The LONGDALE (Longitudinal Database of Learner English) project was initiated in January 2008 by the Centre for English Corpus Linguistics at the University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium. The aim of the project is to build a large longitudinal database of learner English containing data from learners from a wide range of mother tongue backgrounds and thereby contribute to filling a major gap in corpus-based SLA studies. While cross-sectional learner corpora are relatively easy to come by, large collections of longitudinal data are still few and far between. In the LONGDALE project, the same students will be followed over a period of at least three years (from year 1 to year 3 of their studies at the University of Louvain) and data collections will be organised at least once per year.
The term ‘database' rather than ‘corpus' is used here as our aim is to collect a wide range of data types, from fairly uncontrolled data such as argumentative essays, narratives or informal interviews to more guided types in the form of summaries or picture descriptions. Our ultimate aim is to include both written and spoken material, but for practical reasons, we have decided to focus on writing tasks as a first step.
The database includes comprehensive learner profile information which is gathered during each data collection session. These variables include age, gender, educational background, country, language background, etc. Variables pertaining to the task are also included.
The first data collection took place in Louvain-la-Neuve in March 2008. We collected argumentative essays from 117 EFL undergraduate students in their first year at UCL. Students were given a choice between four different argumentative topics and were required to write between 500 and 700 words. They typed in their essays on a web interface after filling in a detailed online profile questionnaire. They also took two language tests in the course of the year, which provided additional information regarding their proficiency levels. The same students wrote another essay in March 2009, i.e. in their second year at university, and March 2010, i.e. in their third year at university, and took the same language tests on these two occasions to control for evolution in proficiency level.
Like the other two major corpus initiatives led by Louvain, i.e. the International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE) and the Louvain International Database of Spoken English Interlanguage (LINDSEI), the LONGDALE project is international in its scope. At the latest count, five research centers are actively collecting data. If you are interested in joining this new venture and contributing to LONGDALE, be it theoretically or practically, do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to give you any additional information you may need and already look forward to collaborating with you on the development of LONGDALE!
Prof. Fanny Meunier
LONGDALE Louvain Team: