Yalun (Helen) Zhou

Assistant Professor, Communication and Media

Yalun Zhou has interdisciplinary background in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), linguistics, and Curriculum and Instruction. Zhou’s primary area of research is Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics. Besides teaching and researching, Zhou is also involved in language curriculum design, instructional integration of language learning and technology, materials development, program management, and language teacher training. Before joining RPI, Zhou had experience of developing narrative-based, game enhanced Chinese learning e-textbook Chinese Your Way (link: http://bit.ly/1fvR7q0  ) and designed a proficiency-sequenced, five-year curriculum using Chinese Your Way. In addition, she also designed a Chinese curriculum utilizing award-winning immersive MMORPGs, Zon (link: http://bit.ly/Lkidod  ) for a STEM High School in Cincinnati, OH. For the effects of the curriculum under Zhou’s directorate, please see students’ testimonies here: http://bit.ly/1fv7pi9

Zhou’s research interests lie in the intersection of SLA and teaching and learning English/Chinese as a second/foreign language. Her research topics range from second/foreign language teaching and learning and learning environments to advanced second language literacy in content areas. Zhou explores theories and process of second language acquisition, the uses of second/foreign languages, best practices in second/foreign language pedagogy, and contexts that advance/hinder second/foreign language learners’ language development. She also examines effects of instructional design and how curriculum, learning materials, and technologies can be fashioned to assist students’ second/foreign language learning.

I believe that SLA theories can be informed and examined by empirical studies in second/foreign language education, and conversely that second/foreign language education can benefit from the advancement of SLA theories. As an SLA scholar, I have empirical questions on how people of different age with different cultural background acquire an additional language, how their native language and culture influence their language acquisition, and what kind of learning environments assists/hinders fast second/foreign language acquisition.  In addition, I investigate advanced academic literacy and transformation of L2 learners into professional L2 users with near-native language proficiency. As a language educator, I am passionate in how teachers teach to assist fast second/foreign language acquisition, and how new technologies and innovative pedagogy enhance the teaching and learning of second/foreign languages. Currently, I am interested in hybrid pedagogy and integrating information and communication technologies (ICTs) into Chinese as a foreign language curriculum. I am working on instructional design using emerging technologies and new literacies for Chinese as a foreign language learning.

Zhou’s recent projects include working with a team of RPI researchers for an immersive, intelligent learning demonstration of the Mandarin Project (link: http://bit.ly/1bgiZNq ) at the Emergent Reality Lab (link: http://bit.ly/1bgiZNq ) and an interactive learning research project at CAVE virtual spaces (link: http://bit.ly/1i21IZB ). A third project undertaken is an international research investigating EFL learners’ cultural roots and perspectives towards writing English academic papers and using authentic materials. In addition, Zhou is working on a manuscript about Chinese graduate students’ sociolinguistic and academic transformations from EFL learners to ESL users in American higher education. Zhou’s research appeared in Learning Environment Research, ESP Across Cultures, Journal of Language Teaching and Learning, TESOL Journal, Journal for Distinguished Language Studies, and Teaching Chinese in International Settings, etc.


Ph.D. University of Missouri-Kansas City

Research Focus
  • applied linguistics and educational linguistics
  • narrative-based, game-enhanced Chinese learning
  • learning English/Chinese as a second/foreign language
Contact zhouy12@rpi.edu