My research focus lies in the areas of speech production and perception, second language (L2) oral assessment and automated scoring, L2 pronunciation and intelligibility, language attitudes, World Englishes, and L2 phonology in second language acquisition. My overall research goal is to investigate the nature of accented speech of non-native speakers (NNSs) of English, which includes several sub-areas of research: (a) how accent is perceived by listeners, (b) how accented speech is characterized linguistically, (c) how the assessment of accented speech is validated through automatic systems, (d) how speakers with accents can better communicate with others, and (e) what constitutes intelligible speech and how we can promote intelligible speech in the global contexts.
I have been currently working on various research projects relevant to the topics listed above. Some examples of my currently funded and collaborative research projects include: (1) Second Language Speech Production: Formulation of Objective Speech Intelligibility Measures and Learner-Specific Feedback (funded by National Science Foundation (NSF), through RETTL EAGER Funding Program, $300,000, 2021-2023); (2) Fairness of using different accents in Duolingo listening tasks (funded by 2021 Duolingo Competitive Research Grants program, $94,348, 2021-2022); (3) Test takers’ attitudes and perceptions towards IELTS and the use of mobile-assisted technologies in tests (funded by 2020 IELTS Joint Funded Research Program, $29,844, 2021-2022); and (4) Relationship among young learner background, language growth, and score gain on MET Go! over time. (funded by the Barbara Dobson Latin America Research Grant, Michigan English Language Assessment, $4000, 2021-2022).
I have also recently completed many other funded projects such as (5) Investigation of Relationship among Learner Background, Linguistic Progression, and Score Gain on IELTS (funded by 2019 IELTS Joint Funded Research Program, $50,972, 2019-2020); (6) Intelligibility of different varieties of English in the TOEFL iBT listening test (funded by ETS TOEFL COE research grant, $108,624, 2014-2018); (7) Development of prosodic features in automated speech system (funded by NAU Technology Research Investment Fund, $200,000, 2014-2018); (8) Linguistic analysis of speaking performance and automated extraction (funded by British Council Research Grants, $15,040, 2017-2019); (9) The Language Learning Roundtable conference program (funded by Language Learning, $10,000, 2018-2019); (10) investigating relationship between young English language learners’ backgrounds and their proficiency in English, Sonora, Mexico (funded by Alianza Inter-Universitaria Sonora-Arizon, $ 5,000, 2019-2021) . Based on my expertise in L2 phonology and language assessment, I worked with my post-doctoral scholar (Dr. David Johnson) and have developed computer systems that automatically process prosodic features and obtained a patent (Serial No. 9,947,322) entitled “Systems and Methods for Automated Evaluation of Human Speech”. In addition, I hosted a conference, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching (PSLLT) 2019 (Sept 12-14, 2019), at NAU, Flagstaff. Its theme was inter-disciplinary intersections in pronunciation learning and teaching and the Language Learning grant supported a roundtable discussion.
Professor, Applied Linguistics/TESL, Northern Arizona University (NAU) Director of the Applied Linguistics Speech Lab, NAU
Ph.D (2008): University of Georgia.
MA (2003): University of Auckland, New Zealand
My Research in Public News
NPR Code Switch Podcast: Talk American : NPR
500 Women Scientist: https://500womenscientists.org/updates/2018/9/18/okim-kang