Announcing the Winners of the Mango Languages Dissertation Award 2023​

Written by Kaitlyn Tagarelli with contributions from Joanne Koh, Jonathan Malone, and Xingying Zhang

It’s that time of year again, when Mango Languages has the privilege of hearing from rockstar Ph.D. students about their innovative dissertation projects examining language learning through technology.

The competition was fierce this year but we are delighted to announce this year’s winner, along with two additional projects that deserve mention.

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And the winner is...

Joanne Koh

Second Language Studies at Michigan State

Vocabulary learning through out-of-class extensive viewing in an EFL context: A longitudinal study

Joanne’s dissertation focuses on extensive viewing — that’s prolonged and regular engagement with authentic second-language audiovisual materials outside of formal language classrooms. According to Joanne, extensive viewing has recently gained attention as a potential extramural activity for developing second-language vocabulary, particularly because of the growing availability of meaningful input through streaming platforms, like Netflix. 

Joanne’s project delves into how Korean learners of English naturally engage in extensive viewing in informal settings… in other words, how they watch TV shows on Netflix. By tracking learners’ viewing patterns, along with other extramural language learning activities, this project aims to explore how these practices influence vocabulary learning.

Joanne predicts that extensive viewing will help learners improve their second-language vocabulary, which would mean that it’s a great way for learners to take ownership of their learning in their own time. The implications? Learners are encouraged to watch more TV in their second language, especially if they are learning in a context that might not have enough meaningful input to promote vocabulary development.

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Honorable Mentions

Jonathan Malone

Jonathan Malone

Second Language Acquisition at the University of Maryland

Toward A Theory-based Account of the Vocabulary Processing and Learning Benefits of Reading While Listening

Do you like to read online? Do you listen to audiobooks? Could doing both at the same time help you learn a new language?

Jon’s dissertation project focuses on how listening while you read in a second language changes the way you read and influences the learning of new words. Learning a new word involves learning information about both how it sounds and how it is written, which suggests that reading while listening may help vocabulary learning. Indeed, previous research has suggested that learners benefit from engaging in multiple modalities (reading, listening, watching videos, viewing images) when learning new words from context. Many language learning apps provide learners with the opportunity to both read and listen to new language, often simultaneously, but little research has examined the way this simultaneous presentation of multiple modalities impacts real-time reading behavior. 

This study aims to better understand the impacts of reading while listening by examining the eye movements of English language learners while they read a 7,500-word short story in English, determining how closely learners follow the audio while reading, and investigating the relationship between looking at and learning new words.  

Xinying Zhang

Xinying Zhang

College of International Studies at Shenzhen University, China

MALL Acceptance and Engagement

The emergence of mobile technology has paved the way for personalized and self-directed language learning beyond the confines of the conventional classroom setting. This study aims to investigate Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) engagement among Chinese English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners in informal learning contexts and understand how MALL fits into the landscape of language learning.

Through surveys, reflection journals, and interviews, Xinying found that there are a variety of factors that influence MALL engagement among this group of learners, particularly related to device, social, and learner-related variables. In particular, results showed that learners primarily used mobile devices and appreciated the flexibility and convenience of MALL. And while learners preferred personalized, self-regulated learning, they also expected teachers to be more involved in supporting their self-directed learning and creating social communities of learners to facilitate sharing and communication across classes and proficiency levels.

Overall, this study demonstrates that MALL influences the informal learning practices of EFL learners. Additionally, it provides insights into how and why learners use MALL, what works for them, and what would make the MALL experience better for learners.

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A big congratulations to Joanne, Jonathan, and Xinying! And kudos to all of this year's applicants for working hard to understand and improve tech-based approaches to language learning!