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College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University

In the Spotlight

On this page we feature a member of the Second Language Studies Program. Right now our spotlight is on Jens Schmidtke!


July 2014

Jens Schmidtke


I joined the SLS program in 2010. Looking back, I am grateful for the many opportunities I have had to learn in the program. Through my first research project I became acquainted with the visual world eye-tracking paradigm. In this paradigm, participants are presented with pictures on a computer screen while they listen to sentences. This methodology exploits the fact that people tend to automatically look the pictures that they hear mentioned within a few hundred milliseconds. In my second research project I used the visual world paradigm to investigate how differences in language experience influence lexical access. To this end, I tested monolingual English speakers and Spanish native speakers who either grew up bilingual in the U.S. or grew up in a Spanish-speaking country and learned English later in life. I found that listening may be more effortful in a second language because bilingual speakers do not use each of their languages as much as monolinguals by virtue of speaking two languages. More information about this project can be found in this article that I published earlier this year in Frontiers in Psychology. In this paper I analyzed the pupil diameter during listening instead of looking at eye movements because small changes in the diameter during the execution of cognitive tasks are thought to reflect cognitive effort.

Currently I am working on my dissertation research for which I was fortunate to receive a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant. In this research I am investigating lexical access in bilingual and monolingual speakers. Listening in noisy environments, such as a busy cafeteria, is more difficult in one’s second compared to one’s first language. Thus, I am researching factors that are likely to contribute to successful speech perception in noisy environments. Preliminary results of my research point to the importance of good vocabulary knowledge in both monolingual and bilingual listeners.

Besides my own research, I have worked for Dr. Godfroid as research assistant. We published a book chapter that appeared last year. During my tenure in the SLS program I have also taught at the ELC and a class on methods of teaching ESL for pre-service teachers.


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