write more fluently as they didn't have to constantly struggle to find the right words to express their ideas.  I found that their writing was much more coherent, and also much more accurate, especially with regard to collocations, appropriate chunks, etc.  Here is a very brief introduction to the tool:

If you use this with your students, I'd love to hear about your experiences, reservations and ideas for developing a corpus-assisted language production pedagogy based on tools like SCRIBE in, and

Notice that these tools are not foolproof.  In the video above, it allowed me to type "In England and popular meal.." instead of "In England a popular meal..."  So, it does require a reasonable knowledge of English to be used effectively.  As a tool to teach writing, it could be a powerful way to guide students in language production that up until now has been unprecedented. It's a bit like having an English teacher hovering over your shoulder and whispering suggestions as you type...but this English teacher can be turned off or on at will, and is available 24/7/365, GOOGLE willing. :)


  1. Thanks I have embedded your video into our Student Zone /writing support and acknowledged the page.
    Cheers Yvonne (Unitec NZ e-coordinator)

    1. Yvonne - would love to hear if any teachers integrate this tool in their teaching. There are a few other tools like this emerging in what I have coined 'corpus-assisted language production' - one is (free) and another is a word processor at (costs $25). No doubt more will be on the horizon, so it is something that teachers should be aware of, at the very least.