The Bilingualism Lab is run by Prof. Jessica Cox and includes undergraduate student researchers from Spanish, Linguistics, and other related fields who are interested in bilingualism and language learning from cognitive perspectives. Click here to visit our Facebook page and read on for reflections from our recent Hackman Summer Scholars. Want to know more? Contact Prof. Cox.


Hackman Scholars 

Lauren Chen ‘23 (Neuroscience/Sociology)

As a 2021 Summer Research Scholar, I had the opportunity to work with Professor Cox to study the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Lancaster County residents, specifically looking at the impacts the pandemic has had on adult English language learners. Throughout my summer scholar period, I was able to explore research at an institutional level and beyond, building on my previous experiences while learning new skills. On a day-to-day basis, I had the chance to perform literature reviews, create graphs, and learn to code data. I also attended two academic conferences, met with other F&M professors and student researchers, and engaged with community partners and organizations. In doing so, I developed the skills to form a research question to be answered by analysis of data collected from our study. 

I enjoyed being able to explore my interests in linguistics while also learning more about public health, sociology, and government, among many other fields, through engaging with other parts of the COVID-19 study. I look forward to applying the skills and knowledge that I’ve gained from this experience to future classes, research positions, and in my career beyond F&M. Connecting with the Lancaster community and understanding and interpreting the results from “real-life” research and its impacts on residents of the community has been an incredibly rewarding and educational experience.

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Linned "Lulu" Gomez '20 (Cognitive Science)

This summer I had the honor of working with Professor Cox and fellow student Lili Rodriguez as Hackman Scholar on a new research project regarding potential bilingual advantages in visuo-spatial perspective-taking and linguistic perspective-taking. As a Cognitive Science major, this Hackman opportunity was incredibly rewarding because it provided me with an interdisciplinary approach (the combination of psychology and linguistics) to scientific research. I was able to experience firsthand how a researcher diligently designs a project and the conscientious approach they take when developing materials. These are skills that I will continue to cultivate in every aspect of my life, but mostly when I move on to graduate school and will be conducting independent research. 

In addition to working closely alongside a professional in the linguistics field, my favorite parts of the Hackman were the moments when Prof. Cox gave us the opportunity to network and share our research with the Lancaster community. We presented our previous research findings to a program dedicated to doctors who had recently immigrated to Lancaster and were learning English, and we were able to immerse ourselves in Latinx culture at the San Juan Bautista festival, talking to locals about bilingualism and how they could get involved in our research!

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Lilian Rodriguez '21 (Psychology/WGSS)

As a Hackman Scholar for Summer 2018 and Summer 2019, I have worked with Professor Cox in the Bilingualism Lab, where we’ve been studying Spanish-English bilinguals. Last summer, I worked on coding for codeswitches in participants’ recordings of their autobiographical memories. This summer, I worked on investigating perspective-taking and studying various visuo-spatial and linguistic perspective-taking tasks. During both summers, our research lab has had various community outreach events where we shared our findings with the Lancaster community--something I really loved doing. 

What I enjoyed most about the research was expanding my knowledge of my own abilities as a Spanish-English bilingual. I was able to learn more about how bilingualism affects individuals and their cognition. Additionally, while doing literature reviews, I learned about my own community back home in Miami, where Spanglish and codeswitching is the norm. I discovered articles on different bilingual communities, and became inspired to research my own family’s linguistic background.

I would recommend this Hackman experience to students who are eager to learn about linguistics, are passionate about bilingualism, or are interested in directly engaging with the Lancaster community! This is a great opportunity to get the benefits of research and also create connections within the community.

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Najee Mendes '18 (Spanish/Psychology):

This summer as a Hackman Scholar, I worked with a fellow F&M student and Professor Cox to study the effects of Bilingualism. Our objectives included: meeting with participants to gather data, collecting and transforming numerical data and working with audio transcriptions to code the amounts and the different types of code-switching in these Spanish-English bilinguals. What I enjoyed most about the research was being able to work with a bilingual population. I myself am studying the Spanish language and so being able to work with participants that come from various Spanish-speaking cultures was quite beneficial to my own understanding the diversity in the language itself. 

The most challenging part of the research may have been the coding of the amounts and different types of code-switches. There is a lot of research on different types of code-switches and what should and should not count as switches. However, nothing is perfect when collecting data, so when it came to working on the audio files, there was a lot of agreement to be made pertaining to how we would categorize the types of code-switches we encountered. 

I would particularly recommend this to students like me who have an interest in linguistics and languages studies and want to see firsthand, as opposed to just reading academic journals, the workings of a bilingual mind. 

Julianna Lynch '17 (Cognitive Science/Psychology):

My experience as a Hackman Scholar with Professor Cox helped me gain a better understanding of how experimental studies operate. I learned how they are carefully set up and designed, how data is collected and sorted, and which statistics make the most sense to use for certain data sets and why. All of this I learned in a low-anxiety setting, which I think facilitated my learning. It's great to be able to work closely with a professor and see how studies are run and then how results are interpreted, or even published. My Hackman summer research experience gave me more confidence in my academic pursuits by exposing me to new things gradually, that I have not formally learned in class yet. I would recommend doing a Hackman in linguistics if you enjoy thinking about language, why people speak in certain ways, how they feel when they speak, and how emotions and memories may influence the language we use.

IQ may drive the relationship between bilingual language experience and language aptitude

When it comes to the language learning aptitude of a bilingual individual, researchers note the linguistic interdependence hypothesis that language and literacy skills can be “transferred” between the languages (Sparks et. al, 2011).  Alongside age of acquisition and exposure, how well a person can use and understand a second or ‘weaker’ language might contribute to their abilities to learn additional languages (Thompson, 2013; Bialystok, 2017). In the current study, twenty-seven Spanish/English bilinguals completed three LLAMA subtests to measure language aptitude. They also completed a Matrices subtest to measure nonverbal IQ and a language background questionnaire for their language experience history. Preliminary tests revealed that higher LLAMA-E scores correlated with higher proficiency in the weaker language. Nonverbal IQ also correlated with all three LLAMA subtests. When controlling for nonverbal IQ, no correlations were significant between any variables, suggesting that nonverbal IQ might be driving the relationship between proficiency and aptitude.


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