Successful cooperation Ministry of Defence and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

19 September 2022
Successful cooperation Ministry of Defence and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Last week, researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics collaborated with the Logistics Training Centre of the Dutch Ministry of Defence in Soesterberg to administer a new test of Dutch language skills for young adults.

Testing in Soesterberg is part of a large-scale project on individual differences in language skills funded by NWO within the Language in Interaction Consortium Within this project, the team (led by Prof. Antje S. Meyer and Dr. Florian Hintz) have developed a new test of Dutch language skills for young adults. It is called IDLaS-NL, for Individual Differences in Language Skills. The battery assesses knowledge of the Dutch language (its words, its rules for making sentences), and the skills in using this knowledge for speaking and listening. It also includes tests of general intelligence and memory, which are involved in using language. The battery is available to the research community and can be completed on-line.

The next step

IDLaS-NL has been developed for and tested on university students, 70% female. The next step is to broaden its usability by norming it with other groups of young adults, in particular individuals who are not currently following university courses. It is very important to also involve young men in this part of the project, who unfortunately tend to be more reluctant than women to sign up for linguistic work.  When we know how large and representative samples of young adults (not only university students) perform, the battery can be widely used for research and, later, training purposes.
With this aim in mind the researchers contacted Lieutenant Colonel Marc Souman, to explore the possibility of testing participants of their training courses. They were delighted to find that their initiative was enthusiastically welcomed.
Training courses for future Army logistics officers and non-commissioned officers are held at the Logistics Training Centre in Soesterberg and last an average of 10 to 40 weeks. The students are WO/HBO (officers) and MBO/VMBO (non-commissioned officers) educated and about 75 per cent are male. On September 14, two groups of participants were tested on part of the battery.

Prof. Meyer says: ‘’We are extremely grateful to Lieutenant Colonel Marc Souman and all of the participants at Soesterberg. We are excited to inspect the data collected this week. We hope to quickly expand this project, test many more young adults, and so get a comprehensive view of their language skills and generate a test battery that can be widely used in research and training.’’

Lieutenant Colonel Marc Souman responds: ''The idea of collaborating on this research is twofold: Firstly, I think that cooperation in socially important research is something we should always strive for. The fact that the target group we train here is similar to the target group of the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is a nice bonus. Secondly, I think we as educators can benefit from the results of this research. Language is, of course, THE force multiplier for educators. It is good to estimate or know the language proficiency level of our trainees. Trainers and course developers can then take this into account so that the learning effect can be increased.''

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