By Robin Dickson, software engineer at Unifa.
Many people use a second language in the tech industry so improving language skills can be good way to improve communication at work. One interesting and effective way to learn that I have found is using collocations. This post will introduce collocations, and explore how they can be used for learning language related to software development.
What are Collocations?
Collocations are combinations of words that are often used together. For example in English it usual to say 'heavy rain', but 'strong rain' is not usually used. In software development the combination of 'write code' is often used, but the combination of 'type code' is not, even though typing code is possible and grammatically correct. Learning collocations is a good way use more natural language and increase vocabulary.
Studying with Collocations
For general language learning there are collocations dictionaries for reference and workbooks to practice, which you can find in bookstores. However resources for collocations related to more specialist language can be difficult to find. In this post I will try using collocations for learning Japanese language related to software development.
One of the most effective collocation study methods I have used is making collocation diagrams. These are made of important nouns, and the words that are often used with them. There are various different types of collocations, and this example focusses on verbs, adjectives and related nouns (noun + noun pairs).
I started with the word 'code', thought about the English collocations, and added those to the diagram. Next I checked the Japanese translation using dictionaries and Japanese articles, and added those to the diagram. I also made notes of any other helpful information.
Note: In this example 'code', meaning program instructions, is not countable ('lines of code' can be used).
I repeated this process for the words and phrases 'API', 'tests', 'pull request' and 'feature'.
Note: All collocations can also be used for 'an API endpoint' & 「APIエンドポイント」.
Note: The collocations can also be used for the singular 'a test'.
Note: In English the acronym 'PR' is often used for 'pull request'. In Japanese the abbreviation 「プルリク」can be used for 「プルリクエスト」.
Note: For 'new' 新しい（あたらしい） can also be used for the same meaning as the prefix 新（しん）.
From creating the collocation diagrams it was possible to find useful vocabulary related to the topics I often talk about. After making the diagrams, remembering the words and collocations was much easier, so they can be both a learning practice and a future reference.
Finding the correct collocations in a second language was not always easy and it is good to check with a native speaker if possible.
Going forward I thought it would be a good idea to make notes of collocations for future study when encountering them in meetings, documentation, blog posts and other times you use a second language. Overall it was certainly a productive exercise.
Unifa is hiring for a various roles, for more information visit: