Concordancers: taking a peek into the linguistic context of a word

Natural language processing (NLP), the branch of computer science concerned with transforming human language (as opposed to formal languages, such as math or computer code) into something readable and understandable by a machine, has generated many interesting applications that are commonplace today: spell correction, word prediction, search engines, automatic translation apps (a.k.a. machine translation), chatbots, among others.

Even when these apps can be useful for the language learner (who hasn’t googled for a word?), they are designed with the general digital user in mind. However, there are some apps that —while using similar NLP technology— are more directly concerned with language and that can be a better aid for writers wanting to broaden their vocabulary and polish their style. In this article, I’ll tell you about one particular language technology that I believe is both very simple and tremendously useful for language learning: concordancers.