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Measuring Language Learners’ Brainwaves

January 2024

Female college student in a long hallway.
Siena Christensen

Siena Christensen, a native of Provo, has always been interested in languages.

When she was young, her mother taught French at Utah Valley University and in their home. Later, Christensen was called to serve a mission in Brazil. While learning Portuguese, she realized that the process of learning new languages fascinated her.

After her mission, Christensen enrolled at BYU as a linguistics major so that she could study the mechanics of how people learn new languages. She is also earning minors in Portuguese and linguistic computing. Thanks to a donor-funded grant, Christensen was able to join a research team and start measuring the brainwave activity of subjects learning words in a new language.

“We hope to see what language acquisition looks like neurologically,” she says.

Christensen has presented findings for other language-related research projects at conferences in Portland, Oregon, and Lyon, France. At these conferences, she networked with linguists and linguistic researchers from around the world and learned about their work.

“It was inspiring,” she says, “I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at BYU.”

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