Inspiring Minds seeks to broaden awareness and impact of graduate student research, while enhancing transferable skills. Students were challenged to describe their research, scholarship or creative activity in 150 or fewer words to share with our community.




Probing the brain’s capacity to learn a new language without trying

If you’ve ever heard someone speak a foreign language you know that it can be very confusing. Even if there are pauses, or emphasised sounds, it can be hard to know where a word ends, and the next begins. We think Statistical learning, the process of picking up on patterns when receiving regular input, is involved in this. My research aims to see if passively listening to a foreign language can make the process of finding word boundaries easier. In my project we will ask native English speakers to listen to podcasts for an hour a day in a language they have no prior experience with – Italian. By comparing their brain’s ability to process and discern speech before and after this period we can learn more about how language is acquired. This research could help find ways to facilitate adult language learning by exploring methods other than traditional classroom teaching.

Amiya Aggarwal
MSc candidate, Psychology
Faculty of Social Science - Western University

Laura Batterink


Amiya is a MSc student in Psychology in the Cognitive, Developmental, and Brain Sciences (CDBS) cluster. She developed an interest in understanding language learning after spending a few years working and volunteering with children with developmental disabilities. She is particularly interested in studying the role of implicit learning in language acquisition and individual differences in statistical learning ability. She has both a BSc in Biomedical Sciences and a BA in Psychology with a Research Intensive Specialization from the University of Waterloo. 

You can connect with Amiya via email at

View Amiya's work as it appears in the Inspiring Minds Digital Collection:

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