Browsing by Subject "second language learning"

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  • Levänen, Tuuli (Helsingfors universitet, 2015)
    Introduction. Previous studies suggest that dyslexic pupils have inordinate difficulties learning foreign languages at school. The present study examined the mismatch negativity (MMN) brain responses elicited by foreign language words and nonwords in dyslexic children compared to typically reading controls. MMN reflects early processing stages in auditory cortex. The aim of this study was to determine whether dyslexic pupils have impaired MMNs for foreign language words or speech stimuli in general, and whether word familiarity has a different effect on the two groups. In addition, the correlations between MMN differences and reading and cognitive skills were analysed. Methods. Participant groups consisted of 14 dyslexic school children, and 14 typically reading controls. Before brain recordings, literacy skills and cognitive functioning were tested. Brain responses to English words (she, shy) and nonwords (shoy), and Finnish words (sai, soi) and nonwords (sii) were measured with electroencephalography (EEG). Results and conclusions. The results suggested that compared to controls, dyslexic children's MMN responses to foreign language were impaired for a familiar word she, but only. However, the groups did not differ in processing speech-sounds in general. In addition, weak MMN responses to the foreign word were associated with poorer reading skills and slower rapid naming in mother language. The results of this study suggest that the establishment, access and activation of memory representations for foreign words is impaired in dyslexia. In addition, the finding that poor performance in native language reading is correlated with the strength of brain responses to foreign language suggests that there are common factors underlying literacy skills and foreign language learning.
  • Kinnunen, Laura (Helsingfors universitet, 2016)
    The study presents international academics working in the University of Helsinki and their access to the work environment language-wise. The transformations encountered by the higher education systems, like the University of Helsinki, have changed the face of the academic profession. Many of the goals of internationalization, such as increased international cooperation and ability to operate in international and intercultural environments, are connected to the need to use languages. This is why the meaning of language has come relevant to the access to different work environments. The data for the study came from the research subproject "Foreign professional's access to Finnish labour market" in the project "Opening up pathways for competence and employment for immigrants" by the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Helsinki. The questionnaire survey was carried out among employees from abroad on the payroll or on a grant (n=236) at the University of Helsinki in spring 2010. The method to analyze the data was quantitative for closed questions and statistical analysis was utilized. For open-ended questions qualitative analysis was used. The study subject was approached from the theoretical point view of second language acquisition, international communication competence, and concept of stranger. The research questions address more closely on what are the perceptions of the foreign academic professionals on their current level of language skill as well as learning and using language, what conditions related to language limit the access and possibilities to the commitment in the work environment of the University of Helsinki, and what are the perceived needs and development suggestions related to language that would improve the commitment to the work environment of the University of Helsinki. The study showed that there has not really been development in the Finnish skill during the time and to attend Finnish language courses did not have remarkable affect especially to the usage of Finnish in more official work situations. The most used language at work was English and change using Finnish came around after ten years in Finland. For accessing the work environment, Finnish language barrier, difficulties in finding ways to participate in decision making and social sphere, and difficulties in understanding one's rights and obligations in the working environment were evident among the international academics working at the University of Helsinki. The improvements on how international academics perceive working environment would language-wise require systematic changes in the University of Helsinki that go beyond surface level actions that have taken place, despite of the existing discussion on internationalization of higher education, strategic plans, and policies. The language policy in a multilingual work environment works in an excluding manner by blocking access of certain employees without sufficient Finnish skill.
  • Sinnemäki, Kaius Tatu-Kustaa; Garbo, Francesca Di (2018)
    In this article we evaluate claims that language structure adapts to sociolinguistic environment. We present the results of two typological case studies examining the effects of the number of native (=L1) speakers and the proportion of adult second language (=L2) learners on language structure. Data from more than 300 languages suggest that testing the effect of population size and proportion of adult L2 learners on features of verbal and nominal complexity produces conflicting results on different grammatical features. The results show that verbal inflectional synthesis adapts to the sociolinguistic environment but the number of genders does not. The results also suggest that modeling population size together with proportion of L2 improves model fit compared to modeling them independently of one another. We thus argue that surveying population size alone may be insufficient to detect possible adaptation of linguistic structure to the sociolinguistic environment. Rather, other features, such as proportion of L2 speakers, prestige and social network density, should be studied, and if demographic numeric data are used, they should not be used in isolation but rather in competition with other sociolinguistic features. We also suggest that not all types of language structures within a given grammatical domain are equally sensitive to the effect of sociolinguistic variables, and that more exploratory studies are needed before we can arrive at a reliable set of grammatical features that may be potentially most (and least) adaptive to social structures.