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OU linguistics department celebrates 50 years with colloquia

Ohio University’s linguistics department is celebrating 50 years of language education this academic school year. In the spirit of celebration, the department is hosting 10 virtual lectures this semester for students and faculty to attend. 

The colloquia feature current faculty, program graduates and former faculty who deliver a lecture about a research topic pertaining to linguistic studies. The first colloquium took place Jan. 28 and the final one of the semester will take place April 22.

This week’s 50th Anniversary Linguistics Colloquium will take place Friday, Feb. 4 from 12:55 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. Alumna Tetiana Tytko will be discussing one of her research proposals that investigates the effect of captions of L2 vocabulary acquisition in the music-based language learning platform, “Rockalingua."

Tytko has a master’s in English languages and literature. She graduated from OU after receiving a master’s in applied linguistics in 2020. Now, Tytko is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland studying second language acquisition. 

Reflected in her extensive knowledge of the field, Ukrainian native Tytko said she has always been interested in linguistics studies.

“My whole life I was super into learning languages,” Tytko said. “I speak Ukrainian, Russian and I’m fluent in English.”

Tytko is also proficient in German, French and Spanish.

She began this project last semester and will present her most recent findings Friday, Feb. 4.

“It's about how young learners of Spanish acquire vocabulary,” Tytko said. “Specifically, I want to look at the effect of captions in this respect. I have access to young learners of Spanish and the instructor they have uses this platform called “Rockalingua. [Rockalingua] invited a couple people from the University of Maryland to conduct research.”

Tytko is looking at captions, specifically comparing dynamic caption versus static captions. She is studying the benefits of having visual material in addition to auditory material when it comes to consuming media in another language.

“For example, if a teacher shows a video that has dynamic captions, the students listen to the songs and they also have visual input,” Tytko said. “But sometimes, the teacher can present the exact same song but with the lyrics and the worksheet which I will treat as the static captions. I’m going to design an experiment and I will compare these different modalities.”

Oli Arambula, a freshman studying history and Spanish, has experienced the benefits first hand in regard to language acquisition through auditory and visual media.

"My parents used to watch telenovelas a lot and that used to help me learn new vocabulary,” Arambula said.

The chief organizer of the 50th Anniversary Linguistics Colloquia is David Bell, chair of OU’s linguistics department and associate professor of applied linguistics. As the chief organizer, Bell is responsible for coordinating weekly events and reaching out to potential speakers.

Although the pandemic has altered the linguistic department’s approach to the colloquia, including delaying the 50th anniversary a year, the virtual set up for the events has proven to be advantageous.

“The move to online platforms has also been beneficial in some ways because we’ve discovered we can have a really full colloquium and we don’t have to think about financing people to come to campus,” Bell said. “Our colloquium has expanded and it’s great.”

Bell and the department had three motivations when it came to hosting the colloquia.

“Firstly, we want to hear from our former alumni because it’s a great inspiration to my present students,” Bell said. “The second motivation is that it helps connect us better with our alumni. Then the third motivation is to help them with their careers.”

Tytko’s research aligns perfectly with a specific class Bell teaches introduction to research methods in applied linguistics. He is excited to give his students an example of what the research looks like in the field.

“Tetiana is going to demonstrate one of those particular research methods,” Bell said. “Because she’s an [alumna], it means that it is much easier for my students to look at Tetiana and say, ‘She did the same class I do and now she’s doing all this fantastic stuff.’ Those are all the kinds of things that Tetiana will bring and Tetiana is a wonderful person, so it’ll be great to see her.” 

Once the 50th Anniversary Linguistics Colloquium comes to a close, Bell and the department are hopeful to end the celebratory year with a party. The department has even commissioned Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery to make a special linguistics anniversary beer.

“It’s not really time to be thinking about parties, but we desperately want to have a party, so we’re hoping that in April we can get together to celebrate the 50th anniversary together,” Bell said.


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