April 2022 Spotlight, Janet Y. Bang, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Janet Y. Bang (janet.bang@sjsu.edu) as our member in the spotlight. Dr. Bang is an Assistant Professor in the Child and Adolescent Development Department in the Lurie College of Education at San José State University. Her research interests are in understanding how children learn language from their everyday interactions.

1. Can you write a couple sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 

In my work, I examine the ways in which children can learn language from their speech environment. Although I always enjoyed working with children, I wasn’t even aware of research in language development until after my undergraduate studies. Luckily, I discovered the field, and since my graduate studies, I have been dedicated to research on children’s language development. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work with families from many different language backgrounds. For example, I have worked with English-, French-, Spanish-, and Mandarin-speaking families. Hopefully one day I can also do this with Korean-speaking children, which was the first language I was exposed to. I have also had the opportunity to work with children whose language is developing across many different circumstances (e.g., neurodiverse children, monolingual and bilingual homes, minority and majority language contexts), which has profoundly shaped the ways in which I view language learning.

I have had a number of supportive mentors who have provided interesting and exciting opportunities over the course of my career. I have also had the chance to build meaningful relationships with friends and colleagues over the years, which has inspired creative and new ideas for how I approach my work. My recommendation for anyone starting out in the field is to make friends – it makes the work more fun and we can learn a lot by engaging with each other.

2. A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other [understudied?] populations; d) practice or policy relevance. 

In some of my recent work, I have been focusing on how we can investigate speech environments in families’ everyday interactions in the home. In a recent presentation at the International Association for the Study of Child Language, I discussed a study examining how English- and Spanish-speaking caregivers in the US vary during the densest periods of verbal interactions with their 2-year-old children. This study was a secondary analysis of data collected by collaborators in my former postdoctoral lab. Families were asked to use a LENA digital language processor, which recording children’s daylong speech environments.

We found that in both English- and Spanish-speaking families, caregivers provided speech across a broad array of activities, such as when sharing books, playing, and having meals, but also while caregivers were engaging in their own activities (e.g., cooking or cleaning). When we investigated how families varied in their speech during these activities, we found that 1) caregivers who engaged verbally more so than others, were those that did so across different activities in the day (e.g., caregivers who engaged more when sharing books tended to also be those that engaged more during meals), 2) books can elicit more total speech and responses than other everyday activities. These results illustrate the practical realities of young children’s language environments, where families are engaged in diverse activities that can present new learning opportunities. Moreover, these findings reveal that caregiver speech may vary because of caregivers’ own tendencies in their verbal engagement, as well as the activity that families are engaged in. We hope that with this work we can better understand the ways in which children are learning from their interactions with others.

3. If you have any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus, that would be great!  These can be just for the Caucus leadership to know, and/or a message to the Caucus community. 

I am appreciative of the efforts of the Asian Caucus, and the ways that we can learn about each other’s work, especially during these challenging times in our world. I am honored to be asked to be a part of the member spotlight series and I look forward to meeting others in the future!

4. Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

For a separate study with daylong recordings, I presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD) in November 2021. This study examines the development of automated classifiers, to facilitate work with identifying periods of speech directed to target children when using daylong recordings. Our paper from the BUCLD proceedings will be out later this year. 

5. A weblink you prefer to share?


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