Second Language Acquisition Ph.D. Program

Second language acquisition (SLA) is a multidisciplinary field whose goal is to understand the processes that underlie the learning of a non-native language. SLA draws from a variety of academic disciplines, among them linguistics, psychology, psycholinguistics, sociology, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and education.

FLARE’s students, like their professors, represent a broad range of research interests. Students who graduate from FLARE are independent thinkers who are capable of critically exploring and investigating a wide array of phenomena related to the processes of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Similarly, FLARE students take different paths to get to The University of Iowa. Some have entered the program after completing an MA here, while others begin their life in Iowa City when they start their coursework for their PhD in SLA.

Overview of the Doctoral Program

The PhD in SLA is an interdisciplinary degree offered by FLARE (Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education). Students interested in the PhD must have completed the MA in an appropriate field (e.g., Linguistics, Foreign Language Education, TESOL / ESL) or have equivalent academic experience. Admission is for the fall semester and students are admitted on a full-time basis only.

The PhD in SLA offered by FLARE focuses on languages other than English. Prospective students interested in working with English (EFL / ESL) should investigate University of Iowa PhD programs in Linguistics and Foreign Languages and ESL Education.

Students may pursue their interdisciplinary interests in courses offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Departments of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literature, French and Italian, German, Linguistics, Rhetoric, Spanish and Portuguese, and Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the College of Education, Departments of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations and Teaching and Learning. There are more than 20 associated faculty members in these and other departments with whom students may study.

All students in the SLA doctoral program take courses in SLA theory, multimedia, research methods, language learning and linguistics (see degree requirements).  In addition, each student defines an area of specialization, in consultation with his or her advisor. The two broad areas of specialization are Language Learning and Post-Secondary Education, and Linguistics and Psycholinguistics. Students working in the first area are interested in issues where SLA and pedagogy converge. Some examples of areas of interest in this specialization include classroom discourse, assessment, and the acquisition of grammatical knowledge in the classroom context. Within this area students may also focus on aspects of technology and how it facilitates second language acquisition. Students in the Linguistics/Psycholinguistics specialization are interested in studying areas of formal linguistics (e.g., syntax, phonology, morphology) and / or applied linguistics issues related to their particular second language focus. Sample student projects and foci within this area of SLA include the acquisition of the syntactic structures and / or phonological features of a second language, and generative and cognitive approaches to explaining acquisition. Students working within psycholinguistics may also focus on the relationship between language processing and language acquisition.

The University of Iowa

The University of Iowa offers a rich and productive context for the study of SLA. The University Library contains more than two million volumes. Holdings in areas related to SLA are excellent, affording a wide range of opportunities for research. A state-of-the-art Language Media Center provides facilities for language learning at all levels, as well as support for research on technology-enhanced learning.