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Press Release

2011
16 Mai

Cambridge University funds unique EF Education First research project

Collection will help academics to understand how people learn

(Cambridge, UK) May 16, 2011

Cambridge University is to fund a unique project that uses millions of words from thousands of students at the world’s biggest online language school to work out one of the 21st century’s billion-dollar questions: how people learn foreign languages.

The Isaac Newton Trust, set up by Cambridge’s Trinity College, has announced a grant to the EF Research Unit – jointly established in 2010 between Cambridge University and EF Education First, one of the world’s leading international education companies. The Trust, named after the Trinity scholar who transformed global science in the seventeenth century, has already funded research into an exciting range of areas, including peace-making, biofuels, and tropical forest conservation.

Dr. Dora Alexopoulou, Senior Research Associate and head of the Unit, said: “Trinity College has educated many of the world’s greatest communicators, including the poet Lord Byron and the computer pioneer Charles Babbage. We are proud to be able to continue this tradition of communication, through the generous grant of the Newton Trust.”

The grant funding from the Trust will support the development of the EF-Cambridge learner corpus of English, an electronic database based on samples of spoken and written language production from thousands of EF students around the world and on Englishtown.com, an EF subsidiary and the world's largest online language school.  The Trust’s grant will allow the EF Research Unit to employ a specialist researcher in computational linguistics for two years to complement the on-going work of the team of applied linguists. This will help turn the database into a widely available resource which top academics across the world can use to work out how humans learn English – the most commonly studied foreign language in the world. The EF Research Unit is also looking into expanding the database to include samples of children's second language production, working with students, teachers and parents across the EF network of schools worldwide.

Dr. Christopher McCormick, EF's Vice President for Academic Affairs and head of the EF-Cambridge University research collaboration, said: "We are thrilled to have this important area of research recognized by the prestigious Isaac Newton Trust. EF offers extensive access to learners from a wide range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Insights gained into how these individuals make progress in English over time will advance our understanding of second language acquisition and lead to more efficient learning, teaching and assessment."
The EF Research Unit is part of Cambridge University’s Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics. The Newton Trust gives grants to promote learning, research and education within Cambridge University.

About EF Education First:

Established in 1965 with the mission to "break down barriers in language, culture, and geography”, EF is the world’s leading international education company.  EF has helped over 15 million students to learn a new language and travel abroad. With a network of 400 schools and offices worldwide, including the world’s largest online English school (www.englishtown.com), EF specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degrees, and cultural exchange programs. In 2011 EF published the ground-breaking English Proficiency Index (www.ef.com/epi ), the first study to measure the English ability of adults. For more information, please see www.ef.com. Media inquiries email press@ef.com.


 

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