The Company Words Keep

Lexical chunks in language teaching

  • Book
The Company Words Keep  Cover

Key features

The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural
and fluent English.

Here is a new methodology based on the Lexical Approach, a practical theory of language, of learning – and of teaching.

The authors have drawn on their considerable  experiences to reflect both on the situation of many non-native teachers around the world who are not always sure which word partnerships are likely and unlikely as well addressing native speakers who still need point-of-need confidence in class and in the key terms involved in the teaching of lexical chunks.

They provide:

  • an approach to all aspects of teaching chunks: from beginners to advanced, from ESP to exam preparation …
  • a glossary of essential terms: from acronyms to the Web, deixis to delexification, priming to pragmatics …
  • a new methodology: a practical theory of language, of learning – and of teaching.

The Company Words Keep contains three distinctive parts which focus in turn on theory, practice and development:

Part A answers three key questions: What is a chunk? How fixed is a chunk?  How long is a chunk? The authors draw from three factors: the use of corpus data; an increased interest by linguists in word partnerships; and the availability of computational tools that can sort the data.

Part B offers a battery of over a hundred activities that will get your students chunking. They introduce and practise chunks, exploiting both the coursebook and authentic texts, as well as making the most of the immense possibilities afforded by the use of data processing.

Part C gives further insights, helping you to review what you know, reflect on the reality of lexical chunking and take steps to find out more for yourselves – in the interest of your personal and professional life.




Highly recommended.

Pete Sharma

EL Gazette, November 2012 PDF

The Company Words Keep is a concise, in-depth teaching manual and activity book that provides a new methodology based on lexical chunks and corpus linguistics. Think of it as the Lexical Approach for the Internet Age.

Colleen Brown

Teaching Times - The TESOL France Magazine, New Year 2013 PDF

...this book brings the idea of chunking and the lexical approach to the fore in a way that is accessible to less experienced instructors while presenting exercises and theory in a way that would also appeal to more experienced teachers.

Vanessa Pasini, February 2013 PDF

Component ISBNs

Book 978-1-905085-20-0

26 responses to The Company Words Keep

  1. Heidi says:

    I am extremely interested in this aspect of English Language Teaching. It isn’t enough that we teach vocabulary–corpus linguistics has extreme potential in helping us teach phrases (chunks?) common to specific contexts–or content areas in my case. I would love to view a sample of this book or at least the table of contents–finally a book that I’ve been searching for!

    • Ian says:

      I agree with Heidi, the lexical approach has for too long been a methodology without materials. As bust teachers we need some ready made ‘exercises to go’. Thanks.

      • Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

        Dear Ian
        I am vary happy you say that. A bit of history behind the book to explain that it is not quite the teacher trainers’ and authors’ fault that such books have not been published for years … We started writing the book 15 years ago because we felt we needed new methodology. The gap was the very reason for writing the book. When we went to lectures by Michael Lewis we were thrilled and we thought the theory is sound and says what we have felt intuitively for years. However, when Michael presented activities aiming at implementing the lexical approach, it was disappointing. There was no new activity and indeed it seemed it was a theory without methodology. So we started writing our resource book. When we took the proposal to the publishers we heard from a very well known and influential person in ELT (and a comissioning editor at that time who rejected the book) that the fact that there is new way of viewing language does not imply new methodology. The book did not get published then but we never gave up. We were developing more ideas, we ran Teacher Training Courses at Pilgrims focusing a lot on the lexical component, we gave presentations at conferences. Finally we were lucky with DELTA. To be fair the book has changed a lot over the years and has matured a lot. Also now the on-line resources which are easily accessible and help the practical methodology. I distinctly remember how tedious and time consuming to was was to e.g. access BNC simple search ( then called SARA simple search). I hope that the more we talk about chunks and develop the methodology, the more our coursebooks will implement it. Also it is a vicious circle … if the coursebook is too innovative i.e. with a lexical syllabus the teachers will not choose it as their coursebook (adopt it) and this is what the marketing department of a publisher does not want. For this reason coursebooks are quite conservative at their core. So we need to start the change with educating and informing the teachers. We hope this book will be an important voice in the process. Those who will benefit from our new thinking about teaching the language will be our learners

        • This sounds like the first of the books I’ve been waiting for for years – how to really implement the Lexical Approach. I wish you all the best in promoting this to teachers who in turn can help their students learn more effectively – I will try and do my bit here in Berlin. Good luck!!

    • Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

      Dear Heidi
      thank you for your post. I think for years many of us felt intuitivell that teaching or learning single words is not the best way to move foward. We can get better results of we focus on chunks. Now that we have more evidence from neuro-psychology and corpus analysis we know we are on the right track. You can see sample activities from the book at I am not sure I can post the 120 titles of activities in the book without permission but as we say in the online interview there are activities focusing how to raise awareness, learner training,
      using the coursebook with more focus on chunks, using authentic materials and on-line resources to research chunks. I hope it helps and will see waht I can do about the contents page.
      I am glad you think the book fills a gap on the market.

  2. […] and my co-author Paul Davis to learn more about the inspiration and ideas behind our new title The Company Words Keep. We look forward to blogging here over the coming weeks about lexical chunks in language […]

  3. Ian says:

    Freudian slip there with ‘bust’ should be busy – though I guess we’re not in this for the fantastic salary and some of us may be busy and bust.

    • Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

      :-) Ian

      a nice slip…

      I have a similar one

      when I think about teaching, my common slip is writing ‘ carrier woman’ instead of ‘career woman’… but considering how heavy our bags are and how little we get paid ‘ carrier woman’ sounds more appropriate

  4. Soundar Rajan says:

    I am very excited, would love to use this help enhance my students’ and my own vocabulary levels. Is the methodology you suggest is all about identifying, archiving and using ‘collocations’ in writing and speech?

    Soundar Rajan
    English skills,
    Mysore, India

    • Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

      Dear Rajan
      thank you for your positive response to the idea of the book. We ( the authors) have been very excited too when writing the book. It has been an intellectual adventure which we undertook for the sake of our learners, fellow teachers and ourselves.

      In your post I like your choice of the word ‘enhance’ and when you say you want to learn too, together with your learners. Indeed this is what we need to do and how we need to think about what happens in class and how we can research language and lexis together in class. In the book there are many ideas how to do this.

      One thing I would like to change in your satement, if I may, is the use of the word ‘vocabulary’. Vocabulary is the word that has been used in the pre-Lexical Approach era. Learning vocabulary in the traditional approach means learning lists of single words, like ‘ways of walking’: promenade, amble, stride, tiptoe, scurry etc. There is nothing wrong with these words, and the learners need them. We need to teach these words at some point but there is also something we call ‘lexis’. This word is the current way to think about words and how they function in language. Let’s use it from now on in our blog.

      A single word can stand on its own or it appears in chunks ( you may say collocations but there is more to it). John Donne said ‘ no man is an island’ nor is a word. The words we think we know well reappear in new combinations, and this is what the learners need to learn and spot. Take the phrase “I take it”… it can mean at lower levels physically taking something, whereas at higher levels it can mean “I understand”. Or the learners may know the words: ‘tell’ and ‘differnce’ but they also need to learn the chunk ‘tell the difference’.

      Basically words learners know will reappear in new combinations. The nwhat comes along with these combinations is the grammar. ( We are talking about cilligation, not only collocation).

      In the book there are lots of ideas how to teach the learners and teachers how to think about chunks of language, how to implement the ideas to supplemant the coursebook, how to use authentic materials and how to use on-line resources.

      Also as you say or hope for our book is full of innovative ideas on how to recognise, research, store and use chunks of language / lexis. Also using ICT…

      I sincerely hope you will like it

      • Bonnie Tsai says:

        Great books do not come into being in a few weeks, a few months or even a few years. I have observed the dedication and research that Hania and Paul have put into this book through our connection with Pilgrims during the summer months. It provides teachers with a combination of theory and practical useable ideas and activities that can be used with all levels, ages and group sizes. It brings to the forefront areas of language acquisition like language chunks and collocations that have often taken a back seat to grammar. That is why I love the title, The Company Words Keep, because it is a true description of the content of this book.

  5. Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

    Dear Bonnie
    great to hear from you. Indeed you have had a very special ‘preview’ of the book. As we have been working together on Pilgrims summer courses for years, sharing the staffroom, often sharing the house and having meals together, you have been catching glimpses of work in progress. Sometimes we ( Paul and myself) were planning activities in the kitchen we all shared, discussing how the activities went during coffee breaks or presenting our ideas during the technical evenings. I suppose you know quite a bit of the book already but here is a little preview which has been published in Humanising Language Teaching:

    A lot of work went into tidying up the ideas, organising and reorganising. I must say we have been very lucky to work with our excellent editor Mike Burghal who has helped us to re-organise the material into chapters and give it a shape which makes it a book that fits in with the DELTA Teacher Development Series.

