Q&A: UMD Center for Advanced Study of Language Tackles the Country’s Most Challenging Problems
For ten years, the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) has been dedicated to addressing the needs of the United States Government (USG) with academically rigorous research in language and behavioral science. CASL’s team of cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists, second language acquisition experts, field and computational linguists, and computer scientists work together to improve intelligence analysis, accelerate workforce readiness, advance next generation training, and create language resources that address our clients' most challenging problems.
GALA: Why did the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) form?
CASL: In the wake of September 11th, CASL was formed in 2003 as a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) to serve the language needs of the Department of Defense (DoD). We serve as a resource for the entire DoD and other USG agencies where foreign language skills and abilities are coveted. The Center is charged with bringing the best of academia to the hardest government problems; providing the knowledge, resources, and technologies critical to language proficiency; improving on the job performance; and underpinning critical leadership decisions regarding staffing, technologies, and workflow design and management. Ten years of research in language and cognition has resulted in a set of applied research products that have great potential impact in both the public and private sectors.
GALA: What major areas of language research does CASL most heavily impact?
CASL: CASL’s research focuses on areas that pertain to language use on a broader scale. Our four major areas of impact are (1) analysis, (2) workforce readiness, (3) next generation training, and (4) language resources. Analysis marries cutting edge research in language and cognitive sciences with social science to improve analysis and decision making. Workforce readiness empowers managers to select and place candidates effectively by providing them with tools to assess aptitude for complex skills, such as foreign language acquisition and cybersecurity. In addition, the use of cognitive science to improve critical thinking and attentional skills required for high-level analysis in multiple areas enables employees to learn and perform at optimal levels faster. CASL’s next generation training reduces ramp-up time by integrating scientifically validated methods and technologies to create individualized, anytime, anywhere, language acquisition, sustainment, and enhancement modules. Our language resources provide scalable processes to produce dictionaries, grammars, and innovative language tools quickly.
GALA: How are projects funded and how will they be funded going forward?
CASL: We receive core funding from the DoD each year and attracts other U.S. government clients. In addition, our researchers, often in collaboration with colleagues all over the country, apply for and receive grants from various funders. CASL's work also has immediate application to industry and we have been working increasingly with private sector partners. We encourage interested commercial clients to meet with us; together we can work to find solutions to your language problems.
GALA: How can other organizations, institutions, and agencies collaborate with CASL?
CASL: Our research environment has always been highly collaborative. We currently have 75 affiliates and adjuncts in academe and industry and serve more than a dozen agencies throughout the federal government. CASL collaboration offers the opportunity to work on many of the most exciting research challenges facing language science. We have collaborated with researchers from several institutions, including Georgia Tech, MIT, and Harvard, in the behavioral and social sciences. Our research seeks to understand the neural basis of memory and improve working memory function through brain training; speed up production of dictionaries, as well as speech and text understanding tools through computational linguistics; and improve training by taking a closer look at second language acquisition. To learn more about CASL, visit www.casl.umd.edu or contact [email protected].
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.