About the BACKBONE corpora
The BACKBONE suite of pedagogic corpora consists of 7 sub-corpora of video-recorded interviews: English, French, German, Polish, Spanish and Turkish as well as French, German, Polish, Spanish and Turkish manifestations of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF).
English is covered by 50 interviews: 25 British and 25 Irish; all the other languages are represented with 25 interviews; the ELF corpus contains a total of 50 interviews, with 10 interviews for each of the base languages French, German, Polish, Spanish and Turkish. The interviews have an average length of 10 minutes. Pedagogic annotation refers to thematic, linguistic and CEFR characteristics; pedagogic enrichment concerns ready-made language learning materials and instructions for exploratory and communicative tasks.
Typical topic areas covered in the BACKBONE corpora emphasize a regional perspective and include culture, world of labour, urban and rural life, social issues, health and social security, education, environment, government and politics. The following summary accounts give an idea of the spread of topics dealt with across the interviews in the various corpora.
The British English interviews were recorded in selected regions in the UK including the counties of Surrey (Guildford), Somerset (Bristol, Cleeve, Martock and Taunton), Devon (Plymouth) and the West Midlands (Birmingham). In addition, the content of some of these interviews focused on other parts of the country (e.g. Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire). The participants came from a range of different professional backgrounds: two speakers who are involved in a tourist attraction in Plymouth, the Managing Director of a science park and the Director of Traded Services at the University of Surrey, a manager of a nursing home and a senior nurse at a special care baby unit, the Managing Director of Surrey Sports Park, a web designer and virtual learning specialist, a translator, a tango teacher, a specialist in the field of audio description for visually impaired people, an administrator at a performing arts school, a wedding planner, a lawyer, a marketer for a law firm, and the Director of Research, Business and Innovation at the University of the West of England in Bristol.
The Irish English interviews were recorded in selected regions in Ireland including the counties of Cork, Tipperary, Kerry, Dublin, Laois, Roscommon, Clare and Mayo. The participants came from a range of different professional backgrounds including teachers from primary, secondary and third level education, a community dietician, a PHD student, a boat club caretaker, a taxi driver, a jewellery shop assistant, a research and development officer, a recruitment consultant, various sports players and enthusiasts, a keen historian, an amateur singer, a homebrew wine entrepreneur, twin brothers: a civil servant and a glass factory worker, an administrator for the University of Limerick language centre, the manager of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office, the assistant director of Pavee Point-a Traveller’s rights organisation, a Product Development Officer for Failte Ireland, and last but not least a farmer.
Even though most of the French interviews were recorded in the Jura region, the people selected for the interviews came from different parts of France or French speaking areas: Jura, Bresse, Paris, Lorraine, Provence, and Africa. The interviewees came from a wide range of different professional backgrounds including trainers in a business school, students of Medicine, Politics, and Business Administration, a salesman, a retired Post Office inspector, a chief accountant, a webmaster, an IT engineer, and the President of a Football Association.
The German interviews were recorded in different regions and cities in Germany including southern Germany (Lake Constance area, Swabia and Baden), the Rhine-Ruhr area, northern Germany (Dithmarschen/Schleswig-Holstein), and Berlin. One interview was recorded in Austria (Vienna). The Interviewees came from a wide range of different professional backgrounds: teachers from primary, secondary, vocational, and higher education, a city councillor, members of the Green Party, a general practitioner and an anaesthesiologist; engineers from the automotive industry, a director from a tourist office, the owner of a delicatessen shop; a fisherman and owner of a fishery from lake Constance, people working in the area of nature conservation and animal-welfare, an artist working on an interactive exhibition for a seal centre, and last but not least a German writer.
For the Polish corpus, the speakers come from central Poland and they all speak the standard language but they represent different professional backgrounds. We focused on the topics which are connected to different types of business. We interviewed e.g. an owner of a computer shop, an interpreter, and a staff member from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development who also explained some issues of the regional politics or the principals of the financial support of the EU. We also interviewed some representatives of professions connected with radio and television who explained the nature of their work; so in these interviews appear e.g. a television journalist and a make-up artist. We also recorded interviewees talking about some social topics as sexual minority, icons of pop culture or extraordinary hobbies.
The Spanish corpus contains interviews with speakers of different regions: Aragon (Zaragoza), Andalusia (Jaen, Seville, Granada), Cantabria (Celis, a small villaje near Santander), Castilla-La Mancha (Albacete), Comunidad Valenciana (Alicante), Galicia (La Coruña), and the region of Murcia (Murcia). The professional background of the participants is also very diverse, as we interviewed: a top researcher; an ex-lawyer; teachers from primary, secondary and tertiary education; an NGO volunteer; a doctor; a librarian; a sportswoman; an ex-worker of a quality control laboratory; a folklore specialist; two young entrepreneurs; a telemarketer; a bio-farmer; a first year university student; a confectioner; and a clerk, among others. They cover a very wide range of topics ranging from those directly related to their professional lives to other issues more closely related to culture (traditions, typical food from their region), the environment (deforestation, lack of water), local and central institutions, or tourism (medical tourism, tourist attractions).
As Turkish is one of the two pedagogically neglected languages included in BACKBONE, the Turkish interviews involved only people speaking standard Turkish. Even though the interviews were recorded in Kayseri, a Central Anatolian city, and the people selected for the interviews were born and raised in different regions in Turkey, they all had standard or near standard accents. Except for a few of the speakers, they mostly had university level education, and thus were able to speak standard Turkish well. They came from a variety of professional and social backgrounds including a housewife, an insurance expert, two computer engineers and a programmer, a dentist, a librarian, two mechanical engineers, two directors of education, a science teacher, a pharmacist, two architects, a florist, a catering manager, a shop owner, a medical doctor, a lawyer, a banker, an optician, a project administrator and a hairdresser.
The ELF corpus consists of interviews with non-native speakers of English in France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Turkey. As a guiding principle, the interviewees use English in their work environments or privately on a more regular basis. It is also important that they feel comfortable using English in front of a camera. Thematically, the ELF interviews cover topics similar to the native speaker corpora.