What is the link between eye movements and language competence?
Valeria Demareva, Associate Professor of the UNN Department of Psychophysiology, made a virtual poster presentation at the CCCP 2020 symposium on Cross-Language Interplay in a Bilingual Mind. CCCP (Cognition, Communication, Computation, and Perception) symposium is an annual conference series bringing together researchers from various research areas of cognitive science. This year, it took place on December 10-12.
The report co-authored with Valeria's colleagues from Braunschweig Technical University, Julia Edeleva and Martin Neef, is based on the research of eye movement peculiarities when reading texts in a foreign language by readers with different levels of proficiency. The research project is implemented at the Department of Psychophysiology, UNN Faculty of Social Sciences, under the grant of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.
It is known that eye movement patterns differ depending on whether people are reading in their native or a foreign language. For example, reading in a foreign language involves longer fixations and shorter eye movements (saccades). The reason for this is having less experience in interacting with foreign-language texts than with those in one's native language. This kind of eye movement characteristics (mean amplitude-time values of saccades and fixations) are categorized as "global". The paper shows how the "global" level of foreign language knowledge (measured by the C-test technique) affects eye movements when reading texts in English for Russian-speaking students.
It was found that the number of fixations, average fixation duration and saccade length, as well as total reading time are directly related to the C-test score . The overall conclusion drawn from this part of the study is that the C-test does reflect the "global" level of competence in a foreign language, as it is correlated with the "global" metrics of eye movement in reading. Consequently, these results confirm the ecological validity of the C-test.