Professor Hana Kang awarded Faculty Research Support Initiation Grant

Author: Monica Gorman

The Center for the Study of Language and Cultures (CSLC) is excited to announce that Hana Kang, a member of the CSLC faculty, has been awarded a $10,000 grant to jump-start her new research project.

Dr. Hana Kang has been a member of the CSLC faculty since 2014 and also teaches in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Before coming to Notre Dame, she has taught Chinese, Korean, East Asian Cultures, and TESOL at the Ohio State University and at Michigan Technological University, where she also developed the Chinese Certification Program.

In addition to teaching and research, she has enriched campus with her lectures for the Liu Institute for Asian Studies and the Asian American Association as well as organizing the Let’s Talk: Language and Identity Conference.

The grant, awarded by Notre Dame Research to outstanding faculty, is known as the Faculty Research Support Initiation Grant. This grant is specially designated to support brand-new research programs. Dr. Kang’s project is not just new at Notre Dame, but also the first study of its kind in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Titled “Language Learners’ Cognitive Processing and Production in Chinese and Korean Writings: The Analysis of Eye-Movement and Handwriting Tracking Data,” Dr. Kang’s project aims to study how students of Korean and Chinese develop different strategies to process and produce writing in their target languages. Despite the cultural and political importance of China and Korea and the high number of students learning these languages, we still know very little about how their different lexicographic and grammatical structures affect language-learning.

Korean uses an alphabet, but unlike in English, Korean letters are grouped into roughly square-shaped syllable blocks, which are then grouped into words. Korean sentences also contain grammatical markers to indicate tense, mood, and even politeness. These markers can be difficult for Korean-learners to process.

Chinese uses a logographic writing system, meaning that each character has its own meaning as well as pronunciation. Characters are combined into words, but sentences don’t have spaces between the words. Especially because the same characters are used in different words, this makes Chinese sentences hard to parse.

Dr. Kang will use sophisticated eye-movement tracking technologies to examine how students of both languages read and what strategies they develop to process these unfamiliar structures.

Another part of Dr. Kang’s project is to study writing processes and how they are related to reading. For example, Chinese handwriting mastery is important for long-term character memory. While Chinese teachers insist that proper stroke order—writing the individual strokes that make up a character in the correct sequence—is important, there is currently no research that explains why. Dr. Kang will use Smartpen pen-movement tracking technology to study how stroke order affects the way students learn to write.

Prior research that tracked eye-movement has focused on how people process their native languages or how non-native speakers process English. Dr. Kang has already used pen-movement tracking in her dissertation research, but this study will be much larger and allow her to conclusively study the developmental stages of Chinese character writing that she discovered in her dissertation. Results from this research will help Korean and Chinese teachers design classroom materials and teaching strategies that promote high-level reading and writing skills. It will also pave the way for similar research in other languages.

In addition to her research, Dr. Kang is teaching a new course this Fall 2016. She has already taught Korean, Linguistics, and Second Language Acquisition for the TESOL certificate. This fall, students can also enroll in Topics in Linguistics: Digital Literacy in Language Learning. This class will teach students a variety of digital writing technologies that they can apply in their own future teaching and research, including designing online teaching tools and selecting effective materials for the classroom. Moreover, they will learn to examine the communicative and cultural consequences of these digital media, as well as explore new definitions of “digital literacy.” They will conduct case studies to see how digital literacy practices affect foreign language learning and teaching, how digital and traditional forms of rhetoric differ, and how people construct their own identities online. For more information about this course, please see the announcement here.