on the ranter

My interest is Applied Linguistics–the study of language teaching, learning, and use.   Studying linguistics does not mean that I can speak dozens of languages, but I can say that I’ve studied Japanese and French seriously.  If you ask me (or, for that matter, any applied linguist) if I’m “fluent,” I’ll tell you I’ve never measured my speech for pause frequency, timing, or speech rate, but the short answer is that I can say what I want to say, how I want to say it, at least in Japanese, and at least most of the time. 

My main research focus is second language (L2) assessment, which, for most people, means language tests like the TOEFL, TOEIC, SAT2, JLPT, or other similar standardized tests.  I tend to be very skeptical of those tests, though, and my research interests are, in so many words, bigger than that.  In simple terms, I investigate how we can know what language learners know and are able to do with regards to language, and how we could make principled decisions with that information.

My particular attraction to linguistics is such that I am constantly fascinated by almost everything that I see and especially hear.  What do people perceive?  How do they express their perception of the world?  Why do they express it that way?  What effect does their language use have on the world and other people?  These are the bigger questions, though likely, my rants will be quite a bit narrower than that in scope.

For completion sake, I’ll briefly mention my current projects.  I encourage the use of either google, JSTOR (since it’s free), google scholar (which is not completely free), or wikipedia if you are curious what these are, although I’ll almost certainly post about them myself soon.  My current projects look at dynamic assessment techniques, the effects of pair work in language classrooms, the development of novel phonological contrasts in L2 lexical representations, alternatives to functional load in determining a hierarchy of segmental contrasts in L2 comprehensibility, the effects of item preview, spurious vowel detection in phonotactically-prohibited consonant clusters, speaker variables in listening assessment tasks, the effects of visual stimuli on listening comprehension, and a complex systems theory of language.  In my teaching, I lead my own personal crusade against the teaching of would, could, should, and might as past tense forms in modern English, and I’m constantly striving to create a principled syllabus for teaching the pronunciation of General American English.

Don’t get me started on modals.  Or on what I mean by “principled.”  Or on what “General American” means.  Or “English.”


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