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The Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC) currently has a vacant PhD position as part of the project “How literacy shapes language learning”, led by main researcher Prof. Sible Andringa and funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication is one of the five Research Schools within the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research. Within the University of Amsterdam, the ACLC represents the thriving linguistics community, which has ranked highest in continental Europe on the QS World University Rankings by Subject for years. The ACLC is home to several research groups. The current project falls under the Language Learning, Literacy and Multilingualism research group. The deadline for applying for this vacancy is 29 January 2023.

What are you going to do?

In the Netherlands and elsewhere, there are substantial groups of immigrant children and adults that face the difficult task of learning to read and write while acquiring a second language (L2). We know that literacy imbues all kinds of cognitive changes, but we do not understand well yet what these changes mean for how (effectively) a language is learned. This project focuses specifically on the relationship between literacy, meta-linguistic cognition, and language acquisition by charting and comparing the language acquisition processes of different groups of young emerging readers, most notably immigrant children of varying ages learning Dutch as second language. The goals are to study 1) how metalinguistic ability develops in relation to increasing literacy skills and cognitive maturation; 2) how this development affects the ability to learn a second language and 3) how this development interacts with individual difference variables such as cognitive aptitude for second language learning and socio-affective variables. This project will be conducted within the Dutch educational context and envisages a mix of methods ranging from descriptive and qualitative techniques to quantitative psycholinguistic experimentation, including the use of eye-tracking methods and intensive longitudinal data collection in time series designs. In doing so, this project aims to advance theories of bilingual development and second language acquisition as well as improve L2 learning and instruction for child emerging readers.

You will be part of a team of researchers that take on the challenge of increasing our understanding of second language acquisition processes in emerging readers. Other members of the team will be a PhD student investigating language acquisition processes in adult emerging readers and a Postdoc investigating how emerging readers begin to incorporate the written modality into their language learning process. You will also be supported by project assistants and knowledgeable PhD supervisors.

Tasks and responsibilities:

  • Designing, adapting, and conducting observational and experimental studies with children who acquire a second language;
  • Processing, analysing, and interpreting results of these data collections, including statistical analyses;
  • Publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Completing and defending a PhD thesis within the period of appointment;
  • Presenting research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Collaborating in an interdisciplinary research team;
  • Assisting with the organization of valorisation activities;
  • Teaching in BA programmes in years 2 and 3 of the PhD project;
  • Participating in the training program of the ACLC and the national research school (LOT).

What do you have to offer?

You take a strong interest in the topic of this project and are highly motivated to carry out your own project within the context of the larger research team. Studying populations that cannot read and write requires flexibility, creativity, excellent methodological skills and sensitivity for the specific challenges that these groups face when learning a second language.

Your experience and profile:

  • a completed Master's degree in linguistics, education, psychology or a closely related field, demonstrated by an outstanding master's thesis. You may apply if you have not yet completed your Master's degree if you provide a signed letter from your supervisor stating that you will graduate before the preferred starting date of this project, which is May 1, 2023;
  • demonstrable affinity with second language acquisition, bilingual development, and/or emerging literacy, preferably in children;
  • excellent research skills, including experience with statistical analyses as demonstrated by past research projects;
  • excellent academic writing and presentation skills;
  • strong communicative and organisational skills, a cooperative attitude and strong commitment to team science;
  • enthusiasm for communicating academic research to non-academic audiences;
  • commitment to open science practices;
  • excellent command of English and fair knowledge of Dutch.