    Another thing. You have written books yourself and you know the joy of creating activities and trying them out and then the mundane task of writing the activities up and then going through endless editing. But I am sure when the book is out we will remember the joys only.

    Finally I am glad you like the title. Paul’s idea. We also had a lot of fun with the titles of the individual activities… some of of them are quite clever I think. I will be happy to hear what you think once you can lay your hand on the book in the summer. Personally I like the cover too… I am not sure who designed it but it looks quite ‘chunky’.

    So when we meet at Pilgrims in the summer you will be able to give us face-to face feedback. See you soon

  6. Paul Davis says:

    I’m Paul. Just joining in. I am the co-author of the book with Hania.
    I have just finished the last proof-read and so the book is at this very moment off to the printers and I can’t wait to get my hands on a real copy. Very,very soon!

  7. Paul Davis says:

    re Bonnie’s comment on the title of the book

    The full quote is from J.R.Firth. ‘We shall know a word by the company it keeps.’

    He was working, I think, from the 1930’s to the 60’s. Just goes to show nothing is new!!!

    just remembered another of my favourite quotes (by a famous scientist whose name I forget): We may not be the first to have had the idea but we are the last.

  8. […] promoting their upcoming book, The Company Words Keep (by Paul Davis and Hania Kryszewska), with some useful excerpts and activities (in .pdf format).Share this post:Bookmark on DeliciousDigg this postRecommend on FacebookGoogle […]

    • Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

      Please recommend the activities you like best and tell us why. Will be very useful. Also you might want to look at our articles on the subject in Humanising Language Teaching:

      The easiest way is go to previous editions and search by author

  9. […] activities for Primary and Lower Secondary Teachers by Wendy Superfine and Margaret Grieveson and The Company Words Keep Lexical chunks in language teaching by Paul Davis and Hania Kryszewska are hot off the press and in […]

  10. tatiana says:

    the idea of chunking is not that new, but the
    methods suggested seem to be effective.
    thank you.

    • Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

      Dear Tatiana
      the methods we suggest seem effective on paper but please believe me they really work in class, learners see the point and willingly implement a more lexical approach in their learning. When you have tried out some of the activities leat us all know what your learners think

  11. Iza says:

    I did a course at Pilgrims two or three years ago, with Hania as my trainer. We did an anawful lot of fantastic activities on chunking. All of them highly practical, effective, with a really strong rationale behind, often with hardly any preparation on the part of the teacher (teacher-friendly, I mean). I was really excited to see the book at DELTA’s stand last weekend (Wroclaw IATEFL). I bought the book, of course, read it from A to Z. and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. practical, commonsensical, really usable and entertaining- what else does a teacher of English need?
    Congrats and good luck to the authors.
    p.s.Hania, the course at Pilgrims with you was real eye opener. thanks a lot for the inspiration and putting me on the right track :))))

  12. Hania (Hanna) Kryszewska says:

    Dear Iza
    thank you for your kind words about the course you attended at Pilgrims. Indeed this is one of the few places where we can share cutting edge methodology in a very inspiring environment. I am not sure how much you were aware then that I was actually using ideas from our book. Perhaps even testing a bit on you. :-)
    But deefinitely you got a unique preview.

    As for the book being teacher friendly when it comes to preparation I am really glad you spotted it. There are three reasons for it… One is my over 20 year old interest in learner generated materials which resulted in an OUP resource book: Learner-based Teaching in the nineties. Two … teachers often complain that their learners are on the receiving end and want to be spoon-fed. However, if you give them a chance to do things for themselves, explore and discover they engage much more. It works. Three… what counts is a great idea and not hours spent at the desk and photocopier preparing classes.
    Please share with us which activities worked for you and your learners. We are hungry for feedback.
    Hugs from Sopot

  13. […] Helen Beesley The Company Words Keep by Paul Davis and Hania Kryszewska is EL Gazette’s Book of the month for November. You can […]

  14. […] are now available including a new Author Insight! Visit the Downloads area for an article from The Company Words Keep authors Paul Davis and Hania Kryszewska entitled ‘Is it reigning cats and dogs? Or are you […]

  15. […] Inspired by J. R. Firth’s quote, Hania Kryzsewksa and Paul Davies’s new book is aptly titled “The Company Words Keep”. The book features more than a hundred activities for raising learners’ awareness of and practising lexical chunks, exploiting authentic texts and supplementing textbook materials. See the book review HERE and preview sample activities from the book on the Delta Publishing website: […]

  16. Ben says:

    I would like to purchase this book in digital format only. Please let me know when and if this book becomes available as an ebook.

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