Doctoral Candidate, Linguistics
Misaki Kato is a doctoral student in linguistics, researching speech perception and production in second-language learners. Her studies began at Meiji University in Japan where an intensive English-language program had her study abroad for six months at the University of Oregon. During this time, she was inspired by the intricacies of understanding language. After graduation, she returned to the UO to pursue a master’s degree in linguistics with a specialization in language teaching.
Toward the end of her master’s studies, Kato made a discovery about what drove her interest. “I learned how to teach languages, but I wanted to know about how people learn languages,” says Kato.
In order to better understand this, she began the PhD program in linguistics at the UO. While in the program, Kato has led a number of research projects related to second-language speech learning, published two manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and has several more works under review. Kato says she loves how interdisciplinary the program is, and that her ability to work with different faculty members to gain insights and receive feedback are plusses.
Kato’s research has also been presented at several conferences, including several meetings of the Acoustical Society of America, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Psychonomic Society.
“Her performance in our program is unparalleled among other students in our program,” says Melissa Baese-Berk, associate professor of linguistics and Kato’s doctoral advisor. “She reads both broadly and deeply, and integrates this reading into her research.”
After completing her PhD, Kato plans to pursue post-doctoral research opportunities. Ultimately, she hopes to find a position at a research institution to continue her work.
Speech perception and production of a second language
Kato’s research seeks to better understand the processes involved in second-language learning, including speech production and characteristics of native and non-native speech. This includes looking at accented speech perception and how it can carry identities about people that impact the perception of their speech. Kato’s findings may have serious implications for theoretical understanding of speech perception and production, and for how we facilitate language learning.
She hopes to be able to share her findings with people in applicable ways. For example, in 2018 Kato was part of a community outreach project at the Eugene Science Center’s “Meet a Scientist Day.” The exhibit showed kids what their voices looked like by having them speak into a microphone and visualize it using voice-analysis software.
The event was close to Valentine’s Day, so everyone said “Happy Valentine’s Day” into the mic. Organizers printed the results on cards for the kids to give to family members. It’s exhibits like this that have the potential to help people better understand the deeper processes behind languages, Kato says.