My doctoral dissertation is about using brain decoding methods to pull apart neural indices of conscious vs. subconscious second language processing. In my experiment, participants are exposed to an artificial language with a hidden grammar pattern. By triangulating language task reaction times, subjective, reports, and EEG data, one can get a sense of whether focusing on a grammar rule can help or hinder acquisition at a more implicit level.
The long game is to find an optimal trade-off between form-based vs. meaning-based approaches to learning languages, for example, so that even individual L2 learners can deliberately change the way that they allocate attention during real-time second language processing to improve acquisition in the long run. The cherry on top would be to tailor these kinds of recommendations according to individuals' particular profiles (which may vary along dimensions of working memory, executive control, sheer tolerance for boredom during repetitive practice, etc., etc.).
I'm also interested in how grammar learning can be conceived as the gradual acquisition of recurring statistical patterns in the input, such that grammatical constructions emerge gradually as the result of processes of abstraction over individual exemplars of a particular form.
Language educators could facilitate this whole process by manipulating factors like token frequency ("How often do you encounter this particular form?"), type frequency ("How many different candidate forms do you usually see in this particular context?"), and input skewedness ("For this kind of context, to what extent does one or a few forms make up the lion's share of the input?").
Beyond informing psycholinguistic theory, this second research interest of mine could provide suggestions for language educators by addressing questions such as: does encountering a form more frequently necessarily make it easier to recognize and produce? Is it better to teach new grammar by using a wide variety of words in the examples, or by sticking to a few familiar vocabulary items? Should teachers approximate the input frequencies encountered “in the real world,” or is it possible to tailor classroom input to facilitate L2 acquisition? The answers to these would be relevant at the level of designing a curriculum, at the level of planning a class activity, and even at the level of adjusting how a teacher uses the target language when speaking face-to-face with their students.
I've also dipped my toes into corpus research with projects like:
Check out some recorded conference presentations
Mass univariate analyses on EEG support dual-route models of morphosyntax processing (in other words, your brain composes "eat + s" instead of memorizing "eats" as one word):
Language learners with conscious awareness of a grammar rule perform similarly (with some caveats) no matter if they were told the rule or if they figured it out themselves:
Language learners with/without conscious awareness of a grammar rule that they've learned have differently-shaped reaction time distributions, hinting at different underlying cognitive processes