Shin, Darcy win research grant to study second languages
Assistant professor Sun-Young Shin and professor Isabelle Darcy, both in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Second Language Studies, recently won a $122,000 research grant from the TOEFL Committee of Examiners to study how language affects students who take the test.
Students who learn English as a foreign language and want to attend a university are required to take the TOEFL — or Test of English as a Foreign Language — to demonstrate their English-language proficiency.
Shin began his career at IU in 2007 after earning his Ph.D. in applied linguistics from University of California, Los Angeles. He said he wanted to study second languages because he was interested in working with people who do not speak the same mother language, and was fascinated by the surrounding culture and society.
“We still don’t know much about how people learn linguistic systems and cultural references related to second languages,” said Shin, who himself speaks English and Korean.
Confused about what makes something a second language versus a foreign language? Shin describes a second language as one learned or acquired in a context where that language is spoken, such as learning English in the United States or the United Kingdom. A foreign language, conversely, is one learned in a place where that language isn’t spoken, such as learning English in Korea, China or Japan.
He’ll use his research grant to investigate how a shared first language affects TOEFEL internet-based listening test scores, including seeking to understand how accented speech is related to test bias. The results of his research will help test developers decide whether second language varieties can be included in the TOEFL listening section, and if so, to what extent and under which conditions they should be implemented.