Yingzhao Chen, a Ph.D. candidate in MSU’s Second Language Studies (SLS) and Cognitive Science programs, is one of only six doctoral students from across the country to receive a $5,000 Duolingo Research Grant.
She received the grant for her dissertation, titled Comparing L1 and L2 Glosses in Vocabulary Learning from Digital Reading, which explores how short definitions of words (hyperlinked glosses) that are written in a learner’s first or second language influence vocabulary learning.
“I feel honored to be selected for this grant,” Chen said. “I hope through this grant, I can increase collaboration between the academia and the industry and make more real-world impacts through my research.”
Chen’s study investigates the effects of target word frequency in texts, learners’ engagement with word definitions, and their second language proficiency by tracking the amount of time language learners spent on each definition and measuring learning gains in terms of each learner’s speed and accuracy in recognizing and recalling the newly learned words.
For the study, English learners read a novel online during which they could click on words to check their definitions. After reading, the learners’ speed and accuracy in recognizing and recalling words were measured.
Chen’s study aims to shed light on the best process for designing materials to develop learners’ word knowledge and recollection in everyday tasks, such as reading, which would benefit learners, teachers, and digital learning program designers.
I hope through this grant, I can increase collaboration between the academia and the industry and make more real-world impacts through my research.Yingzhao Chen
The Duolingo Research Grant supports research that focuses on learning with technology. In Chen’s study, technology served two different roles.
“[Technology] was used to improve research design by allowing me to track learner behaviors during reading,” Chen said. “Technology also improves the learning experience and allows learners to access the reading and learn the language anytime, anywhere.”
Shawn Loewen, Professor of Second Language Studies at MSU, supervised Chen’s research and applauds Duolingo’s commitment to supporting this type of research.
“I’m very excited that the innovativeness of Yingzhao’s project has been recognized with this grant,” Loewen said. “Her research will provide more evidence about how to increase the effectiveness of language learning apps and online language instruction. I’m also very pleased to see Duolingo supporting L2 [second language] research; it shows a commitment to the future of instructed second language acquisition that goes beyond their own immediate interests.”
I’m very excited that the innovativeness of Yingzhao’s project has been recognized with this grant. Her research will provide more evidence about how to increase the effectiveness of language learning apps and online language instruction.Shawn Loewen, Professor of Second Language Studies
In addition to the Duolingo Research Grant, Chen also received a $1,700 Dissertation Grant from the International Research Foundation for English Language Education and a $1,000 Dissertation Award from Mango Languages.
Chen’s research interests include instructed second language acquisition, implicit and explicit learning, and second language learning and processing.
“I am particularly interested in bilingual lexicon and vocabulary learning, paying special attention to the nature of word knowledge learners acquire,” she said.
Chen expects to complete her Ph.D. degree in May 2022. She has an M.A. in Second Language Acquisition from the University of Maryland and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Sun Yat-sen University in China. Prior to joining MSU’s Second Language Studies doctoral program, she worked as an English as a Foreign Language Teacher at Beijing Foreign Studies University in China. She also has taught language learning classes during her time at MSU.
The Duolingo Dissertation Grant Program launched in 2020 to support masters and doctoral student research in language learning and teaching with technology. According to the Duolingo website, “the program supports scholars whose work is foundational for the next generation of language educators here at Duolingo and around the world.”