photo: Julio Torres

Julio Torres

Assistant Professor of Hispanic and Italian Studies


Degree/Institution: PhD Georgetown University
Office: HU 238
Fax: (518) 442-4111
Email: jtorres3@albany.edu

 

Academic Focus

Research Interests: Heritage/Second Language Acquisition, Bilingualism, Cognition, Task-based Language Learning, Curriculum & Instruction

Dissertation Title: “Heritage and Second Language Learners of Spanish: The Roles of Task Complexity and Inhibitory Control” (Dissertation Abstract

Courses Taught at UAlbany

Undergraduate Courses 
Spanish for Bilinguals     
Spanish for Teachers    
Business Spanish

Graduate Courses  
Spanish Teaching Methodology       
Heritage Language Acquisition


Research Projects

1. Input and Cognitive Factors in Heritage Language Acquisition
It is well established that heritage language (HL) bilinguals’ grammars fall short from monolingual outcomes, and HL speakers’ proficiency of the HL ranges from merely receptive to native-like. As a result, one of my key research questions is: What are the variables that may potentially contribute to the differences in HL proficiency? Currently, I’m interested in exploring how the interaction between input variables (e.g., community language use, dual-language immersion programs) and cognitive variables (e.g., language aptitude, memory factors) may explain the differences in proficiency levels among HL speakers. 

2. Task-based Language Learning and Individual Differences
The field of Second Language Acquisition has been interested in the design of pedagogical tasks in fostering interlanguage development among L2 learners. My research interests lie in exploring how manipulating task features may meet the L2 developmental needs of different types of learners. Currently, I’m examining how individual differences in inhibitory control abilities and prior language experience (i.e., heritage language learners) quantitatively and qualitatively may mediate learning outcomes as a result of task conditions.   

3. Type of Bilingualism and Cognitive Control
Much research effort has been invested to examining bilingual advantages in cognitive control. However, it is not clear whether bilingual advantages are held constant across different bilingual populations, especially when considering the effects of societal bilingualism on the individual. Therefore, I am interested in studying whether different thresholds of bilingualism due to language use, proficiency and/or access to bilingual education may affect differentially the cognitive advantages attributed to early bilingual speakers. 

4. The Heritage Language Writing and Cognition Project (beginning Spring 2014)
Research has documented that heritage language learners tend to have more difficulty with writing skills in the heritage language, and this may be due to a lack of literacy skills in the language. The goal of this project is to create a corpus of writing samples of heritage language students enrolled in a Spanish course designed with a focus on written modality. The corpus will contain two writing samples from each participant: one collected at the beginning of the semester and one at the end of the semester. Furthermore, data will be collected on different cognitive variables from each participant (e.g., working memory, inhibitory control, language aptitude, phonological short-term memory) to investigate the role of individual differences on the potential development of different writing skills among heritage learners.


Resources

Wikipage (for authorized grad students): https://wiki.albany.edu/display/Dashboard/Home

The National Heritage Language Resource Center’s Research and Proficiency Assessment Tools: http://www.nhlrc.ucla.edu/data/
(in progress, but please feel free to contribute)