About the episodes

Series 1

Series Trailer

In this episode you meet us, your hosts for the series, Dr Kaitlyn Zavaleta and Dr Marie-Josee Bisson and we set the scene for what is to come.   

We are both Senior Lecturers at De Montfort University and we conduct research on language learning.   

Throughout the series we will be interviewing experts in the field of language learning and beyond to impart informative, evidence based and practical advice. The topics range from incidental learning, eye-tracking, learning vocabulary though reading, creative assessments, using virtual reality in the classroom, training phonological abilities, randomised control trials, speech errors and conducting research online.    

We hope that you will join us in discovering all those topics and let us know what you think! Can you help us by completing our survey? We would like to know what you liked about this episode, what you would like to hear about next and also whether you have encountered any barriers in your language learning journey. Click here for the link to this 5-minute survey.

Follow Dr Zavaleta and Dr Bisson on twitter: @dr_klzavaleta and @mjbisson

Find out more about our research at the Language Lab

Episode 1. Beyond the Classroom: Informal Language Learning

In this episode Dr Zavaleta talks to Dr Bisson about incidental learning and how we can use this type of learning to help us learn a language in and out of the classroom. Being exposed to a language can help you pick up new words, syntax and grammar even if you are engaged in another task. This can be something like playing a game with foreign language words, reading a book in the foreign language, watching a foreign language film with subtitles or immersing yourself in the foreign language environment. This type of learning is very similar to how we learn our native language and requires no conscious effort to learn.

Click here to access an article about Dr Bisson’s research.

Episode 2. Tracking Eye Movements Provides Insight into Language Knowledge

In this episode, Dr Bisson speaks with Professor Kathy Conklin about eye-tracking in language research. From archaic equipment with bite bar to newer online tools to track people’s eyes, Kathy explains what eye-tracking can tell us about language processing and language learning. In particular, you get to hear about her fascinating research on binomials: What is so special about “fish and chips” compared to “chips and fish”? 

Click here to be redirected to the eye-tracking book mentioned in the episode.

Episode 3. Tired of Memorising to Learn New Words? Just Read!

In this episode Dr Zavaleta talks to Dr Ana Pellicer-Sanchez about learning vocabulary through reading as well as her research using films with bilingual subtitles. You will find out what Ana recommends to improve vocabulary knowledge in and out of the classroom: from reading a book to watching a film and using an app, her message is clear, enjoyment is key! 

Click here to access the article on bilingual subtitles mentioned in the episode.

Episode 4. Thinking Outside the Box to Assess Language Knowledge

In this episode, Dr Bisson interviews Dr Alex Mangold from Aberystwyth University on the topic of creative assessment. They discuss the decline in uptake of modern foreign languages at University level and Alex explains how creative assessments could change that by allowing students to produce a creative piece rather than always being assessed through more formal essay writing. Alex gives examples of what creative assessments could be, from drawings and collage to dramatic monologues and video blogs. Join us for some ideas on how to change the way students’ work is assessed in modern languages. 

Episode 5. Virtual Reality for Language Learning

In this episode Dr Zavaleta speaks with Dr Elizabeth Enkin about using virtual reality as a tool for language learning. Join us to hear about research using virtual reality to help students speak in the target language whilst reducing feelings of anxiety, even using virtual sculpture making as a way of facilitating target language use.

Here is the link to the book chapter mentioned in the podcast.

Episode 6.Training Your Ear for a New Language

In this episode Dr Bisson speaks with Dr Angelos Lengeris about phonological abilities and their importance for language learning. Join us to hear about how we can train our ear to hear sounds that do not exist in our native language and how this then helps us speak with a more “native-like” accent.

Read a research article about this here.

Episode 7. Designing a Language Study: Assigning Students to Groups

In this episode, Dr Bisson talks to Professor Matthew Inglis about the importance of randomised controlled trials in education research. In other words, why is it crucial to allocate pupils to an intervention randomly and at the pupil level (rather than, say, a whole class) in order to be able to draw strong conclusions from a research study. Join us as we discuss how to get teachers better informed about this and other research methods. 

Read about research using randomised controlled trials here.

Episode 8. “What’s the word again?”: Mistakes Can Show Knowledge and Fluency.

In this episode Dr Bisson interviews Dr Zavaleta about her research on speech errors (when you say cat instead of dog or “Platurn” instead of planet because you were also thinking of Saturn… ). Dr Zavaleta explains how speech errors are a normal occurrence especially when we learn another language. Things get muddled up and the wrong word comes out but speech errors are so interesting because they tell us so much about the organisation of language in the brain. Join us for an interesting episode that we can all relate to!

You can find out more about Dr Zavaleta’s research at the Language Lab

Episode 9. Mouse-tracking: How to Study Language Online?

In this episode, Dr Zavaleta speaks with Dr Anue Kukona about psycholinguistic research. In particular, they discuss conducting research over the internet and the advantages that come with that in terms of a more diverse sample of participants, mouse-tracking as an alternative to eye-tracking, as well as predictions in language that goes at three times the normal speed! Join us for an interesting episode! 

Series 2

Episode 1.

In this Episode, we welcome you to Series 2 of the Podcast and talk about how the language that we know can influence the way we learn other languages. 

In particular, some foreign language words look really different compared to words in our native language. It may be that they include a combination of letters that are not possible in our native language. For example, “llw” in Welsh is quite frequent but for a speaker of English that will look quite unusual. 

How does this impact the learning of words? Join Dr Kaitlyn and Dr Marie in this episode to learn more about it (and we revisit incidental learning which is Marie’s favourite topic!).

Link to a research article about this here or if you prefer a quick research summary, read it here.